Court hears arguments in suit over Minneapolis police staffing

A group of people, most wearing masks, stand in front of a microphone.
Cathy Spann stands with some of her fellow plaintiffs at the Hennepin County Government Center Monday. The plaintiffs, who live on the north side of Minneapolis, say the city has allowed the number of officers to dip below the minimum staffing level dictated by the city charter.
Brandt Williams | MPR News

A group of Minneapolis residents suing the city over police staffing levels got their day in court Monday. 

The plaintiffs, who live on the city’s north side, say the city has allowed the number of officers to dip below the minimum staffing level dictated by the city charter. And they are asking the court to prevent the City Council from further defunding the department and compel the city to hire more officers to fill in for those who’ve left. 

The residents say the council's push to dismantle the Police Department has led to a wave of officers to seek retirement and medical leaves. And they say the lack of officers has made their neighborhoods dangerous. 

Plaintiff Sondra Samuels said the city has to improve the Police Department while also providing public safety. 

"We all know we have to have reform of the police department,” she said. “Everybody wants that. Everybody! There's nobody who thinks that shouldn't happen. But in addition — with that, we need protection. We need adequate police protection. We have to do both."

A woman wearing a mask stands in front of a microphone.
Audua Pugh talks to reporters at the Hennepin County Government Center Monday. Pugh is one of the eight plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis.
Brandt Williams | MPR News

City officials have said between Jan. 1 and Oct.1, about 100 officers have either left the force or taken a leave of longer than two weeks. The city has also hired nearly 30 officers this year.

Minneapolis city attorney Greg Sautter said the city has met its staffing obligations and therefore the suit should be dropped.

However, plaintiff attorney James Dickey told Judge Jamie Anderson that he’s been told by an attorney who represents officers in disability matters that hundreds of officers have indicated that they will seek medical disability for PTSD.

In a sworn affidavit, a city human resources official said the city is not usually made aware of employees’ intent to file disability claims. And they said that as of Oct. 7, they’ve been made aware of 33 “duty disability” applications from sworn officers. 

Anderson could take up to 90 days to issue a decision about the plaintiff’s request.

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