|More than 150 Minneapolis police officers are filing work-related disability claims after the death of George Floyd and ensuing unrest, with about three-quarters citing post-traumatic stress disorder as the reason for their planned departures, according to an attorney representing the officers.
Their duty disability claims, which will take months to process, come as the city is seeing an increase in violent crime and while city leaders push a proposal to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new agency that they say would have a more holistic approach.
While Floyd’s death in May and the unrest that followed are not the direct cause of many of the disability requests, attorney Ron Meuser said, those events and what Meuser called a lack of support from city leadership were a breaking point for many who had been struggling with PTSD from years on the job. Duty disability means the officer was disabled while engaged in inherently dangerous acts specific to the job.
“Following the George Floyd incident, unfortunately it became too much and as a result they were unable to, and are unable to, continue on and move forward,” Meuser said. “They feel totally and utterly abandoned.”
He said many officers he represents were at a precinct that police abandoned as people were breaking in during the unrest. Some officers feared they wouldn’t make it home, he said, and wrote final notes to loved ones. People in the crowd ultimately set fire to the building.
Mayor Jacob Frey issued a statement saying that COVID-19 and unrest following Floyd’s death tested the community and officers in profound ways. He said cities need resources to reflect the realities on the ground.
“In the meantime, I am committed to supporting those officers committed to carrying out their oath to serve and protect the people of Minneapolis during a challenging time for our city,” he said.
Meuser said in recent weeks, 150 officers have retained his office for help in filing for duty disability benefits through the state’s Public Employment Retirement Association, or PERA. So far, 75 of them have already left the job, he said.
Police spokesman John Elder questioned Meuser’s figure of 150, though he does expect an increase in departures. The department currently has about 850 officers and will adjust staffing to ensure it can do its job, he said.
The city said it has received 17 PTSD workers compensation claims in the last month, but when it comes to PERA duty disability, officers are not obligated to notify the Police Department that an application was submitted. Meuser said the city isn’t being transparent about departures, and the numbers it sees will lag as PERA benefits take months to process.