Report: Minneapolis police engaged in pattern of race discrimination
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights also found that Minneapolis police officers used covert social media accounts to monitor Black individuals and organizations, including political figures, for purposes unrelated to criminal activity. Human rights officials launched their investigation on June 1, 2020, just days after police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd in Minneapolis.
ST. PAUL — The Minneapolis Police Department has shown a pattern of racial discrimination that violates state human rights laws, according to an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
In a patterns and practices report released Wednesday, April, 27, state officials said they identified a pattern of discriminatory and race-based policing caused by deficient training, insufficient systems of accountability, and lack of effective action by leadership.
Evidence of the pattern included disparities in how officers use force against and arrest people of color, and in particular Black people, when compared to whites. Investigators also found officers consistently used “racist, misogynistic, and disrespectful language” and rarely faced discipline.
“Following the murder of George Floyd, demands to end discriminatory policing practices reverberated across the world,” Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said at a Wednesday news conference announcing the report’s findings. “Those demands remain just as true and urgent today with this announcement of these investigative findings, which paint an unsettling picture of the city of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department.”
The report mentioned numerous incidents of police officers using racial slurs while on duty and screaming obscenities at community members. Hennepin County prosecutors told investigators that "MPD officers are much less professional and respectful than officers from other police departments" in the county, and that it can be difficult to rely on their body camera footage in court because of officers' disrespectful conduct.
The investigation also found that Minneapolis police officers used covert social media accounts to monitor Black individuals and organizations, including political figures, for purposes unrelated to criminal activity. Deputy Human Rights Commissioner Irina Vaynerman said the department would not identify which politicians, but in one case an officer sent a critical message to a local branch of the NAACP.
In their investigation of one decade of Minneapolis police activity, state officials reviewed 480,000 pages of city and police department documents, interviewed dozens of officers, participated in ride-alongs in every precinct, watched 700 hours of body camera footage, and interviewed or gathered statements from 2,200 community members. They also consulted outside policing experts.
Mayor, activists react
American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota Legal Director Teresa Nelson said the report was a “stinging indictment of police culture” and said without a fundamental organizational change reform would be meaningless.
The ACLU also condemned the social media surveillance program, comparing it to the FBI’s spying on domestic political activists in the 1960s, including civil rights leaders.
“MPD’s use of fake social media accounts to surveil Black activists and organizations such as the NAACP and Urban League, without any public safety objective, is a racist and deeply disturbing invasion of privacy," ACLU Policy Associate Munira Mohamed said in her organization’s statement on the state report.
Patterns of discrimination emerged as a result of the police department’s organizational culture, the report found. Investigators said officer training emphasizes a “paramilitary” approach to policing that results in unnecessary escalation with suspects and members of the community.
Human rights officials launched their investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department on June 1, 2020, just days after police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd in Minneapolis. Chauvin in 2021 was convicted of Floyd's murder.
The legal team for Floyd and Amir Locke, the 22-year-old Black man killed in a no-knock police raid on a Minneapolis apartment in February, called the report’s findings “historic” and praised Gov. Tim Walz and Commissioner Lucero for pursuing the investigation. They said the report gives them hope for much-needed change that will make Minneapolis safer for its Black residents.
“It grieves us that this pattern and practice, which was so graphically displayed to the world in the video of George Floyd’s death, persisted for another two years to senselessly claim the life of Amir Locke, both of whom were cited in the finding,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump said in a joint statement with attorneys Antonio Romanucci and Jeff Storms. “We are grateful and deeply hopeful that change is possible and is imminent. “
At the Wednesday afternoon news conference, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said his city welcomed the report from the beginning, and was committed to addressing issues in its police department. Frey said the report's findings showed that reforming the Minneapolis Police Department would take more than policy, it would take a major cultural shift within the agency that would take “a hell of a lot of work.”
“I found the content to be repugnant, at times horrific, they made me sick to my stomach and outraged and I think that our community feels the same way,” Frey said. “There are some in our city who will be surprised by the findings that they say in this report. I talked with leaders from our Black community this morning they’re not surprised at all. They've been saying this for years for decades and for generations.”
Now that state officials have completed their investigation of the department, they plan to work with the city of Minneapolis to develop a court-enforceable agreement that will identify needed changes and set a timeline for them to occur.
State human rights officials in June 2020 obtained a temporary court order that required the city of Minneapolis and its police department to make immediate changes to accountability measures and how officers interact with the public. The order included a complete ban on chokeholds and neck restraints.
The new “consent decree” the state and city will now develop will be different from past arrangements as it will be a court order issued by a judge, human rights officials said. The state will be meeting with community members, officers, city staff and others to shape the agreement.
A full copy of the 72-page report can be found on the Minnesota Department of Human rights website .