MN Supreme Court says Frey has 'clear legal duty' to hire more police

Minneapolis mayor speaks at a podium
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey speaks at a press conference during which Police Chief Medaria Arradondo announced his retirement on Dec. 6, 2021.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Chief Justice Lorie Gildea of the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a ruling Monday that Minneapolis' mayor should employ a certain number of police officers or demonstrate why higher staffing levels are not possible.

The ruling sends the case back to district court.

Eight residents concerned about crime, particularly on the city’s north side, sought the court order to force the city to hire more police, saying the city’s charter requires a set number based on population.

Justice Gildea said Mayor Jacob Frey has a “clear legal duty” under the city's charter to staff the department with at least 731 sworn officers. She also said the district court may weigh all the arguments, but “may not control the manner in which the Mayor exercises his discretion to hire the requisite number of officers.”

The justice also said the council is fulfilling its budgeting duty to fund the officer positions.

During a June 9 hearing, the state Supreme Court heard arguments from the residents that the current staffing is about 120 officers less than they believed was required.

Minneapolis attorneys argued the charter requirement relates only to funding, but the mayor still may determine how the money may be used within the department.

In a statement Monday, interim city attorney Peter Ginder said his office is reviewing the opinion. Ginder said over the last two years, the police department “has lost almost 300 peace officers. This is an unprecedented loss of personnel that is not easily corrected.”

“Mayor Jacob Frey, the Minneapolis Police Department, and City are working in good faith to recruit and hire more community oriented peace officers as quickly as reasonably possible. From additional funding for recruit classes and officer wellness programming to hiring bonuses, the City is continuing to work to rebuild the police force to full strength,” Ginder said.

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