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Survey: Non-white residents feel MPD officers not held accountable for misconduct

Recent news investigations have found complaints against officers don't often lead to discipline.

Many non-white residents believe that officers in the Minneapolis Police Department are not held accountable for their misconduct, a new survey says. 

The survey, conducted by the Leadership Conference Education Fund in the months before and after George Floyd's May 25 death during his arrest by now-former MPD officers, found nearly 75% of Black respondents don't believe Minneapolis officers face accountability for misconduct.

Meanwhile, 56.3% of Native Americans and 54.7% of Latinos surveyed said officers weren't held accountable for misconduct, according to the survey, which involved 498 respondents who identified as Black, Native American or Latino.

The survey concludes that the MPD "does not respect the community, is not culturally competent, is not part of or from the community, is racist, rude, lacks compassion, and uses excessive force that has resulted in general mistrust."

“Communities are truly safe when an accountable, transparent public safety system protects the health and well-being of every resident. This report reveals the extent to which communities of color in Minneapolis do not feel respected, protected, or heard by law enforcement,” Lynda Garcia, director of The Leadership Conference Education Fund policing program said in a statement

Garcia added, “Tragedies like the murder of George Floyd are symptomatic of an unjust policing system that criminalizes Black, Latino, and Native American people and other people of color. In Minneapolis and across the country, these systemic problems require community-led solutions that prioritize equity, accountability, transparency, and healing.”

Investigations by media outlets in the wake of Floyd's death have found that MPD officers are often not held accountable. Nearly 800 misconduct complaints filed against MPD officers since 2016 have gone uninvestigated, while another report found only 1.5% of complaints against officers between 2013-2019 lead to "suspensions, terminations or demotions."

In a story published Tuesday titled "The Bad Cops: How Minneapolis protects its worst police officers until it's too late," The Minnesota Reformer dug deep into this issue using information obtained via public records requests and a subsequent lawsuit, despite the MPD often touting its transparency and accountability.

The MPD is "notoriously ineffective at removing bad cops from its ranks," the Reformer found, noting that only in the most "egregious acts of abuse," such as Floyd's killing and when Mohamed Noor fatally shot Justine Damond, are officers removed from the force.

Disciplinary files obtained by the publication show "a department that is slow to address accusations of abuse" when they do happen, including punishments that come years after an incident with officers later getting their jobs back or are promoted following an appeal and union arbitration. 

The Reformer takes a look at the history of the MPD's "warrior cops" training and its record of cops using excessive force, which doesn't often result in discipline but instead leads to rewards for the officers.

This culture continues today. The Star Tribune in June reported about the reputation of the Minneapolis' Third Precinct, which serves as a playground for renegade cops, noting the policing tactics used during Floyd's arrest have been standard practice for some officers at the Third Precinct when they're dealing with nonviolent, low-level crimes. 

And these incidents are not often reported thanks to the blue wall of silence – officers don't want to report the misconduct of their colleagues, they minimize what happened or say they didn't see anything, the Reformer says.

Instead, the MPD has a "pattern" of relying on citizens to file a complaint in order for the MPD to investigate an incident. 

And when cases are investigated, it can take years for an officer to be disciplined, if they ever are. This can lead to officers with several complaints against them continuing to work. 

For example, Derek Chauvin, the former cop charged in Floyd's death, was serving as a training officer despite having a record that included 17 public complaints against him – all of them were closed with no discipline, except for a letter of reprimand in two incidents.

Prosecutors in the Floyd case have since revealed Chauvin was involved in other incidents of excessive force prior to the May 25 incident, including in 2017 when he knelt on a teenager's back for 17 minutes while he said he couldn't breathe. This incident only became public when prosecutors included the details in court documents related to the Floyd case. 

Failing to discipline and terminate problem officers can lead to the City of Minneapolis having to pay out large settlements to victims or victims' families following the use of force incidents, something that has become commonplace for the city over the years. 

It has also led to distrust between residents and officers, especially residents of color. 

For decades, the MPD has had strained relationships with communities of color and that remains, highlighted in the Leadership Conference Education Fund survey, as well as in disparities in MPD officers' use of force data. The data show Black people make up more than 62% of the use of force incidents from 2008-May 2019 while only making up 19.4% of the city's population.

Just over 71% of the respondents in the Leadership Conference Education survey said they're "very unsatisfied" or "unsatisfied" with the MPD's use of force and more than 82% said they don't know or don't think the MPD provides necessary accessibility services to all community members.

Meanwhile, more than half of those who responded to the survey said the MPD's role in supporting safety needs to change, while the majority said they believe community entities besides the MPD (mental and social work agencies, faith groups, etc.) could play a role in meeting safety challenges in Minneapolis.

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The results of the survey mirror the reforms community activists have been pushing for, which were heightened following Floyd's death.

But despite immediate calls from the City Council to disband the MPD altogether, change in Minneapolis has been slow going.

Last week, the Minneapolis City Council voted to cut nearly $8 million from the MPD budget despite for months calling for defunding the department by moving money to other programs aimed at improving public safety. It also voted against a measure to reduce the size of the MPD.

Meanwhile, the city is experiencing a surge in violent crime this year.

The Minnesota Reformer's investigation into the MPD's disciplinary records and how it protects its problem officers is worth a read. Check it out here

Bring Me The News has reached out to the MPD for comment on the survey.

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