Probe into Minneapolis police reveals years of 'race discrimination,' seeks consent decree

·Senior Producer/Reporter
·5 min read

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) released findings from their investigation into the city of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department late last month, and determined that the two public entities had engaged “in a pattern or practice of race discrimination” over the past 10 years and urged the city to take steps toward reform.

The investigation, prompted by the 2020 murder of George Floyd, examined data spanning from 2010 to the present, and revealed that MPD officers use higher rates of more severe force against Black residents than white residents in similar circumstances.

The report detailing the findings, released on April 27, says that while Black community members make up only 19% of the population, they are the subject of 78% of all searches conducted during traffic stops. Data also shows that the officers were more likely to stop Black residents longer, as well as search, cite, use force and arrest them.

“Following the murder of George Floyd, demands to end discriminatory policing practices reverberated across the world,” said a statement from MDHR Commissioner Rebecca Lucero. “Those demands remain just as urgent today with the announcement of the investigative findings which paints an unsettling picture of the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department engaging in a pattern of racial discrimination over the last decade.”

The department concluded that the pattern of race discrimination is the product of an “organizational culture,” including poor training infused with a “paramilitary” approach and “warrior mindset,” accountability systems where leadership approves “inappropriate and potentially unlawful behavior,” as well as a “lack of collective action” by the city and police leadership.

Minneapolis police stand guard against protesters
Minneapolis police stand guard against protesters following the arrest and death of George Floyd, May 27, 2020. (Jim Mone/AP)

“MPD’s data shows that MPD officers are using unnecessary and excessive force. That they are escalating situations, instead of de-escalating situations and that there is race-based policing occurring,” Lucero said during a press conference on the day the findings were released.

She added that on the first day of academy training in 2021, police recruits were told “instant and unquestioned compliance is an order,” a mentality that Lucero said is “endemic within MPD’s organizational culture” and “undermines MPD’s written policies.”

“For example, if the written policy is that an officer has the duty to intervene when they see unlawful use of force occurring, the actual policy of instant and unquestioned compliance undermines the existence of that written duty to intervene policy, rendering ageless,” Lucero said.

The extensive probe reviewed an estimated 700 hours of bodycam footage and 480,000 pages of city and MPD documents, examined about 87 hours of MPD academy training sessions and participated in multiple ride-alongs with MPD officers in each of MPD’s five precincts. The agency also analyzed MPD’s policing data from the last 10 years and reviewed police use of force files and claims of police misconduct files.

The investigation was launched on June 1, 2020, just days after the May 25 murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black Minneapolis resident who was killed by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Floyd was arrested after a store clerk suspected Floyd of using a counterfeit bill.

Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground with his knee on his neck, as three other officers stood by for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. His killing, recorded by bystanders, ignited a global outcry and a reckoning with racial injustice, as protesters called for complete overhauls of policing, including the controversial movement to “defund the police.”

People take to the streets following the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial
People take to the streets following the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial on April 20, 2021 in New York City. (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

Last June, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill sentenced Chauvin to 22 1/2 years in prison after jurors found him guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The MDHR report was released days after Chauvin’s lawyers filed an appeal of his conviction.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Paul Manuson also accepted Chauvin’s plea deal in the federal civil rights cases. The former officer faces a sentence ranging from 20 to 25 years in prison.

In a statement, civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represented Floyd’s family, called the report “historic” and “monumental in importance.”

“We call on city, state and police leaders to accept the challenge of these findings and make meaningful change at last to create trust between communities of color in Minneapolis and those who are sworn to protect and serve them.”

A week into the Department of Human Rights investigation, the agency obtained a temporary court order from Hennepin County District Court requiring the city and the police department to make immediate changes, including how police officers interact with community members. The reform resulted in police accountability changes after the city incorporated all the changes laid out in the order into their policies, ordinances and procedures.

The recent findings of MDHR’s investigation point to other opportunities to increase accountability and trust for law enforcement in the community, including developing a “Consent Decree Independent Oversight Engagement” with community, Minneapolis and police officers.

Lucero called such a decree “unprecedented.” The agreement would be a judge-issued court order to lay out specific changes that would be legally binding between the city and the MPD to combat the practice of race discrimination.

According to Lucero, there would be independent oversight through a team that monitors and reports progress to the judge. The decree would also stay put, regardless of the election cycle, which will provide “sustained action” necessary for success and won’t be “subject to the whims of changing election officials,” Lucero said. The settlement will also be a collaborative effort throughout the city.

“The Minnesota Department of Human rights will meet with community members, MPD officers, city staff and other stakeholders to gather feedback on what should be included in a consent decree to address the race-based policing,” Lucero said.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told a local news outlet that he would be open to such an agreement.

“We need to do right by our Black community, we need to do right by our city. We also need to acknowledge that decisions that are made today will have long-lasting impact to present and future administrations, so we got to get this right,” Frey said.

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