Minneapolis police use of “less lethal” force criticized for head shots, cop complaints rarely end with discipline, and more

In this blog:

  • Study: Minneapolis police use of “less-lethal” force during George Floyd protests caused serious injuries
  • The Bad Cops: How Minneapolis protects its worst police officers until it’s too late
  • Minneapolis police misconduct payouts rising
  • Minneapolis Charter amendment updates
  • How will the Minneapolis City Council’s racial justice promises affect important neighborhood redevelopment decisions?

Study: Minneapolis police use of “less-lethal” during George Floyd protests caused serious injuries

Here’s a timely item given the possibility of more street protests following the conclusion of the Derek Chauvin trial: Less-lethal weapons used by Minneapolis police caused serious injuries to people protesting George Floyd’s murder last year, according to a report written by local medical professionals and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The analysis was done by doctors and staff from the University of Minnesota Medical School, Hennepin County Medical Center, and University of Minnesota School of Public Health. They reviewed patients who underwent medical evaluation for protest-related injuries from May 26 to June 15, 2020 in two medical systems. It identified 89 patients.

… we found a substantial number of patients with serious injuries, including many injuries to the head, neck, and face. United Nations guidelines state that these weapons should only be aimed directly at the extremities and that hits to the head, neck, and face are potentially unlawful. … these findings reveal that under current practices, projectiles are not appropriate for crowd control. …

Ten patients (11%) sustained eye trauma from projectiles … Seven patients (8%) underwent surgery for their injuries, and 16 patients (18%) had received traumatic brain injuries.

The City Council’s Public Health & Safety Committee has asked Police Chief Medaria Arradondo to discuss what changes the department plans to make to eliminate injuries from non lethal weapons at its meeting Thursday, April 1.

The Bad Cops: How Minneapolis protects its worst police officers until it’s too late

The Minnesota Reformer obtained 195 police disciplinary files through lengthy and ongoing freedom-of-information litigation with the city of Minneapolis, according to a story published late last year. It found that only 2 percent of the roughly 1,924 complaints filed between 2013 to 2019 resulted in disciplinary action.

The Minneapolis Police Department is notoriously ineffective at removing bad cops from its ranks. Numerous lawsuits, independent investigations and the disciplinary files obtained by the Reformer show a pattern of mismanagement when it comes to holding officers accountable.

Department leaders are routinely blind to numerous warning signs that problem officers pose a danger to the public. Managers are often unaware their subordinates are being investigated for misconduct, promoting them through their ranks and lauding them for their aggressive tactics even as complaints pile up.

Minnesota Reformer

Click here for the full story and case study. Also see Reformer story: As the Chauvin trial begins, policing in Minneapolis remains largely unchanged.

Minneapolis police misconduct payouts rising

The city of Minneapolis has created an electronic dashboard to give residents easy access to information of city payouts for police officer misconduct.

Earlier this month, the City Council approved a $27 million settlement with George Floyd’s family in response to its wrongful death suit. It’s the highest settlement the City has ever paid. In 2017, the city paid $20 million in the wrongful death of Justine Damond, who was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer.

The city of Minneapolis has now paid more than $72 million to settle lawsuits related to police misconduct and violence since 2003, according to Second Ward City Councilmember Cam Gordon’s March newsletter.

“This is a stark and powerful reminder of our flawed and failed system of providing public safety for the people of Minneapolis,” Gordon wrote. “The current structure and system of policing is broken. It is morally indefensible and fiscally irresponsible to allow the status quo to continue.”

Minneapolis Charter amendment updates

Last year’s effort to create systemic change in Minneapolis policing fell short when the unelected Charter Commission refused to put it on the ballot.

This is a new year and a new opportunity. There are competing proposals on the table.

The City Council voted this month to propose a charter amendment to establish a new Department of Public Safety. It would remove the Minneapolis Department from the city charter, and create a Division of Law Enforcement within the Department of Public Safety, responsible for the core functions of law enforcement.

Click here for the Council’s proposed charter amendment language. Clear here for Frequently Asked Questions on the Charter amendment.

Isaiah, a multi-racial, nonpartisan coalition of faith communities fighting for racial and economic justice in Minnesota, has a separate charter proposal to create a new Department of Public Safety & Rent Stabilization. It’s organizing a training for people to learn more about its proposal and how to advance it at the upcoming political caucuses. Click here to register.

The Charter Commission’s actions aren’t binding; it can’t block the City Council’s proposed Charter amendment. The Commission’s power is the power to delay. It has four options on a proposed amendment: Approve it, reject it, amend it, or hold it over for more study, which delays the process.

How will the Minneapolis City Council’s racial justice promises affect important neighborhood redevelopment decisions?

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the city of Minneapolis passed a resolution in July to declare racism a public health crisis. In October, it passed another resolution to create a Truth and Reconciliation process.

These could have far reaching impact beyond issues of policing, including important upcoming redevelopment projects.

Two examples:

  • Roof Depot Hiawatha Public Works Expansion (East Phillips): How will the city redevelop the old Roof Depot site on East 27th Street just west of Hiawatha Avenue in a neighborhood disproportionately poor and people of color? The neighborhood wants to use part of the site for an urban indoor farm, affordable housing, and a bike shop. The city has proposed demolishing the building and creating a new Public Works maintenance facility with hundreds of employees. That’s no neighborhood amenity; that’s air pollution and congestion.
  • The Upper Harbor Terminal Redevelopment Plan (North Minneapolis): The city has entered into an agreement with Pohlad family-owned United Properties to redevelop this riverfront site. The cornerstone: A music venue run by First Avenue. According to a Belt Magazine article: “Critics have pointed out that this arrangement will turn over one of the last vestiges of city commons, located in a historically Black area of the city, to white-owned private companies, and argued the project won’t truly serve the needs of the community.”

These decisions will be an important indicator of how serious the City Council is about Truth and Reconciliation. Will it continue the old way of imposing decisions on neighborhoods with less political clout, or engage residence in redevelopment decisions?

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