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Judge Rules For Activists Who Seek More MPD Officers, Orders City To Increase Police Force

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — Eight Northside residents in Minneapolis are claiming victory after a judge on Thursday ordered the city to keep the number of police officers at a level required in the city charter. The group sued the city, citing high levels of violent crime and a lack of police officers. They say the gun violence, carjackings and break-ins are impacting their daily lives.

"We have to work together. That's what this is about, us working together to build this city back," Cathy Spann said.

Spann is part of the group of neighbors who sued the city because the felt there was not enough police on the street to protect them from a surge of crime that impacted poor and minority neighborhoods.

"The courts have decided that we have been harmed, that we in fact have been impacted, that our lives are in danger. The judge heard that there are bullets coming through our homes, through our cars, and through our children," Don Samuels said.

The order by Hennepin County District Judge Jamie L. Anderson requires that the city have at least 730 sworn officers on the payroll by the end of June 2022, or more if indicated by the 2020 Census that will be published later this year.

The group says it's not all about more police officers; it's about maintaining a sufficient level of policing.

"Because if we think about the city of Minneapolis being 400,000-plus people ... and we have only 660 officers? Do the math," Audua Pugh said.

MORE: Read the Order for a Writ of Mandamus here. (.PDF)

The suit was brought on behalf of eight residents in north Minneapolis by the Upper Midwest Law Center, an arm of the conservative Twin Cities think tank Center for the American Experiment. It was sparked by threats to defund the police force and the departure of officers after the death of George Floyd in May 2020.

The complaint cited an increase in shootings and homicides, as well as the destruction of the Fifth Police Precinct during the Floyd protests as evidence that "Minneapolis is in a crisis." Floyd, a Black man in handcuffs, died after former police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, knelt on his neck.

According to Anderson's order, the Minneapolis Police Department is expecting to have 669 sworn officers as of June 1, 2022. The judge said that doesn't meet a section of city code that calls for police to fund and employ at least 0.0017 sworn officers per resident of Minneapolis, which would be at least 730 sworn officers or more with the census results.

"While I can't comment specifically on the lawsuit, my position on this topic has remained consistent and steadfast. We in Minneapolis need a both-and approach. I have always opposed these efforts to defund and abolish the police," Mayor Jacob Frey said.

There's no word yet on what city officials will work out to make good on the judge's decision. Frey says he continues to work with Chief Arradondo on helping deal with attrition of officers by bringing additional recruiting classes forward.

The "Minneapolis 8" does not believe this ruling clashes with the Black Lives Matter movement because both want police accountability and reform.

"We have to stop the hemorrhaging and we do that in partnership with the police not by abolishing them," Sondra Samuels said.

Doug Seaton, President of the nonprofit law firm Upper Midwest Law Center, released a statement celebrating the order.

"This is a huge victory for the Petitioners and all residents of Minneapolis, especially those in the most diverse neighborhoods feeling the brunt of rising crime rates," he said. "We applaud the Court's decision and look forward to swift action by the City Council and Mayor to fund the police and ensure the safety of all Minneapolitans."

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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