Judge rules Minneapolis must answer for lack of police

"We look forward to testifying in court about the city’s failure to protect us."

Black Visions MN/Twitter

A district court judge rejected Minneapolis’ request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by eight residents who believe the city has failed to adequately staff its police department.

In a Friday ruling, Hennepin County District Court Judge Jamie Anderson said the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey “have no authority to divert funds from the Minneapolis Police Department if they have not met their public duty to fund a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident,” as mandated by the City Charter.

“Misallocation of money that properly should fund a police force is an unlawful  disbursement of funds. Petitioners claim Respondents allegedly diverted $1.1 million from  the Minneapolis Police Department in 2020, even as there was a purported shortage in  peace officers. Thus, as Minneapolis taxpayers, Petitioners have a beneficial interest in the  petition both to enforce a public duty and to remedy any alleged misallocation of funds,” Anderson said in her ruling.

The initial lawsuit was filed in August against Mayor Frey and the City Council by eight Minneapolis residents, who are represented by the Upper Midwest Law Center.

“Minneapolis is in a crisis. The city faces a violent crime rate that has skyrocketed this year. It is the responsibility of the City Council and the Mayor to make Minneapolis safe. Instead, the City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey have violated their duties to fund, employ and manage a police force as required by the City Charter,” said the lawsuit.

Due to an “exodus” of police officers, current employment levels at the Minneapolis Police Department are far below the staffing requirements mandated in the City Charter, the lawsuit alleged.

Minneapolis asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that the residents failed to establish “standing in order to bring this claim.” That request was rejected Friday and the city will now have to provide information on police force and budget numbers, which it has thus far failed to fully report, according to attorneys.

“The court rightly rejected the city’s attempt to have our lawsuit dismissed because we haven’t taken bullets ourselves, as we have watched our neighborhoods become full of violence and stray bullets. We look forward to testifying in court about the city’s failure to protect us, and we will get to the bottom of the actual numbers of police officers protecting the North Side and the city,” Cathy Spann, one of the residents who initiated the legal action, said in a press release.

Howard Root, chair of the Upper Midwest Law Center, said the city will have to “come forward with real numbers and real evidence that will demonstrate how they have decimated the Minneapolis Police Department in violation of the City Charter.”

“Given that the City Council recently discussed bringing in police from other jurisdictions to help its worsening crime problem, we hope that they will start to work on solutions rather than continue to duck their responsibility to employ a fully-staffed police force,” he added.

The parties will now submit a discovery plan to the court, and the court will set an evidentiary hearing to take place in early 2021.

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