One in 10 Minneapolis police officers were disciplined in 2020 and 2021

78 officers were disciplined, more than in the previous five years combined

By: - April 21, 2022 6:00 am

A Minneapolis police officer stands guard over the Third Police Precinct on May 27, 2020, during protests of George Floyd’s killing. Photo by Chad Davis.

About 10% of the Minneapolis police force was disciplined in 2020 and 2021.

In 2020 and 2021 78 officers were disciplined, according to data released by the city. That’s more than in the previous five years combined.

The significant number of sanctioned officers is the latest indication of a Minneapolis Police Department in crisis — about 300 officers have left the force since the 2020 police murder of George Floyd, leaving about 620 officers. About 130 of them have claimed post-traumatic stress disorder and sought workers’ compensation. The city continues to pay out millions in settlements that have resulted from police misuse of force cases. 

The rapid rise in discipline meted out can be partially attributed to a post-Floyd court order that forced the police chief to address a backlog of police misconduct complaints. The order requires the chief to make disciplinary decisions within 30 days of recommendation from the Office of Police Conduct Review, which investigates police misconduct. The court order also requires the police chief to post her decisions on the city’s website

Making a disciplinary decision within 30 days is “extremely challenging,” said Troy Schoenberger, deputy chief of professional standards for the Minneapolis Police Department. But, he said, “Chief (Amelia) Huffman takes this process very seriously.” Disciplinary decisions can only be made by the police chief.

That part of the disciplinary process may have sped up, but it’s still a lengthy ordeal. A 2020 Reformer investigation found MPD took an average of 539 days to resolve complaints that resulted in discipline. 

The city released the discipline data as city officials — and the public — were mulling over a proposed police union labor agreement. The deal made no substantive changes to the MPD disciplinary process, which rarely metes out serious punishment, despite high-profile cases of police misconduct that have led to millions of dollars in payouts to victims. 

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey argued against including the disciplinary matrix in the police union contract, saying it would give the union the power to reject more stringent disciplinary policies in negotiations. The mayor and police chief have sole discretion in determining discipline. 

Progressive activists said the contract didn’t do enough to rein in police malfeasance. 

City officials responded by noting the uptick in discipline. For example, Officer Oscar Macias was issued a written reprimand, the lowest level of discipline, for failing to report his use of force — hitting two people with rubber bullets — three days after Floyd died.

Colleen Ryan, a female officer who spoke anonymously to a journalist about what she described as a toxic culture in the department, was given a written reprimand by former chief Medaria Arradondo.

While 63 officers were disciplined in 2020, the number dipped to 15 in 2021. Andrew Hawkins, chief of staff for the city’s civil rights department, said it’s encouraging that a good number were still disciplined in 2021, outside of the year the backlog was addressed.

The most common type of discipline was a letter of reprimand or suspension. Just nine officers were terminated in 2020 and 2021.

Officers with pending complaints leveled by citizens left city employment in droves last year — 52, compared to 16 in 2020 and four in 2019. (Once an officer leaves, the cases are closed with no discipline.)

Schoenberger said some of those officers who left may not have even been aware of the complaints against them because it was so early in the disciplinary process that they’d not yet been interviewed.  

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.