Frey talks no-knock warrants, public trust, Amir Locke with MPR News

Amid calls for his resignation, the Minneapolis mayor pledges a process to review police statement accuracy

mayor speaks at a podium
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey speaks at a press conference on Feb. 2 after a fatal police shooting of Amir Locke at a downtown apartment.
Screenshot via livestream

Calls for a ban on no-knock warrants and for Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey to resign continue a week after police officer Mark Hanneman killed 22-year-old Amir Locke in a no-knock raid. Locke was not named in the warrant.

Frey has placed a moratorium on nearly all no-knock warrants as the city reviews its policy and works with national experts on reforms.

Frey joined All Things Considered host Tom Crann.

Read the transcript, which has been edited for clarity, below or use the audio player above to listen to the full interview.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

Attorney General Keith Ellison and the Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman will decide whether to charge Hanneman. Based on body camera footage and what you know, do you think Hanneman should be charged?

I can't comment on that right now as an investigation is ongoing. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is presently reviewing, and as you mentioned, Attorney General Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Freeman will be reviewing the decision as to whether to charge or not. I'm very supportive of that partnership. But I can't comment on the specifics of this case for a number of legal reasons.

Should Hanneman be fired?

That termination decision is often part and parcel with some of those decisions involving charge. And so while the investigation is going on, while those details are being reviewed, from a legal perspective, we can't comment.

That being said, certainly there's the ability to act quickly. There's the ability to move on policy reforms and changes and engage with the broader community to get the best possible processes in place. And we are doing that.

The officers involved with George Floyd's death were fired very quickly after the incident. How was that decision different than this one?

In the instance of George Floyd, there were a number of circumstances at play. And most notably, there was quite a bit of clarity on a number of different issues. We've been instructed very clearly that on this one, there's still quite a bit of information that we do not know yet.

For us, we felt the biggest piece was transparency. We wanted to get the body camera footage out as soon as was humanly possible. And there are still a number of restrictions under both state law and policy that I think need to be removed.

I'm a believer that within 48 hours, we should just get out body camera footage, period. And right now, having a policy like that would be against the law.

So transparency I think is at the foremost now. We need to be very honest about the situation and release – whether it's good, bad or ugly. And that's in all of the circumstances, and I'm going to be pushing strongly in favor of that.

You campaigned and said you had banned no-knock warrants, and then this week said your language became casual over time in ways that been misleading. If transparency is to the forefront, how do you explain this?

First, prior to November 2020, there was no policy on no-knock warrants. Our policy reform in November 2020 required officers to announce their presence and purpose prior to serving a warrant of any kind and prior to breaching the threshold of the door. That November 2020 policy ended the practice of entering unannounced while serving no-knock warrants, barring some exigent circumstances and extremely dangerous situations.

If you look back at all the official channels – the press release, our webpage, the longform interviews that I did with a number of different channels, we were able to provide the full context there. We were able to provide the full depth in the state law as to what specifically we were doing. Specifically, it was consistently characterized as a policy that required announcement prior to breaching the threshold.

But as you mentioned, throughout the campaign and certainly more and more outside groups began weighing in. The communication around this, it condensed. There was more brevity. That’s the part that we just need to own. We need to change. And we need to change the policy specifically as well.

The number of no-knock warrants was some 90 since that time where the newer rules were instituted. Could anyone reasonably say they had been banned or restricted even?

Absolutely because you need to pay attention to both state law as well as how these words are often used interchangeably. The words no-knock and no-announce under state law are used interchangeably.

What we did in our November 2020 policy was ended the action of serving a no-knock warrant without announcement. We ended unannounced entry. From that point on officers were required to announce their presence and purpose prior to breaching the threshold of the door.

The policy did not apply to the issuance of a no-knock or no-announce warrant but rather the execution of it. That is specific; it is complex and giving that answer takes a while to explain. In all honesty, that's part of the issue. These issues are tough. You got to dig in, and I recognize that brevity is oftentimes the enemy of the accuracy.

The Minneapolis Police Department called Locke a suspect, and that’s not the case. What do you say about that when it comes to transparency, how does that hold up?

Well, it's wrong. I acknowledge the harm that a statement like that has on community. We collectively have to do better.

What we are doing right now and moving forward is making sure we've got a good process in place, even through the Minneapolis Police Department, where there is a full review of statements prior to them going out. That review will really center with our civil rights director. We’re making sure we're rolling that out as soon as possible.

Protesters call for justice for Amir Locke
More than 1,000 people march through downtown Minneapolis on Feb. 5 in response to the police killing of Amir Locke three days earlier. Locke, a 22-year-old Black man, was killed by police while they executed a search warrant. Protesters called for Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey to resign.
Nicole Neri for MPR News

The statement after George Floyd’s killing was also misrepresented. Can you understand that there are some in the community who do not trust what is coming from the city and the police department? What do you do about this?

I can entirely understand while there would be a lack of trust in the police department. We’ve got a number of investigations that are underway, but you don't need an investigation to recognize that we need massive reform and culture shift and that we have problems.

During these circumstances, there is a call to get information out as quickly as possible. I've seen in our city enterprise, broadly speaking, the faster you get information out, oftentimes there are inaccuracies, and that's no excuse for what happened. That's why we need to get in full on to make sure we've got a better process in place with review from civil rights.

The Star Tribune reported that an officer who was fired is now the head of training for MPD. Are the right people and is the right culture in place to reform the department?

One of the most frustrating pieces right now is that I haven't been able to talk about the disciplinary and termination actions that are underway because there are some cases being appealed. In some cases, officers have left the department voluntarily before a disciplinary decision has come down. And because the complex web of our data practices act, personnel data at the state level requires that I don't talk about it.

Beyond that, I'm a believer that reforming a police department requires reforming individuals. And the training individual that you mentioned previously – we need to get the best possible person in there. It's something that will be subject to quite a bit of review. At the same time, I want to make sure that we're giving interim Chief [Amelia] Huffman the tools that she needs in the meantime.

You’ve heard the calls for Huffman’s resignation. Do you have confidence in the interim chief?

I didn't appoint interim Chief Huffman to serve as interim chief only in good times. We're working as hard as we possibly can to keep the public apprised of the necessary reforms that are taking place, of the safety precautions that we're taking in general. And simultaneously we are moving forward with a national search to make sure we end up with the best possible person in our police department.

police chief speaks at a podium
Interim Minneapolis police chief Amelia Huffman speaks at a press conference on Feb. 2 following a fatal police shooting of Amir Locke at a downtown apartment earlier the day.
Screenshot via livestream

Given all of this, why should the public trust you and the MPD to institute these reforms?

I think we need to show people the evidence. We need to do the work hand-in-hand with community. We have set up a community work group that's doing quite a bit of work right now around getting these necessary reforms and recommendations moving forward. We're engaging outside experts to make sure we get this policy right.

Here’s just another reality and truth about this. We have put forward a litany of reforms over the last couple of years. I've done a lot of soul searching over the last couple of years, and one thing that I've recognized is that some of the policies that we institute today, some of the policies that we’ll institute in the coming months – they will be deemed to be excellent in five to 10 years. Others will be deemed to be short-sighted.

Policy is not an end and solidified goal. Policy is ever-evolving. It's changing, depending on the facts that we have before us at that time. It's on us to do everything that we can to get this right. Clearly we need full-on culture shift and reform in our department. We don't need an investigation to tell us that. It's obvious. Now the real work is underway. We need to both ask the serious questions and also get the tough answers — because there aren't easy solutions to almost any of this.

Does the killing of Amir Locke change your course of action in any way?

Clearly it will give a renewed sense of urgency to get a no-knock warrant policy right. I think we can go even further. For right now, we have a full moratorium in place, and that moratorium applies to both the issuance of no-knock/no-announce warrants as well as the execution of the warrants.

Even with that moratorium in place, there are still very dangerous situations like a hostage scenario or severe domestic violence where an officer could enter even without the presence of warrants. That still exists in every single city and every single jurisdiction in the entire country.

We're going to get a policy in place that works, that's functional, with the overriding goal being preservation of life, period. It's sanctity of life, both for the general public, for individuals involved and for our police officers. There's not one simple answer here. We review the data. We do the very best we can to deliver a policy that's safe and that makes sense.

Even with these bans, there’s always an allowance in dangerous or threatening situations. As you see that video, do you think that was one of these situations?

I can't talk about this specific incident under the law. More broadly speaking, there must be an extensive review both of the existing policy as well as the direction we ultimately need to go. There’s a lot of room to do this better and more thoughtfully in a way that provides more safety. If you were to do this in a different way, say knock and require a requisite number of seconds, say 30 seconds. Or if you were going to simply knock and wait for the individual to come out. There are a number of other precautions that we would want to have in place, and that’s something we’re exploring right now.

There are ways to do this with, for instance, quite a bit of surveillance, with drones to look into the window or a robot that goes down the stairs to determine what's there, to hopefully prevent the situation where an officer and someone else comes into a confrontation that could ultimately end in death. Some of these technologies and some of these practices do require additional resources or personnel. But we're going to be looking at all of it.

WCCO TV and radio personality Mike Max called downtown Minneapolis a ‘hellhole’ this week. How do you respond to people who say Minneapolis, especially downtown, are unsafe?

There's not a single city in the entire country that hasn't been hit by this epidemic of crime. Not a single city in the entire country that isn't impacted by some of these causal factors of COVID-19, a global pandemic, economic downturn, job insecurity and just depression.

At the same time, I don't think people care because they need to feel safe in their city. They don't care about the fact that other cities throughout the country are experiencing similar. It's on us to make sure that we are properly balancing all of these things. There are not easy answers to any of this. You lay out a plan. You aggressively pursue it. And you make sure that you can provide safety for everyone involved. And that's the direction that we're going right now.