According to the attorney representing the officers, Ron Meuser Jr., disability claims have been pouring in throughout the last six weeks following the death of George Floyd and the subsequent nights of unrest.
On one occasion, rioters burned the 3rd Precinct police station to the ground. Thirteen officers were inside the precinct at the time, and some of them sent texts to their loved ones that they feared would be their final communications before dying. Others recall counting their ammunition, many of them were convinced they would not get out of the situation alive.
Some officers have suffered injuries while trying to contain rioting, including being struck by concrete, physically assaulted, and being hit by firecrackers.
All told, 20 percent of the force has filed for disability in recent weeks or is in the process of doing so. Meuser said that although law enforcement is considered a high-stress career in the best of times, the past two months have pushed a lot of Minneapolis officers to the breaking point. Exhaustion from working long shifts is only making the situation worse.
In a statement, he said: “I’m seeing PTSD symptoms of officers with highly diminished capacity to live and socialize, extraordinary rates of divorce and alcohol dependency just to cope."
Meuser said that the city has not yet approved the officers’ disability claims. Ninety percent of such claims are normally denied. However, during the six months that it generally takes to process the claims, most of the officers will be off the streets. Disability payments that are approved come from the Public Employees’ Pension Fund.
According to Meuser, 75 officers have filed the paperwork and have already stopped working, while an additional 75 are currently in the process of filing.
At the same time, the Minneapolis City Council has been pushing to defund the police department and replace the police with a new system of public safety, although they haven't released any details on how exactly they propose to keep the city safe.
It’s a bad time to be considering getting rid of the police as the city experiences a surge in gun violence. More than 100 people in the city have been shot since Floyd's death. So far this year, the city has seen 243 shootings with five months still left in the year; there were 269 total in all of 2019.
Minneapolis is at the center of the racial tensions and protests that we’ve been seeing lately, but officers around the country are feeling the heat.
These brave men and women put their lives on the line for all of us every day, and now they are doing it without the support of local officials in many cases – and sometimes with the prospect of their department being dismantled entirely looming over their heads.
They’re protecting our streets in the face of public outrage over the actions of someone else – outrage that is often funneled into violence against them – and they’re also dealing with potential coronavirus exposure.
It’s not surprising to see so many officers struggling, but it will be interesting to see just how much Minneapolis and the public are willing to move forward with their plans to switch to some “holistic method of public safety” if crime continues to rise there as the number of officers on the street goes down thanks to disability.
Sources for this article include: