This story was last updated at 4:22 p.m. on March 31.
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) mandating changes to the Minneapolis Police Department – nearly three years after one of their officers murdered George Floyd and sparked a global reckoning on racial injustice in policing.
The agreement comes nearly a year after the state agency released a scathing 72-page report detailing a pattern and practice of discriminatory policing over the course of at least a decade.
Now that the city has reached a settlement with the state, Minneapolis could become the first city to be under a state settlement and a federal consent decree at the same time, pending another ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice.
Despite several changes to its police department’s policies and procedures between Floyd’s murder and the agreement – including to how officers conduct stops, searches and arrests, and limits to how officers use force – many see the court-enforceable list of required changes as a means for real change to a department seen by many residents as discriminatory and overly aggressive.
“While I do believe in this work and I do think that this will result in something really good, this is not something good that we’re doing,” said Ward 5 Council Member Jeremiah Ellison ahead of the vote. “This is the culmination of bad things that the city and the police department have done.”
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The 140-page document, negotiated between city and state officials for several months, features 13 parts, including training, use of force, nondiscriminatory policing, and accountability and oversight.
“When I met with you in April of last year I told you we can change this, that we can choose differently, and today we are doing just that,” Lucero said. “This court-enforceable agreement sets a path toward a more just future for people of color and Indigenous community members in Minneapolis, and it will address race-based policing and improve public safety.”
The agreement involves updates to the department’s field officer training program, which came under fire after it was revealed two of the officers involved in Floyd’s murder – Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao – were training the other two on that day. A review program will allow trainees to review and rate their supervisor, and supervisors will be required to respond to a scene if significant force is used to gain feedback from witnesses on what they saw.
The MDHR report found that 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 to how stops, searches and arrests are conducted.
Stops, searches and arrests will see the additions of new protocols, including an expansion in oversight by supervisors to review whether officers are following policies. The agreement also requires limiting Taser and chemical irritant use by officers, and introduces a new framework to categorize officers’ use of force.
During traffic stops, officers will be required to give out personal contact information – whether it’s a business card or stating their name and badge number, upon request, say the reason for the stop into their body-worn camera before making the stop and provide 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 parameters on which offenses do not merit a stop, like a missing side mirror or one faulty headlight, to limit the use of pretextual stops. Officers are also prohibited from searching a vehicle on the sole basis of smelling marijuana, using “officer safety” as a justification for a frisk or pat down for weapons, and conducting consent searches during traffic stops.
“The court-enforceable agreement does not prohibit officers from relying on reasonable, articulable suspicion or probable cause of criminal activity to enforce the law,” Lucero said. “We want officers to do their jobs, we want them to be successful and do them well and that means policing in a non-discriminatory manner.”
Community involvement was listed as a focus for a few of the changes, including during the selection of the monitor who will oversee the department’s progress, as well as significant engagement and public comment sessions to emphasize 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 police misconduct complaints are submitted, reviewed, filed and acted upon, requiring investigations to be completed within 180 days and documenting each step of the process.
Other changes include more data transparency and more officer wellness support like mental health counseling.
Reaction to the agreement
The general sentiment around the settlement agreement seems to be that it is a long-awaited tool to improve conditions within the city’s police department. But a lingering concern for some is whether community engagement was robust enough in crafting the changes.
City Attorney Kristyn Anderson said the lack of input during the settlement negotiations themselves was due to the process. The document resolves a legal claim in which the city was a defendant – those are the terms MDHR negotiated with the city to avoid a lawsuit funded by taxpayer dollars, she said.
“While the community obviously could not be at the negotiating table and the negotiations were confidential as all legal negotiations are and we are not in a position to go back to MDHR and renegotiate the terms based on public feedback, I think it’s important for everyone to know that community input was absolutely taken into account in the agreement itself,” she said.
Lucero said engagement with both community members and police officers was a large component of the work the state agency did in both its investigation and the crafting of the settlement agreement via negotiations with the city. MDHR officials hosted 15 public events last summer in addition to separate conversations with community groups and organizations, as well as 15 listening sessions at each of the city’s precincts with officers of all ranks and duties.
“We did that because we recognized the knowledge and the work that had come before us and we wanted to make sure that we were incorporating and honoring everything that we could,” she said.
What the process will look like
After the council voted on the document, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and MDHR Commissioner Rebecca Lucero sign it, state officials will file the agreement in Hennepin County Court and a judge will determine the date in which it will take effect.
The initial term of the settlement is four years, with the monitor expected to assess the city’s progress on an annual basis, but City Attorney Kristyn Anderson said agreements like this typically take longer.
“Cities around the country have not achieved full compliance in that amount of time, and frankly it would be highly atypical if we did, but we need a deadline and a goal to strive for,” she told council members.
After four years, the city and the monitor will do a comprehensive review of their progress and the portions of the agreement that the city has completed could be terminated.