Mar 31, 2023 - News

Big changes could soon come to Minneapolis' embattled police department

Illustration of a police cap on dark background under spotlights.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Sweeping overhauls and new oversight aimed at addressing an alleged pattern of racist policing could soon be coming to Minneapolis.

Driving the news: The Minneapolis City Council met behind closed doors Thursday to discuss a potential settlement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

  • The council is scheduled to meet again this morning, and at least one council member has indicated a vote could come as soon as today.
  • Mayor Jacob Frey and Minnesota Human Rights commissioner Rebecca Lucero are scheduled to address the agreement at an 11am news conference today.

Why it matters: An agreement could bring legally binding, court-enforced changes to everything from MPD's training to transparency.

Context: Negotiations toward a settlement followed an extensive, two-year state investigation sparked by the murder of George Floyd.

  • The scathing report that followed found that MPD violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act by routinely treating people of color differently than white people in similar situations.
  • It blamed MPD culture, training and a lack of accountability for officers accused of misconduct.

What we're watching: A U.S. Department of Justice probe into MPD's practices, announced close to two years ago, is ongoing.

  • That could result in a separate consent decree focused on violations of federal law that reinforces — or expands — reforms enacted as part of the state agreement.

What they're saying: Joseph Daly, an arbitrator and emeritus professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, told Axios he expects any eventual agreements "have a big impact" on local policing, in part because the city is not in a position to negotiate the changes down.

  • "There's a lot of evidence, culminating in [the death of] George Floyd, that the police department in Minneapolis has not been trained well [and] has been violating a number of citizens’ rights," he said. "The department as a whole and the police union has to get their acts together to start following constitutional mandates."

Zoom out: Some experts say federal consent decrees have mostly proved successful in reducing use-of-force and other problems within police departments across the nation.

Yes, but: Some cities have seen slower progress and struggled to meet court-ordered requirements.

What’s next: Once finalized, the state-level agreement will need sign off from City Council, Frey and the Department of Human Rights.


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