Justice Department offers assistance to Minneapolis police

A man speaks at a microphone as 3 others look on.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arrodondo, right, speaks during a press conference as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice Eric Dreiband, second from right, U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Erica MacDonald, second from left, and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs Katie Sullivan, left, listen inside the Federal Courthouse in Minneapolis on Tuesday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Updated: 3:26 p.m.

U.S. Department of Justice officials announced Tuesday that they’re offering to collaborate with the Minneapolis police as part of a new initiative to assist police departments with training or other policing practices. 

The program includes the creation of a new national coordination center run by the International Association of Chiefs of Police for training and technical assistance. Federal officials say the partnership could involve anything from reviewing a police department’s use-of-force policies to supporting the mental health and well-being of officers and community members.

“We developed this opportunity and this response center and this technical assistance program to be as flexible as possible,” said Katharine T. Sullivan, the principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Justice Programs. “We want to meet you where you are and meet the needs of your community.”

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the center could provide important support for his department, which has seen staffing levels decline by 130 officers in the last year. Arradondo said the lack of resources has meant that the department has had to become “one-dimensional” in its activities, focusing more on patrol and investigation to the detriment of other police department responsibilities. 

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“What this offer would do is it would provide that additional support for us, in terms of training, in terms of looking at our policies,” Arradondo said. 

The police chiefs association won the $3 million grant after a competitive nationwide application process, Sullivan said. The money will go toward establishing the new National Response Center Initiative.

Arradondo said he hopes city leaders will take advantage of the opportunity to work with the center.

“In creating a new MPD, I want to utilize all available tools and resources to support the hardworking and professional men and women of the MPD," Arradondo said. “We have an obligation and duty to be guardians of our communities and enhance our level of service and this program seeks to do just that.”

It’s unclear what steps would need to occur for a partnership to proceed. Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement through a spokesperson that the city has “been engaged with a number of prospective external partners, including the Minnesota U.S. Attorney” about support for the department, and that staff are working to ensure any outside support is directed by the mayor and chief. 

Members of the Minneapolis City Council were not notified of the chief’s appearance or of Frey’s conversations with the U.S. Department of Justice before the announcement. 

City Council President Lisa Bender said she learned of it through media inquiries. She is concerned about the lack of communication about the program, especially as the city attempts to address issues of public safety and police violence following George Floyd’s killing on May 25. 

“We have issues of rising crime in our city that require all hands on deck to feel safe,” Bender said. “We’re in the middle of multiple initiatives related to public safety so it does feel particularly important to be communicating with each other.” 

Bender said that any collaboration between the city of Minneapolis and the program administered by the International Association of Chiefs of Police first requires council approval. Any grants accepted directly by the city would also require council approval.