Minneapolis leaders approve sweeping settlement to reform police
After months of negotiations between city and state officials, the council voted unanimously to approve a 144-page “court-binding settlement” ahead of an expected state trial that includes dozens of mandatory reforms aimed at transforming the practices and culture of a police department accused of racism and unnecessary violence long before Floyd’s death in May 2020.
“This is the legacy of George Floyd,” council chair Andrea Jenkins said. “This work was initiated by the death and murder of George Floyd – but not just George Floyd, but so many other members of the community who should be alive and here with us today.”
The settlement includes a litany of new rules limiting and providing greater accountability for the use of force as well as new restrictions on stops, searches and arrests, including a ban on stopping cars for offenses low-level like expired permit tabs or signaling failure. It issues new requirements regarding officer welfare and training, including mandatory instructions on issues of race and “challenges related to racism, racial inequality and race relations in policing across the country.” city of Minneapolis”.
The agreement requires the appointment of an independent assessor to monitor the City’s compliance. It comes as the city braces for the outcome of a separate Justice Department investigation into Minneapolis police that many city officials say will lead to a federal consent decree that could call for similar reforms. and the appointment of an external auditor. The wording of the settlement allows the independent monitor to oversee both the state settlement and the expected federal consent decree.
Minneapolis leaders welcomed the deal, but many did so with harsh criticism of the police department and city leaders who failed to tackle reforms before Floyd’s killing.
‘For decades, residents have told the city of Minneapolis that the MPD is an abusive and racist police force… The MPD’s lack of political will to take responsibility is why we are in this position today’ today,” council member Robin Wonsley said. “I hope this settlement is a wake-up call for city leaders, who the public has seen endorsing poor employment contracts, signing endless misconduct settlements, and then shrugging off when residents asked them why we had a dysfunctional police force. department.”
The state investigation, launched just days after Floyd’s killing, found Minneapolis officers arrested, searched, ticketed, used force and killed people of color at a higher rate than whites. While blacks make up just 19% of the city’s population, blacks accounted for 63% of use-of-force incidents in the department over the past decade, according to the report.
State investigators described a culture of deep-rooted racism and misogyny. Officers and supervisors have been regularly caught on body camera video using racial slurs and misogynistic comments, including about their own colleagues.
And in one of the most damning findings, the report accuses Minneapolis officers of using “secret social media accounts” to “surveil and engage black individuals, black organizations, and elected officials unrelated to criminal activity.” , without a public safety objective”. In one instance, according to the report, an officer posed as a black resident to send a message criticizing the NAACP. The report said officers also impersonated residents to criticize elected officials.
Minneapolis officials continue to dispute those claims. “The short answer is that the city disagrees with these findings,” city attorney Kristyn Anderson told reporters at a news conference Friday.
Still, city and state officials agreed to a one-paragraph concession in the statement saying the parties “recognize the value of the MPD in using ‘undercover social media accounts’ in a legal and not discriminatory” which may include “following and interacting with other social media accounts to establish credible coverage”.
The state settlement comes as Minneapolis continues to deal with the lingering trauma and fallout from Floyd’s murder three years later.
Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after then-officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knees into the black man’s neck and back for more than nine minutes. The incident, captured on a viral video on Facebook, has spurred national thinking on issues of race and policing and sparked mass protests around the world.
Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter and violating Floyd’s federal civil rights and is serving more than 22½ years in prison. Three other officers at the scene — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane and Tou Thao — were later convicted of federal civil rights charges related to Floyd’s death, including failing to intervene with Chauvin.
Kueng and Lane also pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting manslaughter charges in state court and are in federal custody. A public case against Thao, who is accused of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter, is ongoing.
But while those officers have been punished by the courts, the city is still scarred by the aftermath of Floyd’s death. Massive protests have sparked violent clashes between police and mostly peaceful protesters. Parts of the city have been burned and destroyed, with some damaged areas still struggling to rebuild.
Dozens of police officers left the department, leaving it understaffed, while the city paid tens of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits related to police conduct and disability claims. outgoing officers, many of whom claimed post-traumatic stress from the 2020 Troubles.
On Friday, Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara, who was hired last year after leading the Newark Police Department while under a federal consent decree, said that the agency remained understaffed – with about 580 of 731 positions filled. But he said recruitment had improved – pointing to interest from former officers who had inquired about returning to work in the city, which he attributed to reform efforts.
O’Hara called Friday’s settlement part of the effort to heal “the city’s deep wounds.”
“We recognize that terrible things have happened here in the past, and together with our communities, we are embracing this reform process today,” O’Hara said. “We are embracing this reform process today.”
But he and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who signed the agreement, warned that sweeping changes in policing would not happen overnight.
“The agreement is not a change in itself. But he lays out a clear roadmap for that,” Frey said. “The world is watching, and I know Minneapolis will be held up as an example for law enforcement. We are ready for it. We have to look into it. And we are committed to doing this work together.