The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously Friday morning to accept a court-enforceable settlement agreement between the city and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) that mandates changes to the Minneapolis Police Department — nearly three years after one of their officers killed George Floyd and sparked a reckoning. My world on racial injustice in the police.
The agreement comes nearly a year after the state agency released a scathing 72-page report detailing a discriminatory police pattern and practice over at least a decade.
Now that the city has reached a settlement with the state, Minneapolis could become the first city to be subject to a state settlement and a federal consent decree at the same time, pending another ongoing investigation by the Justice Department.
Despite the many changes to police department policies and procedures between Floyd’s killing and the agreement — including how officers can stop, search, and arrest and restrictions on how officers can use force — many see the list of required changes enforceable by the court as a real change for the department’s view. Many residents find it discriminatory and overly aggressive.
“While I believe in this business and I think this will lead to something really good, it’s not a good thing we’re doing,” Ward 5 council member Jeremiah Ellison said before the vote. “This is the culmination of bad things the city and the police department have done.”
Related: Court-enforceable police reform is coming to Minneapolis. How did we get here?
The 140-page document, which was negotiated between city and state officials for several months, has 13 parts, including training, use of force, non-discriminatory policing, accountability and oversight.
The agreement includes updates to the department’s field officer training program, which came under fire after it was revealed that two of the officers involved in Floyd’s killing — Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao — were training the other two that day. The review program will allow trainees to review and rate their supervisor, and supervisors will be required to respond to a scene if significant force was used to obtain feedback from witnesses about what they saw.
The MDHR report found that the MPD stopped, searched, and used force against black individuals at a much higher rate than white individuals, prompting much of the settlement agreement to include changes in how stops, searches, and arrests are conducted.
Stops, searches and arrests will see the additions of new protocols, including the expansion of oversight by supervisors to review whether officers are following policies. The agreement also requires officers to limit the use of electrical and irritating devices, and introduces a new framework for categorizing officers’ use of force.
During a traffic stop, officers will be required to give personal contact information—whether it be a business card or stating name and badge number, when requested, stating the reason for the stop in a body-worn camera prior to stopping and providing a record of the stop to an individual in the form of a document or card with the officer’s last name.
There will be new standards in which infractions are not worth stopping, such as a missing side mirror or a defective headlight, to limit the use of virtual stops. Officers are also prohibited from searching a vehicle based solely on the smell of marijuana, using “officer safety” as a justification for a search or search for weapons, and conducting consent searches during a traffic stop.
Community involvement has been listed as a focus for a few of the changes, including during the selection of the observer who will oversee the progress of the department, as well as important public engagement and comment sessions to underscore feedback on future MPD policy changes. Community leaders will also be briefed within hours of “critical incidents”.
Accountability measures in the agreement include changing how complaints of police misconduct are filed, reviewed, filed and acted upon, requiring completion of investigations within 180 days and documentation of every step of the process.
Other changes include more data transparency and more support for officers’ health such as mental health counseling.
What will the process look like?
After the council votes on the document, and it is signed by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and MDHR Commissioner Rebecca Lucero, state officials will file the agreement in Hennepin County court and a judge will set the date it goes into effect.
The initial settlement term is four years, and the comptroller is expected to evaluate the city’s progress on an annual basis, but city attorney Christine Anderson said such agreements typically take longer.
“Cities across the country haven’t achieved full compliance at this point in time, and frankly it would be very unusual if we did, but we need a deadline and a target to strive for,” she told council members.
After four years, the city and the superintendent will conduct a comprehensive review of their progress and the parts of the agreement that the city has completed may be terminated.
This is a story in development and will be updated as more information and feedback becomes available.