MINNEAPOLIS — The city of Minneapolis did not violate its city charter requirement for minimum staffing levels at the police department, according to a ruling by the Minnesota Court of Appeals which reversed a lower court decision.
"The Minneapolis City Charter clearly imposes a duty on the city council to continuously fund a police force with a minimum number of sworn police officers, but the charter does not clearly impose a duty on the mayor to continuously employ that same minimum number of sworn police officers," the ruling states.
The Appeals Court decision overturns a lower court ruling in a lawsuit by several Minneapolis residents, which had argued the city failed to provide sufficient policing.
"The mayor’s duty under the charter to maintain the police department is a discretionary duty," Judge Jeanne Cochran wrote in the decision for the Minnesota Appeals Court, issued Monday.
"Although it seems illogical that the city charter would mandate the funds to hire a certain number of officers, but not mandate that those officers be hired, the plain language of the city charter does not contain a clear duty to employ the specified number of officers," Judge Francis Connolly wrote in a concurring opinion in the appellate decision. "Perhaps the city charter should be amended to rectify this."
Attorney Douglas Seaton, whose Upper Midwest Law Center represents the group that sued, said the citizens would appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court. He called it “absurd” to say that a minimum number of police officers must be funded but they don't have to be employed.
The citizens' lawsuit was filed amid a citywide spike in crime, especially during the pandemic and in the wake of George Floyd's killing by police, and as the number of officers simultaneously fell sharply.
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