Key takeaways from MN Human Rights investigation of MPD
A pattern of race discrimination
On June 1, 2020, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights launched an investigation into the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department to investigate a pattern or practice of race discrimination.
The investigation began after the police killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 by MPD office Derek Chauvin who knelt on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes.
The Department of Human Rights interviewed and reviewed statements from 2,200 community members, watched 700 hours of body worn camera footage, observed 87 hours of academy training, reviewed 480,000 pages of city and MPD documents, participated in MPD ride-along in every precinct, analyzed city and MPD data, interviewed MPD officers, city staff and elected officials as while as conducting 15 listening sessions with neighborhood associations and organization and came to the conclusion almost two years later that Minneapolis and MPD have violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
The pattern was broken down into three categories of organizational culture: flawed training, deficient accountability systems and a lack of collective action by the city and MPD leadership.
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While Black community members make up 19 percent of the Minneapolis population, they are 78 percent of all searches conducted during traffic stops. MPD officers are almost two times as likely to search Black community members or their vehicles. Between 2017 and 2020, MPD officers stopped 72,689 individuals across all five precincts. 54 percent of those stopped were Black. Black individuals also make up 75 percent of the searchers conducted by MPD officers.
While the statistics imply racial bias, the investigation says that some city and MPD leaders and officers claim that race is not the reason - so to compare, the Human Rights Department did a comparison between the searches of Black and white individuals in similar circumstances. The comparison proved that MPD officers searched Black individuals at almost twice the rate of white individuals concluding that MPD officers treat Black and white residents different during traffic stops.
Data also showed that 55 percent, or 10,000 of all citations issued during traffic stops were given to Black individuals. Again, city leaders and MPD denies this was race based, but a comparison proved Black individuals are 1.5 times more likely to be issued a citation compared to white individuals in similar circumstances.
Use of Force
MPD defines use of force as “intentional bodily contact that causes pain or injury or restrictions someone’s movement.” From January 1, 2017 to May 24, 2020, MPD officers were recorded using force against 70 Black individuals during traffic stops. Eighty percent of all stops that included use of force were against Black individuals.
In the first precinct, which servers downtown Minneapolis, MPD officers were six times more likely to use some type of force against Black individuals when they were stopped.
Seventy one percent or over 2,5000 of all arrests MPD officers made during traffic stops from January 1, 2017 to May 24, 2020 were arrests of Black individuals. MPD officers are almost twice as likely to arrest a Black individual compared to a white individual for the same recorded reason, in the same location and at the same time of day.
It was found that MPD officers excessively cite Black individuals with specific offenses such as “disorderly conduct” and “obstruction of the legal process.” From 2010 to 2020, MPD officers cited over 3,300 Black individuals with disorderly conduct or obstruction - 66 percent of all of the citations issued for these offenses.
The investigation claims that many of the citations issued were “likely unjustified because there was insufficient evidence to pursue prosecution, or there was no probable cause.”
But receiving a citation isn’t the same for everyone, for some, it can derail their lives. Black community members describe the price of being Black while interacting with MPD as the “Black Tax” - because even if these citations are dropped or dismissed, the consequences are significant.
Those who are wrongly cited or arrested may need to obtain and pay an attorney, take out loans for legal fees or take time off work.
In the investigation, one Black community member said she had to decide between paying her rent or paying her attorney to challenge a wrongful citation she received. As of 2021, she was still living out of her car.
“I honestly do feel like I was stereotyped,” she said. “I do… it is something that I don’t think a white person will ever understand in a lifetime unless they reincarnate and come back Black. Then they would understand.”
Use of Social Media
While there are legitimate reasons MPD may use social media to track activity, some MPD officers created fake social media accounts to troll Black residents, organizations and elected officials. They did not do the same to white residents.
Some accounts sent friend requests, commented on posts and sent private messages pretending to be “like-minded individuals.”
In one case, a MPD officer made a fake account posing as a Black community member and sent a message to a local branch of the NAACP criticizing the group.
They also sent messages to to a Minneapolis City Council member and State elected official while posing as community members.
As of April 2022, MPD still does not have a policy requiring an audit of officers social media activity.
Through the racist culture created at MPD, it was further found that racist, misogynistic and hateful language was used by officers and those using said language were not held accountable.
According to body worn camera footage, interviews with officers and statements, some MPD officers and supervisors use racist slurs. They often use animalistic terms toward people of color and sexist language toward women. This language has been used against community members, other officers and even 911 dispatchers.
Officers who are the subject of these comments often do not report the said officers because of a lack of faith in the accountability system as well as fearing retaliation from other officers.
Hennepin County prosecutors reported that MPD officers are “much less professional and respectful” than officers from other departments in the county. Since 1993, MPD has had a policy requiring officers to use professional language with community members but city and county prosecutors note that it can be difficult to rely on body worn camera video in court because of how “disrespectful and offensive” MPD officers are to criminal suspects, witnesses and bystanders.
While Minneapolis banned “warrior style training,” much of MPD’s current training consists of a “warrior mindset.” This mindset is described as believing that every person an officer encounters poses a threat.
MPD’s training materials show that the department reinforces a culture of race-based policing by introducing their mentality to new officers and reinforcing the concepts in veteran officers.
The investigation says MPD uses a “paramilitary” approach to train officers. An MPD leader told a new hire on the first day of Academy training in 2021 that “instant and unquestioned compliance is order.”
With this unquestioned faith to the police system, officers that may face sexist or racist abuse and become fearful to speak out, therefore contributing to the overall system of abuse and allowing it to run rampant in the community as well.
MPD currently provides minimal implicit bias or cultural competency training for new hires. In 2021, they eliminated conversations about cultural competency when working with community groups of color.
MPD sergeants and lieutenants report that the trainings MPD provides for supervisors is poor and that MPD ineffectively trains supervisors on how to review force reports. Leaders do not hold supervisors accountable for their inadequate review of officers use of force.
MPD’s field training program further embeds race-based policing due to the “lasting impact” MPD field trainers have on rookie officers.
MPD does not routinely offer ongoing training for officers who serve as field trainers. The last officer refresher class was in 2015.
Field training officers emphasize aggression in their training which therefore creates an aggressive culture within MPD with unnecessary escalation and excessive force. In 56.8 percent of cases, MPD officers fail to de-escalate when it would be appropriate to do so and improperly escalate in 32.7 percent of all cases.
In 2020, body worn camera footage showed MPD officers discussing chasing Black people as “hunting,” congratulating one another for using use of force and saying “Gotcha” and fist-bumping each other after shooting 40 mm round rubber bullets at protestors. Most of the protestors were Black with their arms raised and unarmed.
Officers are trained to use neck restraint and are twice as likely to use it against someone experiencing a mental health crisis. They are also 2.5 times more likely to taser someone experiencing a mental health crisis.
MPD officers are not held accountable due to ineffective oversight systems. No meaningful independent review process exists for assessing officers conduct. Almost every investigation of a police misconduct complaint against an MPD officer is assessed by sworn MPD officers.
The Police Conduct Oversight Commission has been deemed “ineffective” by the Department of Human Rights as they claim it lacks appropriate resources and capacity.
Between January 2010 and May 2021, the average time it took to complete an investigation and for a Police Chief to issue a disciplinary decision was over 475 days. Officers may be engaging in the same problematic policing during this investigation time.
What Happens Next?
The investigation findings were released on Wednesday and according to the Department of Human Rights, next comes working with Minneapolis “to develop a consent decree,” a court-enforceable agreement that identifies specific changes to be made and timelines that the changes must occur within.
The investigation offers immediate steps MPD and Minneapolis can take to address race-based policing and improve public safety. While it is unknown if real change will occur within the city and MPD, the investigation proves that race-based policing is active and persistent in the city of Minneapolis.