Key Minneapolis leaders promised to re-examine and improve emergency response and preparedness policies in their first statements since the release of a scathing after-action report into the George Floyd protests and riots.
The audit, released to the public Tuesday, details a series of fundamental oversights, communications failures and general lack of preparation on the part of Minneapolis leadership in the 10 days following George Floyd's murder by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, as the city grappled with increasingly destructive and violent outbursts by demonstrators, extremist provocateurs, and police officers.
"Almost everybody we spoke to recognized the response did not go well and needs to be improved," said Robert Boehmer, project manager of the audit, while speaking to city council members Tuesday. "We heard this from community members, city employees, police department employees and others. They were all disappointed in the response."
The audit is wide-ranging, identifying 25 critical findings and providing 27 recommendations. You can read details here. But in summary: The mayor's office, the Minneapolis Police Department, and other responding agencies were unprepared for the unrest, didn't follow the procedures that were in place, made no formal response plans as the demonstrations intensified, and failed to provide critical information to both on-street officers and the public.
The mayor's office, Minneapolis Police Department, Minneapolis Fire Department and Office of Emergency Management (OEM) are among those specifically named in the report.
Here's a look at statements sent out by the city shortly after the city council voted to release the audit to the public.
Mayor Jacob Frey
“Rebuilding trust between community and local government relies on us taking concrete actions informed by this review. The recommendations highlighted in today’s presentation will be put to use, and I’ve already directed staff to implement a plan for improving our emergency response processes across the enterprise.”
Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman
The now-retired Medaria Arradondo was in charge of MPD during the protests, but has since been replaced on an interim basis by Huffman, who acknowledged the "deep pain" caused by Floyd's killing, noting the after-action report is a necessary step that "forces us to revisit one of the most traumatic chapters of our city’s history." She continued:
“Moving forward, we are committed to examining our policies and training to ensure they reflect best practices and our commitment to care for our community. MPD will work collaboratively with other City departments to enact the City’s emergency response protocols during times of crisis. We must honor First Amendment rights while we focus on ensuring public safety for everyone. Finally, we recognize the need to invest in the wellness of our employees; mental, emotional and physical health are critical not only to the officers themselves but also to public safety.”
OEM Director Barret Lane
“OEM has taken a number of steps that relate to the findings in the report. Since 2020, OEM has continued to activate, train, and exercise the Emergency Operations Center function as recommended in the report. OEM maintains a 24x7 watch and responds to planned and unplanned events as needed. The last major Emergency Operations Center exercise was held in October 2021 and another is scheduled for this summer.”
Fire Chief Bryan Tyner
“We have taken steps to ensure that our crews are properly trained to respond to critical incidents as highlighted in the report. The vast majority of the after action report’s recommendations were also identified by MFD through our internal after action process and were addressed and implemented prior to the Chauvin trial.”
A thread running through the after-action report is trust. Namely how little community members seem to have in Minneapolis city leadership and the police department. Recommendations in the audit include not just improvements to emergency response processes, but also rebuilding the relationship between MPD and residents — already eroding before Floyd's killing, but which crumbled under the weight of that murder, as well as the actions of some law enforcement officers during the aftermath.
That includes police seeming to use flashbangs, chemical agents and less-lethal rounds indiscriminately, sometimes firing into crowds without having first given dispersal orders; arresting journalists; making remarks about "hunting" people; and describing a group of protestors as "predominantly white, because there’s not looting and fires,” as the Reformer reported.
The after-action report notes many rank-and-file officers were put in a disadvantageous position by supervisors and leaders. Many of those officers spent long stretches on the streets yet were provided little to no direction, received conflicting orders, and were provided no rules of engagement, a situation Chad McGinty, one of the audit's researchers, described as a communications "void."
None of the statements sent out by the City of Minneapolis after the after-action reports' release identify issues specifically, and instead focus on broader "protocols" or " emergency response processes" that need to be addressed.
Ward 2 Council Member Robin Wonsley Worlobah, during Tuesday's Committee of the Whole meeting, also pointed out many of the audit's recommendations are nearly identical to those the city received in 2017 in an after-action report critiquing the response to the Jamar Clark police killing protests and occupation of the 4th Precinct.
"The recommendations that were provided in that review clearly have not been implemented," she Worlobah said, later continuing: "I'm really interested in how do we plan to implement any of the information from this report since history has shown that MPD leadership as well as our current mayor, the mayor's office, has not enforced many of these policies, and basically help us enact these structures that we already have in place."