Last Friday a judge ruled that a lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis could go forward. The lawsuit was filed by a group of eight plaintiffs who argue the city is legally obligated to maintain a minimum number of police officers on the force based on the population of the city. Specifically the Minneapolis City Charter states the city must maintain 0.0017 police per resident. Given the city’s current size, that works out to 743 officers. But at present the MPD is at least 100 officers below that.
When Ed wrote about this lawsuit last month he pointed out that the response from the city had infuriated the plaintiffs. The city attorney argued that none of the plaintiffs had standing to bring the lawsuit because none of them had been shot. In other words, unless you take a bullet as a result of a lack of sufficient policing, you’ve got no right to sue. Fortunately, last Friday a judge rejected that argument and refused to dismiss the case:
Hennepin County District Court Judge Jamie Anderson on Friday ruled Minneapolis residents have standing to sue the city over an alleged police staffing violation.
Anderson’s order rejected the city of Minneapolis’ attempt to throw out the lawsuit because residents lacked standing to sue…
Cathy Spann, one of the plaintiffs, said: “The Court rightly rejected the City’s attempt to have our lawsuit dismissed because we haven’t taken bullets ourselves, as we have watched our neighborhoods become full of violence and stray bullets,” Spann said in a statement.
Beyond refusing to dismiss the case, Judge Anderson also suggested money should not be diverted from the MPD to other priorities unless the city was at least meeting the minimum number of officers set by the City Charter.
Anderson ruled city officials “have no authority to divert funds from the Minneapolis Police Department if they have not met their public duty to fund a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident.”
Anderson added that “misallocation of money that properly should fund a police force is an unlawful disbursement of funds.”
“Respondents are collecting tax money that should be paying for the police force, but is paying for something else,” Anderson wrote. “This alleged misallocation of money would ‘likely increase the tax burden on the government’s taxpayers.’”
So the City Council’s plan to “defund the police” and direct that money elsewhere is probably in trouble. Recently the Council backtracked and announced it would direct $500,000 to hiring more officers. But it looks like it could take a while to get the city back to the minimum staffing needed to avoid this lawsuit. Meanwhile, the surge of violent crime in the city continues.
According to police data, more than 500 people have been shot in Minneapolis this year – twice as many as 2019, while murders are up more than 50%.
So far this year, there have been nearly 5,000 violent crimes, the most in the past five years, the records show.
The city is also still dealing with hundreds of properties damaged in riots. The cost of fixing that damage would have been significant in normal times but during the pandemic it’s likely that many struggling businesses just won’t make it. The city is in trouble and rising crime and insufficient police will only make that situation worse. It’s a shame that city residents can see that when the members of the City Council apparently could not.