Supreme Court starting hearings on Mpls. minimum wage, police insurance

The Minnesota Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday over two proposed Minneapolis charter amendments. One of the measures would set a $15 an hour minimum wage in the city, and the other would require Minneapolis police officers to carry professional liability insurance.

On the minimum wage issue, the city of Minneapolis is appealing a ruling made by Hennepin County District Court Judge Susan Robiner. Siding against the city, Robiner ordered the minimum wage proposal to go on the ballot in November.

On the police insurance ballot question, Robiner had determined that existing state law preempts the proposed requirement. She said the state already has extensive regulations for how and when municipalities defend and indemnify employees — including police officers.

Robiner's order also states that the requirement would conflict with state law because the proposal would add restrictions to the city's ability to cover officers, which are already allowed.

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On the other side, supporters of mandatory police liability insurance say the city of Minneapolis and the lower court misinterpreted the insurance requirement. They say that's partially because they believe it's "a politically unwelcome policy question."

In a court brief, attorney Jordan Kushner said Robiner's take on what is and what is not preempted by state law is not correct. He argued the push for police liability insurance is a new issue that has not been covered by the state legislature.

The petition to add police liability insurance to the charter was started by several people involved with Citizens United Against Police Brutality. They argue that if police had to pay for insurance premiums that have increased because they've been sued for misconduct, those officers would be less likely to engage in misconduct.

Not only does police misconduct cause physical harm, they say, but it diminishes trust in police and the lawsuit settlements have cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

It's unclear whether requiring officers to carry professional liability insurance would reduce instances of police misconduct or lawsuit payouts. It doesn't appear that any other city requires officers to carry professional liability insurance.

However, some officers in departments around the country can and do buy their own insurance voluntarily, although it's not mandated.