Minneapolis has yet to discipline a single officer for misconduct during summer’s unrest

By: - January 28, 2021 6:00 am

Police prepare to open fire with tear gas and non-lethal rounds on a group of demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

More than a hundred people have been charged with arson and other crimes related to the riots following the police killing of George Floyd. The city of Minneapolis has begun settling lawsuits for police misconduct during the protests.

But Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo has not disciplined a single officer for any misconduct during the protests and riots following Floyd’s death — not for blinding protesters and journalists with rubber bullets, pepper spraying demonstrators while driving, pointing weapons in protesters’ faces or any other infraction, large or small.

“I’m not aware of any at this point,” Arradondo said in an interview with the Reformer on Tuesday. He said he couldn’t say for sure without more information. “You may not believe that, but I don’t have that information in front of me. So I don’t know.”

Arradondo reviews and signs off on all disciplinary matters — from letter of reprimands to terminations — for the roughly 800 sworn officers on the force.

Asked for more details Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the city of Minneapolis said no disciplinary action has yet been finalized against officers for misconduct during the civil unrest. The city said it was still collecting data on how many complaints have been made against officers, how many investigations are ongoing and if there are any disciplinary decisions currently being challenged by the police union.

The department has disciplined one officer for misconduct in the wake of Floyd’s death, although not tied directly to the unrest: Officer Colleen Ryan was formally reprimanded for speaking anonymously to a reporter about what she characterized as the department’s toxic culture.

The lack of any disciplinary action some seven months after the protests and riots is not surprising, given the department’s recent history. A Reformer investigation based on 195 disciplinary files obtained through a freedom-of-information lawsuit found delays at each step of the process, with the department taking 539 days on average to resolve a complaint that results in discipline.

At that rate, the department will finalize disciplinary action against officers for their conduct during the civil unrest this coming fall. And if the past is any guide, only a small fraction of complaints will likely result in discipline. Just 2.7% of complaints of police misconduct resulted in disciplinary action between 2013 and 2019, according to a Reformer analysis.

The city has already agreed to pay out thousands of dollars to settle the first of a dozen lawsuits it faces for the misconduct of its police officers in the days following Floyd’s killing.

Last week, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey signed off on a $57,900 payment to Graciela Cisneros, who was shot in the eye by a projectile as she was walking home from a demonstration on May 29.

The city is currently facing 11 other lawsuits related to police conduct during the civil unrest. Soren Stevenson lost an eye after police shot him with a rubber bullet. He had to undergo multiple surgeries to reset facial bones. Ericka Khounedaleth was pulled out of a car by police while it was still in reverse; police pointed guns at her.

There’s also a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of journalists who allege they were targeted by police during the unrest. (A Reformer reporter, who is not party to the lawsuit, was shot with a rubber bullet while standing alone more than a hundred yards from police officers.)

The problems in the department during the unrest went beyond apparent widespread disregard for the chief’s order to “practice restraint,” as he said during a news conference.

Amid the mayhem, then-Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll tried to subvert police leadership in a letter to rank-and-file union members, while also condemning Frey and Gov. Tim Walz’s “despicable behavior” and “failed leadership.” He said that he sought to help Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, in an effort to  take command of the National Guard troops sent to quell the unrest. (Gazelka denied there was any such plan.)

Asked if such behavior amounted to insubordination, Arradondo demurred.

“It’s a fair question. I can’t go on what I think. I have to go on what’s presented to me from a thorough investigation,” Arradondo said. “I don’t have all the information.”

Arradondo declined to say if Kroll was investigated, but Frey said they had considered their options.

“There was an open question as to whether it went beyond insubordination, and there were legal issues that we needed to address through our attorneys. We did look into the issue,” Frey said.

Kroll retired this month after 32 years on the force and nearly 25 years serving on the union board.

Following Floyd’s killing, the city of Minneapolis agreed to several immediate police reforms as part of an investigation by the state Department of Human Rights into systemic racial discriminatory practices by the department.

Among the reforms is to alert the public to disciplinary actions by posting the chief’s decisions to the state’s website. Since the order took effect in June, the department has posted five disciplinary decisions, including the action against the female officer for speaking to a reporter.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Previously, he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.