The Potluck

Sudden, sweeping momentum for police reform hits Minneapolis

By: - June 5, 2020 4:11 pm

Photo by Tony Webster/Minnesota Reformer.

Minneapolis is moving swifty to reform its police department after the killing of George Floyd under the knee of since-fired officer Derek Chauvin, who was charged with 2nd degree murder, while three other officers who stood by were charged with lesser crimes this week. 

The Minneapolis City Council agreed to a consent decree with the state Department of Human Rights, which is amidst a wide ranging investigation into racial discrimination in the police department. 

The order also sets in place certain policies around practices that have come under widespread scrutiny and criticism since well before the Floyd incident. Police are now prohibited from using neck restrains and chokeholds; officers now have a duty to report any unauthorized use of force or face the same sanction as if they engaged in the behavior themselves; crowd control measures like tear gas must be approved by a deputy chief or higher; disciplinary decisions must be more timely and transparent. 

The consent decree still requires approval of a judge, but the agreement illustrates how rapidly the city’s criminal justice politics have shifted in the days since Floyd was killed. His death led to  a series of demonstrations and then riots in which Minneapolis police were accused of negligently allowing arson and other destruction while also using unnecessary force on protesters and journalists. 

The department is under siege, with members of the City Council calling for an end to the department as it’s currently constituted, as City Pages reported this week

The broader labor movement has abandoned the police union, with the AFL-CIO, SEIU and Education Minnesota all calling for the removal of its president, Lt. Bob Kroll. Other institutions like the University of Minnesota, have sought to sever or at least loosen ties to the Minneapolis Police. 

Former labor leader Javier Morillo wrote a widely-read essay for the Reformer this week outlining how to dismantle the union’s outsized influence on the city’s criminal justice system.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said he would offer legislation to end the practice of arbitration that has contributed to Minneapolis police keeping their jobs even after being accused of significant disciplinary offenses like beatings. 

The City Council also voted to constrain what had been a significant source of income for some police by instructing the business licensing department to stop requiring the use of off-duty officers for special events. 

Finally, Minnesota county attorneys voted to push the Legislature to change the law so that all officer-involved shootings are investigated and prosecuted by the state attorney general rather than county attorneys, who have been perceived as too close to police departments to rigorously investigate police.  

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and toddler son.