We all show up better equipped to treat one another with dignity, patience and respect when we are not fatigued, when we are supported in our mental health needs, and when we are in roles that align with our strengths and skills. This goes for police officers as well.
The Minneapolis community, City Council and mayor have a unique opportunity to impact the Minneapolis Police Federation contract, which is currently being renegotiated. This opportunity only comes every three years. A coalition of local grassroots organizations came together and formed MPLS for a Better Police Contract. We spent months researching best practices, reviewing the current contract page-by-page, consulting with labor experts and obtaining public feedback. This work culminated with 14 key recommendations.
Members of the working group focused on three prioritized recommendations: eliminating officer fatigue, adding mandatory mental health screenings and using more flexible staffing.
Underpinning each of these reforms is the understanding that the health and well-being of our communities is tied to the health and well-being of each of us as individuals. The requirement to treat community members with dignity, patience and respect is built into the officers’ job description. However, we know that the Minneapolis Police Department does not always achieve this standard.
The recommendations outlined below work to acknowledge the human needs of each officer so they may more consistently uphold these values in service to our community members.
Eliminating officer fatigue
We must eliminate officer fatigue by limiting the number of hours officers work in a given week. Currently, neither the contract nor the department manual puts a limit on hours to be worked. The Minneapolis Police Policy and Procedure Manual only requires officers to notify their precinct commander if they exceed 64 hours in a week.
A recent city of Minneapolis Internal Audit documented that officers routinely go over this threshold. Our first recommendation is to have the contract set a firm cap of 50 hours worked per week, except in the event of a city emergency.
Officers working long hours and back-to-back shifts leads to officer fatigue. Many studies highlight the alarming consequences of police working long hours: impaired judgment, increased use of force, more frequent ethical breaches and less ability to control biases.
We also know that former officer Mohamed Noor worked an all-day off-duty shift before reporting to his all-night on-duty shift the night he killed Justine Damond Ruszczyk.
Limiting hours worked is needed for both the community and the officers.
Mandatory mental health screenings
Serious gaps exist in the contract’s mental health screening requirements for police officers. Current requirements don’t mandate mental health screenings when an officer is hired from other jurisdictions. It also does not mandate regular screenings for current officers.
Our second recommendation addresses these two gaps by making mental health screenings mandatory every three years for all officers.
More flexible staffing
During a previous contract negotiation, the city yielded to the federation more control of where to staff officers. As a result, officers are not matched to roles most aligned to their talents. This has also left sections of our city without the needed staffing.
Interestingly, despite the roaring debate about downtown safety, there are actually shifts in downtown Minneapolis that are understaffed because the contract makes it difficult for management to move officers to these already funded open shifts.
Thus, our third recommendation is to provide a more flexible staffing model by reducing the percentage of roles chosen by the officers from 70% to 50%. Before hiring more officers, it would be more prudent to use our current staff more efficiently and direct incremental resources to the underlying causes of crime.
In addition to these three main reforms, we have listed the other 11 recommendations on our website MPLSforaBetterPoliceContract.org.
These recommendations are sensible, cost-neutral or cost-reducing, and would have an immediate and positive impact on Minneapolis. We are asking the mayor and the City Council to make these reforms a priority. Let them hear your voice.
Pete Gamades is co-leader of MPLS for a Better Police Contract.