Where efforts to change policing stand a year after George Floyd's death

A look at efforts in Minneapolis, Minnesota and at the national level.
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The murder of George Floyd has been a catalyst for change, with activists and some politicians calling for sweeping police reform in hopes of curbing police brutality toward people of color.

It's been a year since Floyd was killed outside of Cup Foods in south Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, spurring nationwide protests and louder calls for something to be done. 

There's been a lot of talk, proposals and demands in the past year, and although Derek Chauvin has been convicted of murdering Floyd, not much has been done in terms of lasting police reform and accountability measures that activists have been demanding for years. 

Here's a look at where such proposals stand in Minneapolis, Minnesota and in the U.S.

Minneapolis

Soon after Floyd was killed, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who oversees the MPD, announced several policy changes in hopes of rebuilding trust with Minneapolis residents, especially those of color. 

Among them: banning most no-knock raids, prohibiting officers from shooting at moving vehicles, banning chokeholds, overhauling the use-of-force policy, updating the de-escalation reporting requirements, and changing policy to prioritize Minneapolis residents when hiring new recruits for the MPD, among other changes. 

Frey has been criticized for a year by people saying he's not doing enough, and as recently as this month apologized after police in Anoka County carried out a "no-knock" raid at the request of MPD, only for MPD to provide the wrong address, resulting in an innocent family being held at gunpoint.

Frey told the Sahan Journal major changes are underway within the MPD. He gave the publication a detailed account of his future plans, which you can read it here

Related [May 18, 2021]: Minneapolis mayor reveals his plan for policing changes

Meanwhile, in June of last year, several Minneapolis City Council members proposed replacing the Minneapolis Police Department with a public safety department that has a public health-oriented approach. Something Frey, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and a few council members do not support (they'd prefer targeted reforms to change the current MPD).

The council members' proposal didn't make it on the ballot in 2020, but council members and a group called Yes 4 Minneapolis are making progress in putting similar but separate proposals up for a vote in Minneapolis this year. There are still some steps to complete on this before they make it on the ballot, so stay tuned. 

The work to reform the MPD and calls to shift funding away from officers to focus on other aspects of public safety have been overshadowed by a rise in crime for the past year — something all major cities in the U.S. are dealing with amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last fall, Chief Arradondo asked for more funding to hire outside officers to help respond to the spike in crime in the city after losing a record number of officers to attrition. The City Council approved the joint enforcement aid money, but the MPD and other agencies never finalized the contracts so it didn't use the money

Then, the Minneapolis City Council in February unanimously approved releasing $6.4 million of the $11.4 million in the newly created Public Safety Staffing Reserve Fund to the MPD so it could hire more officers, the Star Tribune reported. At the time, the MPD was down about 200 officers. 

And this week, after a mass shooting in downtown Minneapolis over the weekend that killed two and injured eight and a slew of other violent incidents, Frey said the city has asked state and federal agencies for help dealing with the violence because the city is still short on officers.

But some council members are saying that's the wrong approach, and instead funding for officers should be allocated to social programs and other initiatives that would prevent the violence Minneapolis is experiencing.

This all is happening as Frey's and Arradondo's offices have allegedly been working with Operation Safety Now, a pro-police group, to lobby council members and sway public opinion in hopes of getting support for increased MPD funding, according to a Minnesota Reformer investigation. Read more about what the publication uncovered via records requests here

Meanwhile, the MPD's policing patterns are the focus of two investigations, one by the U.S. Department of Justice and the other by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. 

Minnesota

Following Floyd's murder, the Minnesota Legislature last summer passed a police accountability package that included a ban on most chokeholds and warrior-style training, with the hope lawmakers would do more in the months to come. 

But that didn't happen. 

Efforts to make major policing changes at the state level have been blocked or weakened, with those opposed to changes — mostly Republicans — citing things like the civil unrest after Floyd's death, the surge in crime and the effort to dismantle the MPD as reasons to not pass major reform. 

The Democratic-controlled House throughout the session held hearings on police reform, including many of the community-centered proposals the Minnesota People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus suggested, and demanded the Republican-controlled Senate do the same. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, after Daunte Wright, a Black man, was killed by Brooklyn Center police on April 11 said he'd hold hearings on the proposals but then they were canceled

In the end, the Senate passed an omnibus public safety bill without the DFL-backed police reform measures. A few days later, the House passed a different version of the bill that included reform measures, such as limiting officers' ability to stop or detain people at traffic stops for petty misdemeanors, allocate $14 million to body-worn cameras, limit no-knock search warrants, expand mental health response training and allow local governments to have citizen oversight councils.

The bill was sent to a conference committee but the session ended without anything getting passed. A special session is expected for June because the Legislature didn't agree on any budget bills during the regular session, which ended May 17. 

Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders did say they've reached an agreement on a new two-year budget, which if it gets passed next month would avert a government shutdown on July 1. But they did say their agreement doesn't include any policy and such policy provisions would still have to be ironed out and agreed on in conference committees. 

So as of now, the Minnesota Legislature finished the 2021 session without passing any major police reform measures. 

And the POCI Caucus on the anniversary of Floyd's death released a statement, questioning what has changed since Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds and demanding reform get passed during the upcoming special session. 

"While our world has changed, the laws through which we experience and manage our world have not changed nearly enough. Unless we enact meaningful reform, distrust, disenfranchisement, and disinvestment will only continue to grow in our communities," the statement reads, in part. "It is time our laws, systems, and real implementation of public safety catch up with this new worldview. 

"There is no going back to a pre-George Floyd world, and it is our duty as legislators to adapt our society to this new reality so we may ensure safety, justice, and peace for all."

The caucus blamed Republicans for the lack of reform passed during the session, saying they used the caucus' calls for change "as bargaining chips to secure tax cuts for the wealthy" and continue to "devalue our lived experience and the experience of our communities."

The 22-member caucus notes the mindset on how communities are affected by police and the role police play in people's safety has "permanently shifted" since Floyd's murder but "whether this is a true sea change that will impact our entire nation remains to be seen."

"While the murderer was held accountable, and we managed to pass a modicum of police accountability legislation last year, we are meeting increased resistance from the status quo against our calls for more significant reforms" the statement adds. 

The POCI Caucus is calling on its colleagues in the Legislature to pass bills that will "transform our public safety and justice systems" and ask Republicans to "cease their obstruction so we can improve the safety of all Minnesotans."

While significant reform hasn't been approved at the state level, the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board agreed to adopt two new policies — one for law enforcement when they respond to protests, and the other that would ban officers who affiliate with white supremacist groups (a proposal the GOP-led Senate shot down a few times). 

And other entities in Minnesota are also pushing for change, from healthcare systems to other cities and their police departments. Among them is Brooklyn Center, where Mayor Mike Eliot in the month since Wright was killed has made several changes to the department and has offered additional proposals, including having unarmed city staff members respond to mental health calls and some traffic stops. 

National

Floyd's death sparked protests across the U.S. and world, and led to a push for policing reform at the national level, but U.S. Congress has yet to pass the major police reform bill. 

President Joe Biden, who plans to meet with members of Floyd's family at the White House on Tuesday, set a deadline for Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act by the anniversary of Floyd's death. 

And it looks like Congress will miss that deadline. 

The Democrat-controlled U.S. House passed the 2020 version of the bill on June 25, 2020, and passed the 2021 version on March 3 on a largely party-line vote. The U.S. Senate, which was controlled by Republicans until the 2020 election but is now evenly split 50-50, hasn't yet passed the bill. 

While Congress will miss the president's deadline, discussions on the bill are moving forward, with Rep. Karen Bass, D-California, who is leading the discussions, telling ABC News bipartisanship is needed to pass the bill and she's hopeful that will happen. 

“Bipartisanship is everything if we want to get the bill on President Biden’s desk,” she told ABC News. “The only way to do that is to bring a bipartisan bill in the Senate, and I’m very hopeful that we will be able to accomplish that.”

The New York Times says because the Senate is divided 50-50, the bill needs Republican support because it requires 60 votes to avoid a filibuster threat. 

However, the publication notes the need for compromise on the bill could threaten some of the priorities in the bill, like making it easier to hold police legally accountable for misconduct. 

The proposal would also

  • Restrict the use of certain policing practices
  • Enhance transparency and data collection
  • Establish best practices and training requirements
  • Create a National Police Misconduct Registry
  • Direct the Department of Justice to create uniform accreditation standards for law enforcement agencies
  • Establish a framework to prevent and remedy racial profiling by law enforcement at federal, state and local levels
  • Limit the unnecessary use of force
  • Take steps to redirect funding to community-based policing
  • Restrict the use of no-knock warrants, chokeholds and carotid holds
  • Lower the criminal intent standard to convict an officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution
  • Limit qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against an officer
  • Grant administrative subpoena power to the DOJ in pattern-or-practice investigations

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