MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities attorney says that more than 150 Minneapolis police officers – nearly 20% of the force – have begun the process of filing disability claims, with most saying they’re suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
In a statement Friday morning, Ron Meuser, Jr., of the firm Meuser, Yackley and Rowland, said that the disability claims have come in the last six weeks, following the killing of George Floyd and the ensuing nights of unrest, including the burning of the 3rd Precinct police station.
“While law enforcement is a high-stress career, the last two months in Minneapolis have pushed many officers to their breaking point,” Meuser said, explaining that many officers feel exhausted from working long shifts, day after day, without relief or support from city leadership.
According to him, some of the grimmest stories come from those officers who were inside the third precinct as it was surrounded by demonstrators.
The night the precinct burned down, there were 13 officers inside – some of whom sent loved ones what they feared were final texts. Others counted their ammunition.
“They did not feel like they were going to be able to come home because they did not feel they were going to come out alive,” said Meuser.
The officers eventually got the order to abandon the precinct and fled. Others suffered injuries during other parts of the riots.
“We have officers who have sustained physical injury as a result of being struck by concrete, by fire crackers, physically struck by these protesters,” said Meuser.
According to Meuser, the city has to approve the claims for disability, of which 90% are normally denied.
During the six months it takes to process the claims, most officers will be off the streets.
Approved disability payments come from PERA, the public employees pension fund. Meuser says 75 officers have already filed paperwork and are not working. Another 75 more are in the process of filing.
Meuser said the filing for the claims could go on for years because officers have 18 months from the time they leave the city and the police department to file.
The City of Minneapolis says so far it has only received 17 worker compensation claims related to PTSD, and that officers can file without notifying the city.
The city has not responded to questions about impacts to police staffing and safety concerns.
MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo said he is not aware of the large number presented by the attorney, but says the department is always preparing for staffing changes.
Minneapolis police have been under intense scrutiny since cellphone video of George Floyd’s fatal May 25 arrest appeared online. It showed now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd repeatedly told Chauvin he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin is facing murder charges in the case. Three other former Minneapolis police officers are also charged with aiding and abetting murder.
Meanwhile, the Minneapolis City Council is pushing to defund the police department and replace it with a new system of public safety, the details of which have yet to be determined. Other city and state leaders are calling for police reform measures, including Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.
This is all happening as Minneapolis is experiencing a surge of gun violence. Well over 100 people have been shot in the city since Floyd’s death. In the last 24 hours alone, shootings injured at least eight people and left one man dead.