And the number keeps growing.
The Minneapolis city council wants to dismantle its police force. It may not get the chance, however, as the police officers themselves may accomplish it first. The city has received an overwhelming number of disability claims from law enforcement that might sideline a quarter of its police force.
The curve isn’t flattening, either, according to an attorney handling the claims:
The continued surge of Minneapolis police officers seeking disability benefits after the George Floyd unrest is heightening concerns of a police staffing shortage amid a wave of violent crime.
Ron Meuser Jr., the lawyer handling the claims, said his office met with an additional 43 Minneapolis cops this week who have retained him. That’s in addition to the estimated 150 officers who Meuser said at a July 10 news conference had retained him. And it brings the total closer to 200 now, out of a sworn force of about 850.
Meuser said most of the officers starting the disability paperwork leave their jobs fairly quickly on a medical leave. The disability claims process can take up to six months.
He said his office has “dozens and dozens” of more appointments with officers scheduled for next week. “The curve has not flattened,” Meuser said. “We are signing up a staggering number of officers every day right now.”
That will put the city council in a rather difficult position. Even though they want to disband the police department, the city charter requires them to field their own police force. They want a referendum to pass an amendment to repeal that part of the charter, but until then, the charter requires not just the funding of the police department but specific minimum staffing levels as well. They must have “a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident”; with a population of 425,000 (as of 2018), that requires the city to have at least 724 “employees.” If they’re down to 650, they’re already in technical violation of their city charter.
There’s another problem here, too, which is one of momentum. If the police force thins out this rapidly, other officers will start looking for work elsewhere, too. At some point, the desire to serve the community will pale in respect to the danger of having no backup on ever-more-dangerous streets. Those officers might not go through a disability process — they will simply walk away, either to join other law enforcement agencies or to do something else. That process might already be accelerating, but if it hasn’t happened yet, it almost certainly will, and soon.