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Residents who sued over lack of MPD staffing encouraged by Mayor Frey's proposed budget

North Minneapolis group that sued over lack of police staffing weigh next steps
North Minneapolis group that sued over lack of police staffing weigh next steps 02:05

MINNEAPOLIS -- An attorney for eight North Minneapolis residents who sued the city over its depleted police force said the group is encouraged by efforts put forward in the mayor's budget proposal to meet the court's order to hire more officers.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in June that Minneapolis must hire a minimum of 731 police officers or explain in court why it can't. There was a hearing scheduled for Friday for the city to make that case, but now it's delayed until late November, said James Dickey, an attorney with Upper Midwest Law Center representing the plaintiffs.

He said the groups is "evaluating all options, including whether the hearing is necessary," citing efforts from the city to comply with meeting staffing minimums. He pointed to a proposal from Mayor Jacob Frey announced earlier this week that includes four more police recruit classes, more money for officer overtime and nearly $400 million over two years to increase the number of sworn number of officers to 835.

The number of active, sworn officers on payroll as of the end of July was 563, according to the latest city data shared with WCCO.

"Our clients who are aware that the budget proposal is the first step and a month's long process," Dickey said during a news conference Thursday. "But given the common sense of Mayor Frey's proposals, and the emphasis on both supporting police and procedural justice, we are hopeful that this turns Minneapolis public safety around."

A spokeswoman for the mayor's office said Thursday the mayor would not comment on the case since it's technically still pending.

Frey's proposal also includes funding for mutual aid agreements with other law enforcement agencies and a boost for behavioral crisis teams focused on mental health calls, which can free up police officers who otherwise would respond.  He also pitched an internship program for high school students to explore law enforcement as a career.

During his address announcing his plan, Frey mentioned the Minneapolis Supreme Court decision on law enforcement staffing, saying it "reaffirmed" that the city needs more police officers. The Minneapolis City Council will need to approve a budget by the end of the year.

"I have been consistent in my message that we need officers and we need them to reflect the values of our city," Frey said.

Eight North Minneapolis residents two years ago sued Minneapolis and the mayor for failing to employ a minimum number of officers required by the city's charter, citing an uptick in crime and not enough police to ensure safety. Among the plaintiffs were former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels and his wife, Sondra. Samuels recently lost his bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar in a DFL primary for Fifth Congressional District seat.

"I think when it comes down to it, when you have a lawsuit, the question is: What is the ultimate goal? What can the courts actually provide in terms of relief? And we think Mayor Frey is implementing the victory we got on June 20th in the Supreme Court," Dickey said.

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