Minneapolis Police Reforms: Another one bites the dust?

The Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission (PCOC) is in disarray. Its chair resigned earlier this year, frustrated over the commission’s ineffectiveness. Four of the commission’s nine seats are vacant. The commission has cancelled three of its last nine monthly meetings.

One key part of the PCOC’s work is to research and evaluate Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) polices. It then publishes reports with recommendations to the city. The commission hasn’t published a report since before George Floyd’s 2020 murder, according to the city’s website.

At it’s most recent meeting, April 12, the four members in attendance were expressing frustration that they couldn’t meet their mission due to a lack of resources and limits on the commission’s authority.

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City of Minneapolis under fire — again — for failing to live up to its equity promises

Division of Race & Equity staff go public with long-standing complaints

The Minneapolis Coordinators Office, which houses the Division of Race & Equity, is under fire for creating a toxic work environment for division employees.

Seventeen of the division’s current and former employees have gone public with complaints, asking Mayor Jacob Frey and the City Council to reject hiring Interim City Coordinator Heather Johnston to the permanent post. They wrote that the office “has a history of ‘toxic, racist and unsafe workplace conditions’ and she [Johnston] hasn’t done enough to stop it,” according to a Star Tribune report.

This story shouldn’t be seen in isolation. It’s part of the city’s troubling pattern of failing to live up to its anti-racism and equity promises.

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Mayor Frey expresses ‘outrage’ at MPD human rights violations … why is he surprised?

A nearly two-year investigation has found probable cause that the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) have engaged in a pattern or practice of discriminatory, race-based policing, violating the Minnesota Human Rights Act, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (DHR) said Wednesday.

The report’s major findings said:

  • “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. … Instances of police misconduct are not properly investigated, not timely addressed, and officers are not held consistently accountable.”
  • “Former and current City and MPD leaders have not collectively acted with the urgency, coordination, and intentionality necessary to address racial disparities in policing to improve public safety and increase community trust.”

Addressing those issues alone is insufficient, the report said. “Without fundamental organizational culture changes, reforming MPD’s policies, procedures, and trainings will be meaningless.”

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The protests and anger are about George Floyd and so much more

A heavy police line barricaded East Lake Street at 27th Ave. S. near the Third Precinct headquarters.

The unfolding protests against the Minneapolis Police Department over the death of George Floyd aren’t about the actions of one rogue cop but about a department culture where it seems officers are unable to challenge a peer when that peer’s actions clearly violate police procedure and basic human decency.

As I write this blog, the unrest is getting worse. Police are using tear gas and rubber bullets. Some protestors are throwing things at police. Some were even vandalizing local businesses. I’m sure that conflict will draw most of the media coverage. The focus in this blog will be on the roots of community anger.

Floyd was on the ground in handcuffs while Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck. Floyd cried for help. None of the other three officers on the scene did anything to intervene. By the time Floyd was moved to the ambulance, he was “unresponsive and without a pulse,” the Star Tribune reports. The three officers’ disturbing indifference and silence to Floyd’s pleas speak volumes to many in the community who already mistrust the police.

And while Floyd’s death is the latest flash point between Minneapolis police and the community, these protests are about a whole lot more. Continue reading