The Minnesota Department of Human Rights has found following an almost two-year investigation there is probable cause that the City of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Police Department have engaged in an illegal "pattern or practice of race discrimination."
A damning 72-page report was released on Wednesday by the state department, which launched an investigation into alleged discrimination by MPD in the days that followed the murder of George Floyd by then-MPD officer Derek Chauvin.
The conclusion reached by investigators was that there are racial disparities in how MPD officers "use force, stop, search, arrest, and cite people of color, particularly Black individuals, compared to white individuals in similar circumstances."
It also found that MPD officers use covert social media "to surveil Black individuals and Black organizations" even when it is not related to criminal activity, and that MPD "maintains an organizational culture where officers consistently use racist, misogynistic, and otherwise disrespectful language."
This includes some officers and supervisors describing Black people using the N-word and "monkeys," calling Black women "Black bitches," Somali men "orangutans," Latino people "beaners," and even calling fellow Black MPD officers "nappy head" and "cattle."
These kind of activities and behaviors within the department are the result of a combination of issues, including "deficient training" that "emphasizes a paramilitary approach to policing that results in officers unnecessarily escalating encounters or using inappropriate levels of force." The report describes MPD as maintaining "an organizational culture where officers are trained to be aggressive towards community members."
Other factors include a lack of accountability, with current systems "insufficient and ineffective at holding officers accountable for misconduct." Finally, the report slams "current City and MPD leaders" for not acting "with the urgency, coordination, and intentionality necessary to address racial disparities in policing to improve public safety and increase community trust."
"The lack of collective and sustained action among City and MPD leaders has, in effect, allowed this organizational culture to fester within MPD and resulted in unlawful policing practices that undermine public safety," the report adds.
What's more, Hennepin County prosecutors said MPD officers are "much less professional and respectful than officers from other police departments," according to the report, and note that it's sometimes difficult to rely on MPD body-worn camera in court "because of how disrespectful and offensive MPD officers are to criminal suspects, witnesses, and bystanders."
The findings came following a review of 700 hours of body worn camera footage, nearly 480,000 pages of City and MPD documents, police disciplinary records, internal and external communications, use of force reports, as well as interviews with MPD officers, supervisors, city employees, and community members.
The MDHR will now seek a court order that would lead to a "court-enforceable agreement that identifies specific changes to be made and timelines for those changes to occur." It would also lead to independent oversight to ensure those changes are followed.
It is the latest in a series of reports that have been critical of the culture and actions of MPD since Floyd's murder,
The department is still the subject of a federal investigation by the Department of Justice, with Attorney General Merrick Garland announcing in April 2021 it is investigating if there is a "pattern of unconstitutional or unlawful policing at MPD."
It has also been the subject of major criticism for the way it handled the protests and riots that followed Floyd's murder, with an independent audit finding the city's response to the unrest to be uncoordinated, disorganized and plagued with poor communication.
Key points from the report
– MPD officers have disproportionately killed community members of color and Indigenous community members.
– "Instances of police misconduct are not properly investigated, not timely addressed, and officers are not held consistently accountable."
– They gave an example of excessive force by an officer below. Said officer was Derek Chauvin, who was indicted on federal civil rights charges for the incident after he was found guilty of murdering George Floyd.
– MPD officers inappropriately used neck restraints more than 50% of the time, and are twice as likely to use neck restraints against Black people than white people. They also used a neck restraint against a Black youth when it was “objectively unnecessary” to do so.
– The use of chemical irritants by MPD was found to be unnecessary and inappropriate on 37% of occasions, and MPD are more likely to use chemical irritants against Black people in use of force incidents than against white people. It is also more likely to resort to chemical irritants in cases of disorderly conduct involving Black people, while white people are more likely to benefit from the use of "soft tactics."
– As well as the highly racist language used by some officers and supervisors mentioned above, the investigation also found examples of misogynistic language used towards and about women, including calling female community members "f****** c***," "bitch" and "cussy." Some officers also used "bitch" to describe a dispatcher, while another said they hoped a city leader "gets f****** in the a**" over how the leader handled "a high-profile police event."
– An MPD officer investigating a sex assault case "falsely stated that a man could not be guilty of sexually assaulting a woman if they had children together."
–"Officers who are the subject of these racist or sexist comments hesitate to, and often simply do not, report the problematic officers because they do not believe in the efficacy of the City’s and MPD’s accountability systems and fear retaliation if they report the harassing behavior."
– MPD officers are more likely to stop vehicles with people of color and Indigenous individuals in instances where officers are more likely to identify the race/ethnicity of a vehicle’s occupants. Black people comprise 54% of the 72,689 stops made between 2017 and 2020, despite accounting for less than 19% of the city's population. Citations were also issued disproportionately to Black individuals in these instances. "In other words, race is the likely reason for the racial disparity in MPD’s traffic stop practices," the report says.
– "Furthermore, current and former high-level City officials, MPD supervisors, and patrol officers admitted that MPD stops vehicles with people of color for either no genuine reason or for low-level violations in an effort to find guns or drugs in cars operated by people of color."
– Black people are also disproportionately cited for disorderly conduct or obstruction, accounting for 66% of all citations between 2010 and 2020. "Analysis of closed disorderly conduct and/or obstruction cases shows that MPD officers apply a different standard to Black and white arrestees when issuing disorderly conduct and obstruction citations."
– What's more, 18.9% of citations issued to Black people for disorderly conduct or obstruction were ultimately dropped, dismissed, or the person was found not guilty, compared to in 15.5% of cases involving white people. Prosecution data shows as well that white people are more likely to receive leniency in obstruction cases, with 21% getting leniency compared to 16.5% of similar cases involving Black people. "This means that not only are obstruction citations that MPD officers issue to white individuals more likely justified, but white individuals are treated more leniently in the criminal justice system."
– A study of MPD's covert social media accounts found officers "used covert, or fake, social media accounts to surveil and engage Black individuals, Black organizations, and elected officials unrelated to criminal activity, without a public safety objective." They did not similarly track white people in this manner, and as of the end of 2020 it wasn't even using its social media accounts to track white supremacist or white nationalist groups.
"MPD officers used MPD covert accounts, unrelated to any actual or alleged criminal activity, to seek and gain access to Black individuals’ social media profiles, as well as social media profiles of Black groups and organizations, such as the NAACP and Urban League. Specifically, MPD officers sent friend requests, commented on posts, sent private messages, and contributed to discussions. When doing so, officers posed as like-minded individuals and claimed, for example, that they met the targeted person at a prior demonstration or protest. In social media posts and messages, MPD officers used language to further racial stereotypes associated with Black people, especially Black women."
– In one instance, an officer used a covert MPD account to pose as a Black community member, and sent a message to the local NAACP criticizing the group. It was also found MPD used covert social media to criticize elected officials, including a "Minneapolis City Council Member and a State elected official." The report notes MPD dopes not have "proper oversight and accountability mechanisms" to monitor covert social media use.
– The report notes that MPD's Field Training Officer program, where a rookie officer is paired with a veteran for on-the-ground training, has a "lasting impact on rookie officers" but sees them exposed to discriminatory practices. One example from bodycam footage showed a field training officer allow a trainee to search an unarmed, intoxicated Black woman. Two hours later, they spoke with an intoxicated white man who admitted having a knife in his bag, but the trainer instructed the trainee to not search him, saying: "I just didn’t want you to waste your time."