The Minnesota Supreme Court order in Spann v. Minneapolis City Council this past Monday highlights facts salient to the future of Minneapolis. The Minneapolis Police Department has lost 300 officers since the summer of Saint George just two years ago — about one-third of the force. The city is obligated by its own charter to maintain a police department of 731 officers. Yet the city now maintains the department with only 621 officers on its payroll as of late May, including 39 who were on a “continuous leave” lasting nearly two weeks or longer.
The city disputed its legal obligation under the charter. Although we await the Court’s opinion supporting the order filed on Monday, we can say that that argument is over. The city is out of compliance with the basic public safety obligation set in its own charter.
Beyond the issue of compliance, the city asks what it is supposed to do. It’s doing the best it can. It has provided funding for additional recruit classes, hiring bonuses and officer wellness programs. It is contending with a basic problem. The problem is no one in his right mind wants to work for the department.
Perhaps the most salient fact staring us in the face is this one. Even if the city ultimately achieves compliance, it will still be substantially short-staffed. It needs a heavy dose of the kind of policing that restored order in New York City during the mayoralty of Rudy Giuliani. As of today, the city lacks the leadership, the manpower, and the will to restore order. The future of the city is grim.
The department is under assault in the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, in the press, and in the courts. Among other things, it stands charged with conducting 10 years of “race based policing,” from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2020. This is a period that covers the leadership of Tim Dolan, Janeé Harteau (the first woman chief), and Medaria Arradondo (the first black chief).
They aren’t talking for public consumption. I think it extremely unlikely that they led a department that is guilty as charged by the MDHR. In crucial respects, however, the MDHR charge is deficient on its face. President Sherral Schmidt of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis provided us a brief statement that we posted here.
The Star Tribune isn’t even trying to focus on the ills plaguing the city as the police find themselves unable to recruit up to the legal minimum. It has turned its attention elsewhere. Since the Spann order was issued on Monday, the editorial board has offered readers its opinion on Title IX (“Title IX was a win for the U.S.,” June 20), the lack of competition for elective county sheriffs and county attorneys around the state (“Voters suffer with fewer choices,” June 21), the vagaries of air travel (“Airline passengers deserve better,” June 22), access to birth-control (“Post-Roe v. Wade, broaden access to birth control pills,” June 23), and a lament for the demise of Roe (“Women have lost a basic freedom,” June 24). The most recent word from the editors on the police department endorsed a plan for escalation of discipline (“Plan adds a layer of discipline for MPD,” June 16).
In his email message to readers yesterday, Star Tribune Editorial Editor and Vice President Scott Gillespie pronounced himself well-pleased with the board’s contribution on birth-control: “Although we could not predict when SCOTUS would release its ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, Friday’s editorial is especially well-timed.” Congratulations are in order.