A group of Minneapolis activists has sued the City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey, saying efforts to defund the city’s police department are contributing to violence in the city.
The suit, brought Monday by eight Minneapolis activists, cites an increase in shootings and homicides, as well as the vandalism of the Fifth Police Precinct as evidence that “Minneapolis is in a crisis.”
“It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it would not be this way if the City Council and the Mayor did their jobs,” attorney James V.F. Dickey, of the Upper Midwest Law Center, wrote on behalf of the activists.
Dickey alleges the city is operating below the level of officers mandated by the City Charter.
The charter requires Minneapolis to maintain a police department and “fund a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident.” Based on the latest census data, that translates to roughly 730 officers. Dickey wrote that he thinks updated population figures could place that number at 743.
Staffing levels in the department have fluctuated following George Floyd’s death and the unrest that followed. Some officers left. Others continue to be employed but are on medical leave, many with claims pending for post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Minneapolis Police Department currently has 856 officers and 147 civilian employees. The number of officers currently on medical leave wasn’t immediately available. As of mid-July, more than 100 were on medical leave.
The city attorney’s office declined to comment, saying it is still reviewing the lawsuit.
The lawsuit included as an exhibit an e-mail from Interim City Attorney Erik Nilsson, who previously told the group he disagreed with their interpretation of the charter.
The charter requires Minneapolis to fund a minimum police force, “but does not require that all of those positions be filled at any given time,” he wrote.
Bringing the suit are Minneapolis residents Cathy Spann, Aimee Lundberg, Jonathan Lundberg, former City Council Member Don Samuels, Sondra Samuels, Julie Oden, Audua Pugh and Georgianna Yantos.