Minneapolis to share new emergency response program in wake of after-action report completion

A police officer points a gun.
Minneapolis police officers aim less-lethal weapons at protesters and rioters on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis on Aug. 26, 2020.
Evan Frost | MPR News

On Tuesday afternoon, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey will join city officials to announced the city has completed all recommendations from the 2022 After-Action Review.

Those were the recommendations put in place after a stinging analysis came out of law enforcement’s response to the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd.

Mayor Frey will be joined by the city’s safety commissioner, police chief and fire chief. They will also announce the implementation of a new emergency communications tool for Minneapolis.

MPR News’ Matt Sepic is following this story. He joined MPR News host Cathy Wurzer to explain what we know so far.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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Audio transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] CATHY WURZER: Minneapolis city leaders say they've finished implementing more than two dozen recommendations from an after-- I'll try that again-- recommendations from an after-action review that sharply criticized the response to the civil unrest in 2020. In the days after George Floyd's death at the hands of police, daytime protests gave way to three nights of rioting. Mayor Jacob Frey and other officials are expected to have more details, including a new emergency communications tool for Minneapolis, at a news conference next hour.

Reporter Matt Sepic joins us with a preview. Well, Matt, this was a long report of recommendations that came out in 2022. Can you remind folks what were those recommendations?

MATT SEPIC: Well, this was one of two reports that came out around that time. This one was commissioned by the City of Minneapolis. They hired the Chicago consulting firm Hillard Heintze, and the firm completed this in early March of 2022, just over two years ago, as you said. They've reviewed body camera footage from police, read through thousands of documents, interviewed city officials, police, and fire department staff-- all the things you do when you complete a review like this.

The group found that the police and fire departments, among other things, neglected their own emergency plans and never set up an adequate emergency command structure. And that led to poor communication with police officers and firefighters who were out on the streets and also to inconsistent decision-making by leaders. And as an example, Cathy, among other things, supervisors trying to pull fire crews off the street in that week in May of 2020 had to resort to a phone tree because they were unable to get into a password-protected communication system.

CATHY WURZER: So these recommendations-- the city says they've completed all of them in this two-year period? Is that right?

MATT SEPIC: Well, that's what they've said. I-- and I would say that most of these are focused on training of staff and setting expectations for leaders in critical situations, reworking policy. A lot of this is stuff that appears to me that you do on paper. And I'm certainly hoping to hear more from Mayor Jacob Frey about this at the 1:30 news conference. Also expected to be there as the city's new Community Safety Commissioner, Toddrick Barnette.

And I guess the only way to know for sure if these changes will work is to test them in the real world. And I would imagine they're doing some training with these new systems. But after being out on the street covering that unrest in 2020, I hope that these plans are [CHUCKLES] just stay on paper and don't have to be implemented. And I would imagine that everybody here in Minneapolis would agree.

CATHY WURZER: But of course, being on the street, as you saw it, was such a chaotic response to what was going on--

MATT SEPIC: Oh, yeah.

CATHY WURZER: --which led to these recommendations.

MATT SEPIC: Right. Yeah, I mean, one of the things that I'll never forget out there, being on the street-- and I know we were on the air together a few times during our special coverage that week-- was just seeing all these fires and all this chaos, but hearing no sirens. You're used to that accompanying any sort of emergency. And that was one of the things that stuck out most. And it really wasn't until you had the National Guard there to protect the firefighting crews that they were able to really get a handle on all the arson fires that had been set that week amid all of the destruction.

CATHY WURZER: So there was this after-action report by the City of Minneapolis. But wasn't there a state report too?

MATT SEPIC: Yeah, this one was done by Wilder Research, and it came out around the same time, later in March of 2022. And this was one that the Minnesota Department of Public Safety commissioned. And they kind of did a lot of the same work-- reviewed media coverage, looked through documents, interviewed state staff.

I mean, the big finding with that report-- and again, this was on the state level-- was that the Command Center-- this was set up at the football stadium over at the U-- the Command Center known as the MACC was effective once it was up and running. But the state should have gotten that up and running sooner, whether or not Minneapolis city leaders had requested help. And that, too, like the city report, just found problems with coordination between the various law enforcement agencies.

MPD had its own emergency operations center in Northeast Minneapolis. Most MPD staff stayed there. But there were very few MPD people, including the chief at the time, Medaria Arradondo, over at the stadium coordinating with state officials. And then that led to a lot of problems with law enforcement strategies.

MPD was using a lot of crowd dispersal tactics. Meanwhile, the state patrol was containing crowds and arresting people. And one official at the state Command Center told the Wilder Research folks that it was, quote, "very clear that Minneapolis had no interest in being a good partner." And I am imagining that, at this news conference a little later this afternoon, we'll hear about how they are better coordinating with other law enforcement agencies as well.

CATHY WURZER: All right. I know you'll be there. Matt Sepic, thank you so much.

MATT SEPIC: You're welcome.

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