See more of the story

Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


Union members of the Minneapolis Police Department voted last week in favor of a proposed contract that includes historic officer pay raises and improved managerial powers for the police chief.

The tentative agreement merits full approval by the City Council, which is scheduled to vote on it June 27. Still, there are some policy reform issues that need attention if the city is to continue to build trust and confidence in the department following the 2020 murder of George Floyd by an MPD officer. Those concerns could be addressed through administrative action or by adhering to requirements of an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and provisions in a federal consent decree that is expected this year.

The proposed contract would give officers a 5.5% pay increase starting July 1, a 2.5% raise on Jan. 1, 2025, and another 3.5% jump next summer. It also offers prorated backpay, for a total 21.7% increase over three years for veteran cops. Minneapolis' current police labor agreement was adopted in March 2022 after state mediation and expired Dec. 31 of that year.

The new deal is expected to cost an additional $9 million in the city's 2025 budget, according to figures supplied by the mayor's office.

The salary levels put the MPD within those of the top three law enforcement agencies in the region, which should help with much-needed officer recruitment efforts, according to city officials. The department is authorized and can budget for 731 officers but is down about 200 sworn officer positions. In addition, 136 officers are eligible to retire.

City administrators and the union — the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis — are on board with the proposed contract, but it still must be approved by the City Council at its regular meeting later this month. It's not a done deal, since some council members have talked about including "transformational reforms" in the contract.

In an interview with an editorial writer, Mayor Jacob Frey said that some "think about police reform in the wrong way." He said it's better not to embed things that managers should be able to do within contract language and that the proposed contract gives the chief more flexibility to hire civilian investigators, impose discipline and make staffing decisions.

Frey, along with Chief Brian O'Hara and other city officials, told the Star Tribune that the new contract would set aside decades of side agreements between the city and the union that have gotten in the way when administrators have tried to make changes within the MPD.

"What I need out of this is greater managerial control over the operations of the Police Department," O'Hara said, emphasizing he should be held accountable for changing the culture of policing in Minneapolis but that such efforts can't be legislated through a union contract. "I don't need a longer and longer contract with more stuff that I have to ask the union's permission for first."

Yet some advocacy groups such as Mpls for a Better Police Contract want to see more contractual provisions to rein in police misconduct.

An example of needed change is the coaching policy. In the past, previous administrators told the public that coaching was used as a disciplinary action only for lesser infractions. But a recent Star Tribune news story showed that wasn't true. Some officers who had committed serious acts of misconduct were also offered coaching — and it was not required to make that form of discipline public.