Nearly two years after former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights found that Minneapolis police officers are more likely to use neck restraints and chemical irritants on Black people and more likely to cite, use force against, and arrest Black people during traffic stops. The human rights departments announced the saddening but not shocking findings on Wednesday after a nearly two-year investigation. The probe was sparked when Chauvin was recorded kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, killing the Black father on May 25, 2020. In the human rights investigation, the department defined “a pattern or practice of discrimination” as “the denial of rights” in “more than isolated, sporadic incidents” but as “repeated, routine, or of a generalized nature.”
“After completing a comprehensive investigation, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights finds there is probable cause that the City and MPD engage in a pattern or practice of race discrimination in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act,” the department said in its findings.
Officers were accused in the 72-page report of disproportionately killing people of color and Indigenous community members. “In fact, since 2010, of the 14 individuals that MPD (Minneapolis Police Department) officers have killed, 13 of those individuals were people of color or Indigenous individuals,” officials wrote in the report. “People of color and Indigenous individuals comprise approximately 42% of the Minneapolis population, but comprise 93% of all MPD officer-involved deaths between January 1, 2010, to February 2, 2022.”
The list of offenses the police department is accused of in the report hardly begins and ends there.
Officers reportedly posed as community members on social media “to post comments and content online attacking police critics and criticizing local officials,” and in specific cases posed as Black community members to criticize a local branch of the NAACP and to attend the birthday party of a prominent Black civil rights lawyer.
“While MPD officers also use MPD covert social media to investigate criminal activity, engaging with community members in a false way is improper when there is no nexus to a criminal investigation or to a public safety objective,” state human rights officials said in their report.
They also pointed to examples of supervisors approving unlawful activities, such as a case involving a 14-year-old unarmed Black teen who was sitting on the floor of a bedroom using his phone when an officer encountered him in 2017.
“When the 14-year-old did not immediately stand up when instructed to do so, the officer quickly hit the 14-year-old with their flashlight, splitting his ear open, and then grabbed him by the neck and placed him in an unconscious neck restraint,” investigators said in their report. “By deeming this officer’s use of force appropriate, the supervisor effectively authorized the officer to continue using such egregious force in the future.”
Only about 20 discipline decisions went to arbitration in a more than 10-year time frame between January 2010 and April 2021. “In all but one of those cases, an arbitrator agreed with the City and MPD that some form of discipline was warranted,” investigators wrote.
In one example of the kind of harmful trickle-down effect delayed action has had in the department, an officer found to have used excessive force actually ended up becoming a field training officer.
“In 2019, an arbitrator reduced a termination decision to an 80-hour suspension for an officer who had used excessive force while making an arrest in 2016. Immediately after the misconduct had occurred, MPD relieved the officer of duty and required the officer stay home before eventually assigning the officer to a desk position monitoring cameras where they had no contact with the public. However, the day after the Police Conduct Review Panel recommended finding that the officer used excessive force, MPD returned the officer to regular duty with full enforcement responsibilities and relied on the officer as a field training officer.Furthermore, while the Police Conduct Review Panel made its recommended finding to the Police Chief at the end of 2017, the officer was not provided an opportunity to contest the allegations of misconduct until eight months after the panel provided its recommendations. The Police Chief then did not terminate the officer for an additional six months.”
Read the full investigative report:
In completing its investigation, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights reviewed 700 hours of body camera footage and nearly 480,000 pages of city and police department documents including training policies and disciplinary records. It followed a temporary court order the department requested from the Hennepin County District Court to “immediately implement public safety changes” four days after starting its investigation on June 1, 2020.
”At the time the court order was entered, at least 65 completed police misconduct investigations were awaiting the Police Chief’s review and at least four of those cases had been on the Police Chief’s desk for over 200 days,” the human rights department wrote. “As of June 2020, the average time a police misconduct case sat on the Police Chief’s desk without a final decision was 88 days.”
Medaria Arradondo, the first Black Minneapolis police chief, was appointed in 2017 and retired this year. In many ways, the toxic culture in the police department long predate his tenure as chief. Even as he stepped into the role, his predecessor, Janee Harteau, faced criticism regarding the killing of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
Former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after shooting and killing Ruszczyk, who also used the last name Damond. She called 911 to report a potential sexual assault behind her home. Noor testified during his trial in 2019 that while he was a passenger in his partner’s car, he heard a “loud bang on his squad car” that scared Noor so much he reached across his partner to fire through the driver’s side window, killing Ruszczyk.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced last April that the Justice Department has opened its own pattern or practice investigation into the city and its police department. “The investigation I am announcing today will assess whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force, including during protests,” Garland said in a news release. “Building trust between community and law enforcement will take time and effort by all of us, but we undertake this task with determination and urgency, knowing that change cannot wait.”
The Justice Department investigation is separate from the investigation the state human rights department conducted.
As part of that investigation, officials stated:
“Moving forward, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights will work with the City of Minneapolis to develop a consent decree, which is a court-enforceable agreement that identifies specific changes to be made and timelines for those changes to occur. Unlike previous efforts to reform policing in Minneapolis, a consent decree is a court order issued by a judge.”
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