Minneapolis, state agree on police operations overhaul, 3 years after Floyd's murder
Updated 12:52 p.m.
The Minneapolis City Council on Friday morning unanimously approved an extensive agreement between the state and city requiring changes to the Minneapolis Police Department.
Changes laid out in the 140-page pact include limits on the use of Tasers and other nonlethal weapons, restrictions on when officers can conduct traffic stops and changes to how officer use of force is defined and categorized.
Police won’t be able to stop cars for minor infractions, such as a burned-out headlight. When they do make a stop, officers will have to give drivers a business card with their name and badge number.
They’ll also be required to state the grounds for the traffic stop into their body camera before pulling a driver over and collect the demographic information of the driver.
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The initial term of the agreement is four years. After that, there will be a comprehensive analysis of whether the city is in compliance, said Minneapolis City Attorney Krysten Anderson.
“We all know that we need to change the culture. We're also going to be insisting on accountability for everyone, for our officers, for our neighbors,” Mayor Jacob Frey told reporters following the council vote.
He conceded mistakes will happen going forward but said the agreement “takes the sting of politics” out of the discussion. “Change and improvement is going to take time and it's going to take resources.”
Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O'Hara, who took over the force in November, acknowledged the hard work ahead, but said he believes Minneapolis will have the best police department in the country at the end. “This is the continuation of a long process to heal the deep wounds in this city.”
‘A mistake we have to fix’
The deal marks the end of a state investigation of the department that began after a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd in May 2020. It also marks the next point in an expected yearslong effort to overhaul the Minneapolis Police Department.
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights probe released last year found the department racially discriminated against city residents. It also found officers were more likely to arrest or use force on residents of color and that they routinely used prejudicial or abusive language.
Council member Jamal Osman said he hopes the agreement will be a lesson for the city and the police department.
“This settlement highlights how MPD has discriminated against many of our citizens, many have suffered this practice the state has highlighted,” Osman said. “I see this settlement as a learning process, a mistake we have to fix.”
The city and state have been negotiating over changes to the policies and practices of the department, meeting more than 30 times according to the city. The agreement will be enforced by the courts and overseen by an independent monitor. A judge will decide when the city has complied with the terms of the agreement.
Council member Jeremiah Ellison said he’s aware of criticisms that the community didn’t have the opportunity to give input to the agreement during the confidential legal negotiations. But he said the council isn’t the appropriate place for those discussions because it doesn’t have the power to adjust the agreement.
“This is not something good that we’re doing,” Ellison said. “This is the culmination of bad things that the city and police department have done.”
Included among its provisions, the agreement:
Focuses more resources for officer wellness, including more access to mental health resources.
Requires supervisors to go to scenes where officers use force; they’ll be able to interview witnesses about their perspectives with their consent.
Calls on the department to revamp its officer field training program, including the ability for trainees to rate their trainers.
The city has also agreed to community engagement about the agreement, including who is appointed as monitor. The Minneapolis Police Department will be required to hold community meetings to get input on any new policy changes while the agreement is in place.
Standing with Frey and other city officials Friday, Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said the agreement offers a roadmap to restructure the MPD and its culture and noted “the city has made many of these changes” in the year since her agency’s report.
In response to questions about the costs of implementing the agreement, Lucero pointed out that "discriminatory policing" has been very expensive for Minneapolis. Frey put the likely costs over the years at tens of millions of dollars.
Federal probe ongoing
The state agreement is separate from the expected federal consent decree, which could result from a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department. But city officials say a single monitor will eventually oversee both agreements. If there’s conflict between the two agreements, the state has agreed to adjust the terms of their agreement.
Minneapolis Community Safety Commissioner Cedric Alexander said 27 full-time employees will be required to implement the agreement. It will be lifted only once a judge has been convinced that the city has complied with its terms.
Anderson, the city attorney, said the public will have opportunities to give input during the court process, although how that plays out depends on the judge.
The City Council already allocated $2 million in this year’s budget to start the implementation of the agreements on the department.
Council member Robin Wonsley said the agreement was an “unprecedented opportunity” to change the police department, but that it is shameful that city leadership failed to address longtime problems with policing in Minneapolis until forced by the state. She said the agreement didn’t constitute a “blank check” for the Minneapolis Police Department.
“By allowing MPD to operate recklessly for over a decade, we’ve essentially allowed MPD to defund the city,” Wonsley said of costs associated with police settlements and budgets over the years. “Taxpayers have made it very clear that they’re fed up with footing the bill for MPD’s misconduct.”