City asks Minneapolis police to change schedule, accept furloughs

As the Minneapolis City Council considers defunding the police department, city negotiators are asking the police union to accept scheduling changes and furloughs in their expired labor contract.

The request did not go over well with union leaders.

“Police officers, as human beings, do have feelings,” wrote James Michels, a negotiator for the Minneapolis Police Federation.

Since the killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day, the City of Minneapolis has experienced a shortage of officers available to respond to 911 calls and to staff police precincts.

“One of those consequences,” wrote Michels, in a letter obtained by the FOX 9 Investigators, “has been an unprecedented level of police officers who have resigned or are unavailable for duty due to job-related injuries (both physical and emotional).”

The letter from the union was sent to the city’s Director of Labor Relations, Laura Davis.

In an email to the FOX 9 Investigators, Davis said, “Describing a ‘dangerous shortage’ is hyperbolic.  I would describe it as anticipating scheduling challenges and trying to get out in front of it.”

At least 150 officers are in the process of seeking disability for post-traumatic stress, union attorneys have said.  There are 850 sworn officers in Minneapolis, and roughly 70 percent of the rank and file staff precincts and respond to 911 calls.

Union sources said 25 police officers have resigned since Memorial Day, and another 25 are on personal leave.

A city spokesperson said 17 officers have filed for workman’s compensation.

Simultaneously, the city is also dealing with a budget deficit projected to be at least $165 million.

City negotiators are asking the Federation to consider two, 12-hour shifts, instead of the current three, 10-hour shifts, and to move other police officers to patrol assignments.

The city does have the option to invoke “emergency” scheduling under the contract.

In the letter, Michels said, “We do acknowledge that staffing levels are dangerously low relative to the safety of the community and their police officers. We also acknowledge that the expected trend of resignations will far outpace the ability to hire which will further exacerbate this problem.”

On Monday, city negotiators and Assistant Police Chief Mike Kjos, met with Federation leaders to discuss the city’s proposal to establish 12-hour shifts.

On Thursday, city negotiators approached the Federation again to ask them to enter into an agreement that would allow the city to furlough police officers in order to prevent possible layoffs.

The Minneapolis Police Federation has been operating under a contract that expired in January.  Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo have publicly said they are refusing to negotiate a new contract with the union.

The Federation said it would not even present the proposal to its members.

“The request that now, in addition to all this, they [police officers] make financial concessions is more than a reasonable person could bear,” wrote Michels.

The union is suggesting the city cope with any general fund shortfalls with $32 million in federal assistance the city received from the CARES Act, which must be spent during 2020 on COVID-related expenses.

A recent U.S. Treasury Department statement suggested that salaries of police officers and firefighters would qualify as “COVID-related expenses.”

The Federation said any layoffs would impact rookies who graduated from the Police Academy in May, or another recruit class scheduled to begin in August.  Those 70 new officers “are among the most diverse in the history of the department,” and “would be the first out the door.”

Michels wrote that layoff would be “furthering a particular political agenda and not due to economic need or public safety concerns.”