State Supreme Court orders Minneapolis to hire more police officers

The state’s highest court has sided with a group of Minneapolis residents and ordered the city to hire more police officers.

Monday, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the city charter not only requires the Minneapolis City Council to fund at least 731 sworn police officers but also requires the mayor to employ at least that many.

It’s the latest turn in the back-and-forth saga and comes after the court heard arguments in the case two weeks ago.

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Last year, a Hennepin County judge ordered the city to hire more officers to fund a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident, or 731 officers, as required by the charter. However, in March, the Minnesota Court of Appeals said the city’s charter only required the council to fund 731 officers — which it is doing — and didn’t require the mayor to actually employ that many.

In the high court’s ruling, Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea wrote that the city’s charter update in 2013 didn’t explicitly make substantive changes for the mayor’s powers. Because of that, under state law, the charter language used prior to that update must be used and that language “makes clear that the Mayor must establish and maintain a police force at the 0.0017 ratio.”

“What the Supreme Court is saying is that the city of Minneapolis has an obligation to both fund and hire the requisite number of officers as required by the city charter, and the bottom line is the City of Minneapolis has to hire more police officers,” explained David Schultz, a professor of law and political science at Hamline University. He said the ruling is a victory for the plaintiffs involved.

Gildea did note that the court can’t control how the mayor uses his discretion to hire the necessary number of officers.

Schultz says the court is not ordering the City Council to take any action — but is directing Mayor Jacob Frey to do more.

“You need to explain to us what you’re doing and how you’re doing it and how you’re acting to get up to the required number of officers,” Schultz said of the ruling. “The way I would describe it is to say that the mayor is saying, ‘I am doing the best I can,’ and the court is saying, ‘Do better. Explain why this is the best and why you are still not where you need to be.’”