Updated: 1:15 p.m.
The City of Minneapolis has failed to maintain the required minimum staff level of the Minneapolis Police Department and must increase the number of officers, according to a court order issued Thursday. However, the order doesn’t call for the city to hire more officers.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Jamie L. Anderson is presiding over a suit filed by eight city residents. They claim the city’s failure to maintain proper staffing levels has made the city — particularly their north Minneapolis neighborhoods — more dangerous.
Former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels is one of the plaintiffs. He said police play a big role in public safety.
“[There are] a lot of factors that go into keeping people safe and some of them are so important that just a little reduction here or loss there can create catastrophic results and certainly the police is one of those," Samuels said.
Minneapolis, as well as other large U.S. cities, has seen a significant increase in violent crime since the murder of George Floyd in 2020. At the same time, the number of officers on the force has dwindled due to early retirements, resignations and officers taking extended leaves of absence.
Anderson ordered the city to maintain the staffing level designated by a formula in the charter which corresponds with the city's population — which would be 730 officers.
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As of May 22, 2021, city of Minneapolis data shows that the sworn officers count was at 699 in addition to 67 on continuous leave, which means 78 or more hours of leave time during a pay period. The data also shows that the number of sworn officers has continued to drop this year. The city projects it will have 649 officers by January of 2022.
Anderson's order says the city shouldn't be using 2010 census data to determine the police department staffing level. She says it needs to use the most recent census data that reflects the city's growth.
Kennedy-Ezra Kastle, an activist with Reclaim the Block and Black Visions, says more police doesn't equal safety.
"It's not going to fix anything because the foundation is rotten, the foundation perpetuates racism, the foundation protects guilty cops, the foundation is the issue,” he said. “And if we don't choose to make systemic change, then we can't change the city in which we live.”
It’s not clear what immediate action the city will take in response to the judge’s order. A city spokesperson said the city attorney is reviewing the judge’s decision.
Samuels says the ball is in the city’s court.
“We're not sure what's the next step, but we know now that now the city is on notice that they have to take every step possible to increase this number and take no step at all to decrease, defund, reduce or dismantle the police,” he said.