Use of force by Minneapolis police down

According to Minneapolis Police, use of force incidents are on the decline
According to Minneapolis Police, use of force incidents are on the decline. Explore the data on
William Lager | MPR News Graphic | MPD data

When people call Minneapolis police for help or to report a crime, those calls for service rarely result in officers using their hands, stun guns, mace or other physical means to resolve situations, according to MPD data.

Officers responded to 322,402 calls for service in 2008. Less than half of 1 percent of those calls involved an officer using force. The number of incidents declined steeply until 2013 when it began to level off. Last year, that use of force rate dropped to less than a quarter of 1 percent.

"I don't think it's one particular thing that we're doing that shows this dramatic decrease, but I think it's a combination of factors," said police Chief Medaria Arradondo.

One factor, said Arradondo, is what he calls transformational change within the department. That includes a philosophy that places preserving life at the top of officers' list of priorities.

Impartial bias training, de-escalation training and body cameras have also influenced officers' behavior, Arradondo said.

Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo and commander Todd Sauvageau
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and Cmdr. Todd Sauvageau talk about the decrease in the rate at which Minneapolis police officers have been using force over the last decade, in Arradondo's office on Thursday.
Brandt Williams | MPR News

Reports of violent crime down

Reported violent crime in Minneapolis has also been on the decline over the past decade. Arradondo said that drop could play a part in the downward trend in use of force.

More importantly, he said, the lower use of force rates are a signal to communities of color that the department is serious about restoring public trust.

Blacks more often targets of force

Arradondo touted the department's practice of making use of force data public on its website as a means to building trust.

However, the data don't reveal anything that community activists haven't already been decrying for decades — that people of color are disproportionate targets of police force.

In 2017, African-Americans made up 61 percent of people forcibly handled by police. Whites were the targets of police force in 23.5 percent of incidents.

"To me, this is telling me that the cops are still engaged in quite a bit of brutality. Mostly against blacks," said Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality.

Gross said she's particularly interested in the data on why officers choose to use force. At the top of the list is that a subject resisted the officer by tensing up.

Now what?

Gross said she appreciates the fact that the police department is making the data available, but said police have to do more than that.

"Now that you have this data, what do you do with it?" asked Gross. "How do you act on it? How do you change the culture of policing in a way that makes police officers interact more respectfully and appropriately with the community?"

Culture change starts at the top, Gross said.

she saaid Arradondo will have to reward the behavior he wants officers to exhibit and discipline officers who don't.

Real and perceived police misconduct not only discourages public trust, but it has also taken a financial toll.

Since 2003, the city of Minneapolis has paid out more than $24 million in legal settlements, judgments and claims involving reported police misconduct.

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