Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.
Minnesota's highest court recently made it official: Minneapolis must hire dozens more police officers to comply with its City Charter.
Last week, the state Supreme Court unanimously and wisely concluded that city leaders need to fund policing and hire cops based on charter language that says the city is required to maintain a force at a ratio of 1.7 employees per 1,000 residents. That means the Police Department must have at least 731 sworn officers, based on the most recent census data.
MPD currently has significantly fewer cops than that minimum. As of late May, it had 621 officers, including 39 on a "continuous leave" lasting nearly two weeks or longer. The city has about 300 fewer officers than it did before the May 2020 murder of George Floyd while in police custody — a troubling loss of public safety resources that the Star Tribune Editorial Board has consistently decried.
The Editorial Board also has argued that the city needs more community-oriented officers on the streets in a growing city of more than 400,000 residents. With violent crime rising, citizens deserve better police response times, regular patrolling and effective investigations.
The legal case drew renewed attention to the Minneapolis charter police funding requirements, which featured prominently in campaign discussions about transforming policing and public safety following Floyd's murder. Last November, voters rightly rejected a proposal that would have eliminated those requirements and would have cleared the way to replace the Police Department with a new agency.
The state Supreme Court found that the City Council met its obligation to fund at least the minimum number of officers in its last budget, but hiring is lagging. The ruling should put to rest the ongoing misguided efforts of some council members to decrease police funding even after the voters have spoken.
The case was brought by eight North Side residents who argued that they and others across the city were experiencing increased violent crime and that the city had fallen short on hiring enough officers to protect them. One of the plaintiffs is Don Samuels, a former City Council and school board member running for Congress in the Fifth District as a Democrat.
The Supreme Court's ruling sends the case back to a district court that had previously given city officials until June 30 to hire more police officers or demonstrate in good faith why they couldn't. City leaders acknowledge that they are unlikely to meet that deadline. They should at least be able to demonstrate their obstacles in short order, and the district court should be amenable given conditions among police ranks in Minnesota.
The competition for good recruits is stiff across the state. Interim City Attorney Peter Ginder said in a statement that the city's "unprecedented loss'' of police personnel is a situation that "is not easily corrected."
Mayor Jacob Frey, the MPD and the city "are working in good faith to recruit and hire more community-oriented peace officers as quickly as reasonably possible," Ginder said.
The city has cadet classes underway, with more planned, as well as other efforts outlined in a commentary by Frey. Funding has been provided for additional recruit classes, hiring bonuses and officer wellness programs.
"We need to both pay officers properly for their good work and hold them accountable when trust is broken," Frey wrote.
Absolutely. And as hiring picks up, the city must recruit and train officers who will not break that trust and help city residents, businesses and visitors regain faith in the Minneapolis Police Department.
Editorial Board members are David Banks, Jill Burcum, Scott Gillespie, Denise Johnson, Patricia Lopez, John Rash and D.J. Tice. Star Tribune Opinion staff members Maggie Kelly and Elena Neuzil also contribute, and Star Tribune Publisher and CEO Michael J. Klingensmith serves as an adviser to the board.