The Minneapolis City Council voted Thursday to approve a union contract with the Police Officers’ Federation of Minneapolis. The proposed contract was criticized for offering economic incentives to police officers without substantial changes to provisions around officer discipline or accountability.
The contract was approved 8-5, with council members Robin Wonsley Worlobah, Jason Chavez, Aisha Chughtai, Elliott Payne and Jeremiah Ellison voting against it.
Some council members expressed disappointment with the details of the contract, which has been in negotiations since 2019, but were wary of voting it down. City staff said doing so would trigger binding arbitration, a process which could result in worse outcomes for the city.
The 133-page contract costs about $9 million and includes retroactive raises for officers. It also includes a $7,000 bonus for officers who stay at their jobs through the end of this year or recruits who complete their probationary period. The deal boosts starting pay for officers, revises procedures around “critical incidents” like police shootings and includes statements from the union supporting the city’s efforts at gender and racial equality.
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Council President Andrea Jenkins said she was voting for the contract because it’s been in negotiations for so long and because discipline against officers who violate departmental policies has become more common. She said a vote against it seemed like a “symbolic gesture.”
Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, who voted against the contract, said approving the contract would put future city councils in the same position.
"Our opportunity to do something real and substantive on the contract is here," Ellison said.
More than two years after George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police, Council Member Elliott Payne said the police contract is “blind to the reality of what we just lived through.” Council Member Robin Wonsley Worlobah said the contract seems solely focused on attracting more officers. She said some elected officials, including Mayor Jacob Frey, had promised to use the contract to reform the Minneapolis police.
"Those at the bargaining table missed a really key opportunity, including the mayor," Wonsley Worlobah said.
Even council members who voted to approve the contract said they were disappointed with its contents. Council Member Andrew Johnson said he supported the contract to avoid sending it to an arbitrator, but that he was disappointed about the “lack of substantive change” in the deal.
Earlier this week, Minneapolis director of labor relations Holland Atkinson told council members that the incentives were necessary because of the high demand for police officers in the region and around the country.
"We're kind of in the middle of an absolute hiring bonanza for police officers right now. It's actually a very, very difficult market to attract and retain anyone," Atkinson told council members.
The department is down almost 300 officers since 2019. The city currently employs 622 sworn officers, including 41 who are on continuous leave.
Atkinson said the union contract isn’t the appropriate place to enact policies around discipline. He said that may even “tie the hands” of policymakers who want to enact change at the police department.
Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw said she believes the next police chief will play a huge role in how officers are disciplined in the city.
The contract is in force until the end of 2022. Jenkins said negotiations on that contract would start almost immediately after this contract is ratified.