State: Probable cause that Minneapolis police engage in race discrimination

Consent decree coming

By: - April 27, 2022 11:13 am

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

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights found there is probable cause that the city of Minneapolis and Minneapolis 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 announced it would work with the city on a consent decree, which is a court-enforceable agreement that mandates specific changes and a timeline for change. 

The sweeping report is another black mark on the city and its police department nearly two years after the police murder of George Floyd. 

The report alleges more than isolated incidents of wrongdoing. Instead, it draws a portrait of systemic rot. 

Among the findings: 

  • Racial disparities in how MPD officers use force, stop, search, arrest and cite people of color, particularly Black people. 
  • MPD officers have used covert social media to surveil Black people and organizations, in violation of the United States Constitution.
  • MPD officers have consistently used racist, misogynistic and disrespectful language. 

The report also lays out a damning picture of the department’s organizational culture: 

  • MPD officers, supervisors and field training officers receive deficient training, which emphasizes a paramilitary approach to policing that results in officers unnecessarily escalating encounters or using inappropriate levels of force. 
  • Accountability systems are insufficient and ineffective at holding officers accountable for misconduct.  

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the report was “repugnant” and “at times horrific.”

“They made me sick to my stomach and outraged and I think our community feels the same way,” he said.

Frey said he met with Black leaders Wednesday, and they weren’t surprised by the findings, which they’ve been talking about for decades. Frey said he didn’t run for re-election because there was no problem with policing, or the work was done.
“We have a hell of a lot of work to do as a city,” he said. “We have a hell of a lot of work to do in this nation.”

Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman said she expects officers to treat all people with dignity and respect and there’s no place for bias or discrimination. She also thanked officers who continue to be committed to public safety and respect, and recognizes the courage it takes to run toward the sound of gunfire or rescue someone from grave peril — “Your work matters.”

It is the first time a Minnesota state agency has conducted such an investigation of a law enforcement agency.

The heavy footprint of the U.S. Department of Justice, which is also investigating MPD, is next, and the department can expect close outside supervision for years to come. 

The unprecedented investigation was launched about a week after Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the neck of George Floyd as he lay on the street outside Cup Foods and kept it there for more than nine minutes. A cell phone video of the incident went viral, sparking protests across the globe. 

Chauvin was convicted of murder last year, and three other officers were convicted in federal court of violating Floyd’s civil rights. They go on trial in June on state charges.

The investigation examined the death of Floyd and “others similar to it since at least January 1, 2010, and continuing to the present, require investigation,” the MDH charge says. 

This story was updated at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday to include the city’s response.

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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.