Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey gives his suggested 2021 budget address in a video released on August 14.

(The Center Square) – Eight Minneapolis residents are suing the City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey claiming they are violating the City Charter requirements for police officers.

The City Charter requires funding a minimum Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) force of 0.0017 employees per resident, or roughly 730 officers.

The lawsuit argues that the number of licensed police officers has dropped from 825 at the start of 2020 to about 634.

The plaintiffs are represented by the conservative Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC), which asked the Hennepin County State District Court to order city officials to comply with the City Charter by hiring, training, funding and deploying at least 730 licensed peace officers.

The petition argued Minneapolis’s leaders violated their City Charter responsibilities to manage a police force, placing residents and businesses in danger.

Minneapolis saw 48 homicides in 2019 and at least 44 in 2020 with four months remaining.

The police officer exodus started after the May 25 death of George Floyd in MPD custody.

At least 80 officers retired or quit by the end of July, the lawsuit states, and 111 employed officers were on a type of medical leave.

Minneapolis is the largest city in the state, with about 425,000 residents.

Minneapolis Interim City Attorney Erik Nilsson argued the charter requires funding a police force of about 730 officers but “does not require that all of those positions be filled at any given time,” according to court documents.

Frey stated in his 2021 Budget Address last week that he expects 100 police officers to leave the force by the end of 2020, who won’t be replaced because MPD is included in the city-wide hiring freeze through 2021 to preserve a budget battered by COVID-19.

Minneapolis has diverted more than $1 million from MPD to the Office of Violence Prevention in an effort to reform policing. 

The lawsuit claims the City Council achieved its goal of dismantling the police department without the required vote of Minneapolis' residents.

Plaintiff Cathy Spann demanded city officials comply with the charter and said that the safety of families require "an adequately staffed and deployed police force.”

“The actions of the City Council and Mayor Frey in driving out unprecedented numbers of Minneapolis police officers, and then cancelling all hiring of replacements, endangers our community, our residents and our children,” Spann added in a statement.

UMLC Chair Howard Root criticized the City Council for using taxpayer money to hire private protection for some members but not for other Minneapolis residents.

“While the City Council claims that the Charter-required minimum number of armed police is not required for public safety, when it comes to their own safety, their actions stink of hypocrisy,” Root said in a statement.

“Our legal petition points out that the City has paid $152,400 for armed protective agents for three City Council members – a private armed security force so the Council members do not need to rely on the disintegrating Minneapolis police force for their own protection.”

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.