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Minneapolis Officers Found to Engage in Racist Policing

Minneapolis Officers Found to Engage in Racist Policing

April 27, 2022

The Minneapolis Police Department routinely engages in several forms of racially discriminatory policing, fails to hold officers accountable for misconduct and has used fake social media accounts to target Black people and organizations, according to a damning investigation released on Wednesday by the state’s Department of Human Rights.

The department has a “culture that is averse to oversight and accountability,” and city and department leaders have failed to act with “the necessary urgency, coordination and intentionality required” to correct its extensive problems, the investigation concluded.

The Minneapolis police have been under intense scrutiny since cellphone cameras captured the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a police officer during an arrest on May 25, 2020. The state’s human rights investigation began about a week later. The department is also under a similar investigation by the federal Justice Department.

Both investigations could result in consent decrees, agreements that are overseen by monitors and enforced by the courts. Such agreements generally include a long list of required changes, benchmarks and timelines. The state human rights department is seeking public comment on what such a consent decree should include.

One of the report’s most vivid findings, based on interviews and a review of 700 hours of body camera footage, was an exhaustive list of slurs that officers and supervisors “consistently use” against women and Black people, including suspects, witnesses, bystanders and their own colleagues.

The disrespect was so flagrant that local prosecutors said it was difficult to present body camera videos to juries, according to the report: “When M.P.D. officers scream obscenities at community members, it makes it challenging for prosecutors to do their job.”

At a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Jacob Frey called the report “repugnant” and “at times horrific.” He said a host of previous reports and investigations had too often not been followed by action. “This time it needs to be different,” he said.

Two Black city officials, LaTrisha Vetaw, a member of the City Council who is helping lead the search for a new police chief, and Saray Garnett-Hochuli, the director of regulatory services, said the findings came as no surprise to them.

The investigation found that officers stopped, searched, arrested, ticketed, used force on and killed Black and Indigenous people at a higher rate than white people. Although Black individuals make up about 19 percent of the population, in 10 years of data, 63 percent of the instances where officers recorded the use of force were against Black people, the report said.

Officers used covert social media accounts to observe and engage with elected officials, Black individuals and organizations, though the people and groups were not suspected of any crimes, with officers at times posing as community members to make comments. In one instance, the report said, an officer posed as a Black resident to send a message criticizing the N.A.A.C.P. In other cases, officers posed as residents to criticize elected officials.

Fake accounts are supposed to be used for investigative purposes only, approved by a supervisor and registered in a department inventory, though investigators found at least two dozen accounts in use that were not listed in the inventory. The department did not use covert accounts to similarly surveil white people or white supremacist groups for possible criminal activity, the report said.

Mr. Floyd was killed after two rookie officers responded to a call that he had used a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. Mr. Floyd declined to get into the squad car. A field training officer, Derek Chauvin, and his partner arrived to provide backup. Mr. Chauvin forced Mr. Floyd to the pavement and knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes, while his partner stood guard and the two rookies helped pin Mr. Floyd down.

Mr. Chauvin was convicted of murder and pleaded guilty to federal civil rights violations. The three other officers have been convicted of failure to intervene or provide medical aid and still face state charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.

Although field training officers like Mr. Chauvin have tremendous sway over rookies, the department does not offer ongoing instruction for them, the investigation found — an oversight that it said “furthers race-based policing.” It cited a 2020 case in which a training officer allowed a trainee to search a Black woman who was unarmed, but said that searching an intoxicated white man who admitted to having a knife in his bag would be a waste of the trainee’s time.

The report suggested that the department still fails to empower officers to intervene when they see something wrong. On the first day of training in 2021, the report said, recruits were told that “instant and unquestioned compliance is in order.”

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