The After Action Report on Minneapolis’ response to the George Floyd uprising, released last week, pounds lumps on city leaders for their lack of preparation and leadership, but mostly spares the Minneapolis Police Department from criticism.
The report fails to paint a full picture. It centers voices of police and city officials, not residents. It only looks at the public expression of anger during the short period of the uprising; it ignores police violence over many years that built up that anger.
Most of the blame falls to the city. It didn’t ask the consultants to look at context, and context is everything. It asked the consultants such things as how the city could better prepare “for future civil disturbances” rather than how to prevent them.
Not once in the 87-page report does it use the word “racism.” It makes no mention of the police culture that led to Floyd’s death. Those are glaring omissions.
You can’t talk about the uprising and not mention racism. Floyd’s murder was the spark but it wasn’t just about Floyd. It was about Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD’s) long history of racist policing as well as anger about other black and men and women killed by police around the country.
The city hired Hillard Heintze to do the report. Hillard Heintze describes itself as “one of the leading security risk management firms in the world, serving Fortune-ranked enterprises, professional sports leagues and law enforcement agencies as well as many of the world’s most affluent families.”
Seven of the eight Hillard Heintze team members working on the Minneapolis report had law enforcement background and the other was a fire fighter, the Minnesota Reformer reported.
Communities United Against Police Brutality’s (CUAPB) media release said the report “is written from the perspective of how police can organize to more effectively suppress dissent in the future. The bias toward police could not be more obvious.”
The After Action Report had 25 Findings. The very first one inserts a “lone actor” narrative of Floyd’s murder that undermines the report’s credibility.
Finding 1: “The Minneapolis community was deeply shaken by the killing of George Floyd by an MPD officer and was generally disappointed with the City’s response to the protests.”
This wasn’t just about “an MPD officer.” True, the community was deeply shaken by Derek Chauvin’s brutal attack. It also was shaken by the fact that:
- Other officers looked on and did nothing.
- Floyd was killed while onlookers pleaded and yelled — everything short of physical intervention — to get officers to stop and they didn’t.
- Floyd was murdered and at most he was guilty of passing a fake $20 (not clear he knew it was fake).
- The police department initially downplayed Floyd’s death as a medical issue … until the videos came out.
- The latest abuse in a long history of police abuse of black men and other people of color.
The report put as much blame on protesters as police, if not more. For instance, it says:
As the intensity and size of the crowds increased, we observed an increase in verbal attacks and menacing threats directed toward the police in general and to individual officers. In most of the videos, we observed officers exhibiting restraint by not engaging in a confrontation with verbally abusive individuals. However, we also observed officers aggressively respond using handheld chemical fogger and impact munitions. We observed individuals verbally attacking the police, and officers responding by spraying the group with OC/CS foggers in a few instances.Page 58
Note the language. Protestors are “menacing.” Police are “restrained,” though some did “aggressively respond.”
The report’s Finding 3 says: “The protests and the City’s response significantly impacted the wellness of the MPD’s and MFD’s members, as well as that of other city employees.”
Conversely, the report doesn’t say how the police actions before, during and after the uprising significantly impacted the wellness of community members.
Instead, it offers this muted assessment. “Although not well documented, we learned that some people who participated in the protests were injured during the unrest.” (page 9)
Towards the end of the report, it cites a New England Journal of Medicine study on injuries sustained from MPD’s use of “less-than-lethal” force.
The study identified 89 people who sought medical attention at primary care clinics, urgent care clinics and emergency departments because of injuries they reportedly received at the protests.
This study found that “patients reported 45 injuries (51%) from projectiles, 32 (36%) injuries from chemical irritants, and 12 (13%) injuries from both types of weapons.”
Perhaps the strongest criticism of police was Finding 20: “Although SWAT understood the rules regarding deployment of 40 mm weapons, MPD patrol personnel did not seem to have consistent rules of engagement or control. In our review of BWC [body cam] video footage, we found multiple deployments by SWAT and patrol officers that did not align with policy.”
Read “Did not align with policy” as the bureaucratic term for “excessive use of force.”
The report is notable for what is missing.
It didn’t address the apparent targeting of journalists, or that Linda Tirado, a freelance photojournalist, was blinded in one eye by a police-fired projectile.
It didn’t address the fact that police drove down Lake Street in an unmarked van shooting rubber bullets at curfew violators regardless of what they were doing.
It didn’t address white supremacists and other agent provocateurs who used the uprising to stir violence, and, as CUAPB said, “to attack businesses owned by people of color in an attempt to start a ‘race war.’”
As importantly, the report didn’t assess what the MPD could do next time to identify and deal with agent provocateurs. (Whatever happened with “umbrella man?”)
The report’s Finding 2 says: “MPD members throughout the ranks recognized that the MPD’s response to the protests did not go well. These members expressed their willingness and desire to improve the department.”
Comment: Community members have every reason to read that with skepticism. They’ve heard police reform promises for decades. They haven’t worked or were never tried.
Lt. Bob Kroll led the Minneapolis Police Federation from 2015-2021, during the time of the uprising. He had a history of opposing reforms.
Shortly after Floyd’s murder, Kroll “denied the police department needs fundamental change or that racism is common in its ranks,” a Minnesota Reformer article said.
A Star Tribune columnist wrote after Kroll retired, that he “leaves behind a disciplinary file crammed with lawsuits and allegations of excessive force, wrongful arrests and racism; several consecutive mayors and police chiefs who describe him as a disgrace to the badge. Kroll devoted his 25 years on the board of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis to blocking every effort at reform and any effort to discipline or weed out the unfit, the corrupt, the violent, the bigoted from the force.”
This is the guy the majority of police officers chose as their representative. That says something about department culture.
Time will tell if there is a significant shift under new union president Sherral Schmidt.
The After Action strongly criticizes city leadership. Key findings include:
- In response to the protests, the City of Minneapolis did not use its emergency operations plan effectively to guide its response.
- The absence of planning efforts and non-adherence to core incident command principles contributed to many of the struggles regarding the MPD’s response. The response to the protests is a symptom of the MPD’s systemic challenge of ensuring a well-trained, prepared and carefully assigned command staff leads the agency.
- The MPD did not develop any formal crisis response plans, nor did it engage in any formal planning efforts to respond to the protests.
- Neither the City or the MPD issued any formal briefings to inform public employees and the community on the status of the situation. It was not until the activation of the MACC [Multi-Agency Command Center] that the State conducted briefings every four hours, including at the night.