Police reform at the center of Minneapolis mayoral race

Hundreds march from the site of Justine Damond's shooting.
Hundreds march from the site of Justine Ruszczyk's shooting to Beard's Plaissance Park during a march in honor of Damond Thursday, July 20, 2017, in Minneapolis.
Aaron Lavinsky | Star Tribune via AP

Reforming the Minneapolis Police Department is at the center of this year's mayoral race with virtually all candidates agreeing there need to be sweeping changes from the top down.

Nekima Levy-Pounds, State Rep. Raymond Dehn, incumbent Mayor Betsy Hodges and City Council Member Jacob Frey have all gone on record saying there are problems in the current culture of policing that need to be addressed.

Restoring community trust in police has been one of Hodges' primary goals in recent years. She pushed for the department to adopt body cameras and implement new use-of-force standards in accordance with recommendations from President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. And at a press conference on Friday she said she is proud of the changes they've made.

"There's no city in this country that's done more, invested more, made more changes in terms of our policy, in terms of our training, in terms of our procedure to advance the kind of policing we want to see far into the future," she said.

However, Hodges has frequently been criticized for not implementing change quickly enough and for often being at odds with former Chief Janee Harteau.

"We've got a crisis in confidence in both the mayor's office as well as the police chiefs," Frey said.

Both Frey and Dehn expressed their approval of acting Chief Medaria Arradondo, nominated by Hodges. But neither said they were committed to keeping him on as chief if elected. In terms of other changes, Frey says police need to form stronger relationships with specific communities through regular, recurring beats.

"If we're really going to talk about having officers engaged in the community then they should be getting out of the car and doing it," he said. "You know, I want people to know that their beat officer on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. is Jenny. And they know Jenny by name. They might even have Jenny's number. And once you've built those relationships that further the ability to deescalate difficult situations."

Frey also said he wants to see stricter disciplinary action against officers who fail to follow standard protocols like turning on body cameras. And leaders need to make sure officers feel they can report misconduct.

"I think we need to be disciplining and even charging officers who retaliate against co-workers who report misconduct," Frey said.

That's something Levy-Pounds and Dehn have expressed concern about, too. They have called for more training in implicit bias and conflict de-escalation along with recruiting more officers who live in the communities they serve — 9 out of every 10 officers in the MPD do not live in Minneapolis. Dehn also thinks fewer police officers should be armed with guns when they're on patrol.

"I don't believe that every cop needs to carry a gun in every situation. I think there are times when officers don't need to be carrying guns and part of that is when they're interacting with community members in a way that's really not about responding to dangerous situations but it's about interacting in general," Dehn said.

Some police officers, however, say people don't understand the risk they put themselves in every day at work.

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