Some of the most jaw-dropping statements in the state Human Rights report on MPD

By: - April 27, 2022 4:48 pm

Photo by Tony Webster/Minnesota Reformer.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights found there is probable cause that the city of Minneapolis and its police department “engage in a pattern or practice of race discrimination in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act,” according to a report released Wednesday.

The Department of Human Rights relied on hundreds of interviews, a review of 700 hours of body worn camera footage and nearly 480,000 pages of city documents to come to that conclusion. 

Tucked inside the 72-page report are some astonishing findings, statements and anecdotes: 

Racial profiling

  • A high-level Minneapolis Police Department leader explained that officers often arrest and cite individuals with obstruction or disorderly conduct “for things that could fall under the category, arguably, of pissing off the police.”
  • MPD officers were 12% more likely to stop a vehicle occupied by a person of color or Indigenous person when it was light outside and officers were more likely to see the race of the people in the car, compared to when it was dark outside.
  • Current and former high-level city and police officials acknowledged that MPD stops vehicles with people of color for either no genuine reason or for low-level violations in an effort to find guns or drugs.
  • One patrol officer claimed that they did not engage in racial profiling, yet later in the interview provided an example of how they might solve a crime based on racial stereotypes. This officer did not appear to understand that searching for someone based solely on racial stereotypes was, in fact, racial profiling.
  • One Black man reported that MPD officers pulled him over at least seven times in the last five years for alleged minor traffic violations. During four of those stops the officers told him that they smelled marijuana in his vehicle and conducted a search while they handcuffed him, sometimes with their guns drawn and pointed at him. Officers never found any drugs in his vehicle.
  • In the First Precinct, which serves downtown Minneapolis, officers were six times more likely to use some type of force against the occupants if they were Black than during traffic stops of vehicles occupied by only white people who were stopped in similar circumstances. 
  • One Black resident said she lost her housing because she had to decide between paying her rent or paying her attorney to challenge a wrongful citation that she received from an MPD officer in 2019. The charge was ultimately dismissed, but as of 2021, she was still living in her car.

Fake social media accounts, racial slurs, misogynistic language

  • MPD officers used covert, or fake, social media accounts to surveil and engage Black individuals, Black organizations, and elected officials without a public safety objective. As of December 2020, MPD did not use its covert social media accounts to track white supremacist or white nationalist groups. 
  • According to body-worn camera footage, discipline records, statements from residents and interviews with MPD officers, some MPD officers and supervisors use racial slurs. They call Black people “n******” and “monkeys” and call Black women “Black b*******.” One MPD supervisor referred to Somali men as “orangutans.” Residents reported MPD officers call Latino individuals “beaners.” MPD officers reported that their colleagues called fellow Black MPD officers “nappy head” and “cattle.” 
  • Some MPD officers and supervisors also use misogynistic language and rely on misogynistic stereotypes. MPD officers called people “f*cking c**t,” and “b****.”
  • When investigating a sexual assault case, one MPD officer said a man could not be guilty of sexually assaulting a woman if they had children together. 
  • Hennepin County prosecutors said MPD officers are much less professional and respectful than officers from other police departments in Hennepin County. City and county prosecutors noted that it can be difficult to rely on MPD officers’ body-worn camera video in court because of how disrespectful and offensive MPD officers are to criminal suspects, witnesses and bystanders. 
  • Some MPD trainers relied on racist tropes to impersonate Black community members as part of scenario-based training and other trainers used racist or sexist tropes. 
  • One of the police leaders said some MPD officers believe that “Black people are ruining this [city].”
  • Currently, MPD provides minimal implicit bias or cultural competency training during academy for new officer hires. 

Evidence contradicts use-of-force reports

  • Based on a review of 300 MPD use-of-force files from 2010 to 2020, supervisors failed to complete a thorough review of an officer’s use of force in 48% of cases. The review demonstrated that in 24% of use-of-force files, evidence contradicts or disputes the information that an officer recorded in their use-of-force report.
  • In one case from 2017, a supervisor approved the use of force by an MPD officer who came into a bedroom to find an unarmed Black 14-year-old sitting on the floor using his phone. When the boy did not immediately stand up when instructed to do so, the officer quickly hit the boy with their flashlight, splitting his ear open, and then grabbed him by the neck and placed him in an unconscious neck restraint. 
  • MPD does not routinely offer any ongoing or continuing training for officers who serve as field trainers. In fact, MPD last offered the field training officer refresher class in 2015. And MPD uses officers as field trainers even after the police chief has sustained findings of excessive force against them.
  • In 28% of all use-of-force incidents, MPD officers failed to request or provide medical attention to community members who required it.
  • MPD’s data shows that officers are approximately twice as likely to use a neck restraint against someone experiencing a mental health crisis as opposed to someone who isn’t. And MPD officers were almost 2.5 times as likely to use a Taser against someone experiencing a mental health crisis as opposed to someone who wasn’t.

Investigations into misconduct lacking

  • Once an investigation is opened, the Office of Police Conduct Review and Internal Affairs investigators fail to properly investigate a significant percentage of police misconduct complaints by not reviewing body-worn camera footage or other evidence or failing to interview relevant witnesses.
  • While few discipline decisions go to arbitration, if they are overturned or reduced, it is often due to preventable factors within the control of the city or MPD. The OPCR improperly investigates about 50% of police misconduct complaints, and Internal Affairs improperly investigates about 25%. 
  • Between January 2010 and May 2021, the average time it took the OPCR and/or Internal Affairs to complete an investigation and for a police chief to issue a final disciplinary decision was more than 475 days.
  • The delay between discipline and the underlying officer misconduct means many officers did not receive discipline for over a year after the misconduct. And in some cases, officers did not get disciplined for multiple years. 
  • Under MPD’s current system, supervisors are not informed if one of their officers is under investigation or if a complaint is filed against one of their officers. A supervisor may be unaware of a complaint’s existence until they are asked to coach or until the officers is disciplined by the police chief.
  • In 37% of OPCR cases that were referred for coaching from 2014-2018, supervisors did not coach MPD officers and no corrective action was taken.
  • In 2019, an arbitrator reduced a termination decision to an 80-hour suspension for an officer who had used excessive force while making an arrest in 2016. Immediately after the misconduct occurred, MPD relieved the officer of duty and required the officer stay home before eventually assigning the officer to a desk position monitoring cameras where they had no contact with the public. The day after the Police Conduct Review Panel recommended finding that the officer used excessive force, MPD returned the officer to regular duty with full enforcement responsibilities and relied on the officer as a field training officer. 

City failed to follow constitution

  • City officials failed to turn over information about police officers serving as witnesses in criminal trials that could be helpful to the defense, as required by the U.S. Constitution (dubbed the “Brady Rule”). Last year, the Reformer reported on a case in which the MPD failed to disclose past disciplinary records of officers serving as witnesses in the prosecution of Jaleel Stallings.
  • The city and county are aware that individuals charged with the most serious crimes may have been denied access to this Brady information even if it is relevant to their cases.
  • In preparation for criminal trials, prosecutors will also sometimes choose to simply remove a police officer from a witness list instead of producing impeachment evidence related to that officer. This means that even if a case proceeds to trial, an individual accused of a crime may be denied impeachment evidence about an officer who had a role in their arrest because a prosecutor simply removed that officer from the witness list.

City leaders could do more

  • Current and former city leaders also stressed that without arbitration reform or other changes to state law, the city’s hands are tied when it comes to accountability and oversight. Even within the contours of existing state law, however, the reports argues, city and MPD leaders can immediately make substantive changes. 
  • In some cases where city and MPD leaders have attempted to implement change, those attempts were eroded by providing inaccurate or misleading information to the public. For instance, as of December 2020, residents believed MPD had eliminated no-knock warrants in part, because city and MPD leaders held a press conference in November 2020, announcing a “new, no-knock warrant policy.” Despite what some leaders may have understood about the policy change and despite how the policy change was communicated to the public, MPD had not banned no-knock warrants. 
  • On February 2, 2022, MPD officers shot and killed Amir Locke, a young Black man, while they were executing a no-knock warrant in Minneapolis. In a subsequent press release, MPD repeatedly referred to Locke, who was not a suspect, as a suspect, and released pictures to further paint Locke as a suspect. 
  • City and MPD leaders have been aware of deep organizational culture problems within the MPD resulting in the long-standing, disproportionate impact of race-based policing on people of color and Indigenous individuals. In the vacuum of collective action from key City and MPD leaders, the organizational culture at MPD has existed unchecked.

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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.