The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) issued its findings and began work on a consent decree, in response to their investigation into civil rights violations of the city of Minneapolis on April 27, 2022.
The investigation, started following the murder of George Floyd, found that “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. This includes a pattern of discriminatory, race-based policing as evidenced by racial disparities in how police officers use force, stop, search, arrest, and cite people of color, particularly Black individuals.”
The report concluded that discriminatory, race-based policing is caused primarily by an organizational culture which emphasizes a paramilitary approach to policing, as well as an inadequate accountability system.
MDHR Commissioner Rebecca Lucero, wrote, “Former and current city and MPD leaders have not collectively acted with the urgency, coordination, and intentionality necessary to address racial disparities in policing to improve public safety and increase community trust. Without fundamental organizational culture changes, reforming MPD’s policies, procedures, and trainings will be meaningless.”
“Race-based policing is unlawful” the report said, “and especially harms people of color and Indigenous individuals – sometimes costing community members their lives.”
“This news is not a surprise to the Black community,” said Minneapolis Director of Regulatory Services Saray Garnett-Hochuli. “What pains me in this is that we needed a report to validate what Black people have been saying for decades, years. I challenge all of us to do right by the city because this has to change.”
CONSENT DECREE BY SEPT. 1?
The report calls for the creation of a consent decree to help correct these racist practices. Such a decree would be developed by the MDHR and city government and would result in a court-enforceable agreement of changes to be made. The court order would be issued by a judge and include the independent oversight of a monitor or monitoring team that reports to the court.
“MDHR will meet with community members, MPD officers, city staff, and other stakeholders to gather feedback on what should be included in a consent decree,” said Lucero.
“We need to take a different approach to addressing racial discrimination within MPD, and in the city of Minneapolis as a whole,” said Ward 11 Council Member Emily Koski. “Accountability starts with us. It starts with every leader serving with the city of Minneapolis – and it starts with a consent decree to address racial discrimination in policing in the city of Minneapolis, and to do so in a way that our community can trust.”
Lucero is hoping that by the end of July the department will have met with city officials and negotiated the terms of the decree so that they can present something to the courts by Sept. 1. She said, “It is imperative to immediately address the state law violations identified by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and to submit a proposed consent decree to the court by September 1, 2022, to address the violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.”
CUAPB, CAIR GATHER PUBLIC INPUT
Community members and organizations are also exploring options for the decree and MDHR has invited anyone to visit their website and submit ideas for potential changes that could be part of the court order.
One organization, Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), has held over two dozen meetings to gather community input and has had canvassers going door to door to educate people and gather their thoughts.
“We are right now exploring every consent decree that has happened in the country to see what has been successful,” said Center for American and Islamic Relations (CAIR) Executive Director Jaylani Hussein. He says they have looked at similar decrees in Baltimore, New Orleans and New York, and have a draft of roughly 30 ideas already that they plan to prioritize and refine before submitting them to MDHR.
“We are already seeing the mayor defend the police and working to combine the federal and state investigations and court orders,” he said. He believes that the scopes of the investigations are different, and that two court orders are preferred. To that end, in the weeks ahead, he will be working with CUAPB and others to “galvanize the community.”
He is calling for “an immediate review of all complaints that the office has failed to act on, to make sure that officers who are still on the force are held accountable.”
PUBLIC SAFETY AUDIT TEAM
Koski agrees that the consent decree presents a promising opportunity. “What I’ll want reflected in the consent decree is the Minnesota Department of Human Rights’ suggestions, and recommendations, as far as action steps, that can be taken to remedy the problems that were identified in the report,” she said. “Beyond that, I would like to see the input of community members reflected in the content of the consent decree – especially, and it should go without saying, the input of our BIPOC community.”
As a member of the city’s audit committee, Koski has spearheaded the creation of a new Public Safety Audit Team in the internal audit division. She initially brought up the idea up after the police shooting of Amir Locke, because, she said, “instituting an audit team/auditor who oversaw the Minneapolis Police Department would create the proper checks and balances between the police department, mayor, and city council.”
“A Public Safety Audit Team would serve as a body that provides oversight of our public safety systems – their conduct, practices, and policies – to increase accountability and public trust,” she said recently. “The audit team will also be able to assist in the implementation of the consent decree.”
On April 28, Minneapolis Director of Internal Audit Ryan Patrick provided a presentation on the current recommendations for the Public Safety Audit Team. According to the charter, the internal audit office is one of the only city departments or divisions that is independent of the mayor’s office and the police department and reports directly to the council.
According to Patrick, a public safety audit team could serve as a body that provides oversight to increase accountability and public trust. It would also be able to assist in the implementation of the consent decree.
Other jurisdictions Koski points to that have created Police Accountability Auditors or audit teams that are either the same, or similar, to what is being recommended include Aurora, Colo; King County, Wash.; Denver, Colo.; Portland, Ore.; and, San Jose, Calif.
According to Patrick, “Based on the amount of risk that exists in the public safety sphere, we think it’s important to add dedicated resources to the internal audit team,” he said. Because the city’s concept of public safety is evolving the extra monitoring could be especially valuable. “Internal audit remains only oversight body outside of the executive reporting line,” he added. It also has the “free, full, and unrestricted access to information, structure to report non-public/confidential information.”
With both federal and state Investigations going on and court orders that may take years to complete, Patrick said, “Internal audit staff can provide and build institutional knowledge, relationships, and trust while maintaining independence.”
Whether or not it is required in a consent decree, Koski is committed to working on the establishment of a Public Safety Audit Team. “Creating a Public Safety Audit Team will allow us to create institutional checks and balances on our executive branch’s authority over all public safety functions in the city of Minneapolis,” she said.
“We need to take collective action, and act with urgency, coordination, and intentionality,” Koski wrote is a recent newsletter. “It’s our responsibility to change the culture, and to make sure that the racial discrimination that has plagued the city of Minneapolis ends with us.”
To learn more and share your ideas with MDHR, see https://mn.gov/mdhr/mpd/.
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