MINNEAPOLIS — The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has found the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) engages in unconstitutional policing.
The two-year investigation by DOJ — prompted by the 2020 police murder of George Floyd — found:
- MPD unlawfully discriminates against Black and Indigenous people, including disproportionately stopping and using force against them. Notably, MPD officers stopped recording required racial data about who they stopped after the murder of George Floyd. Yet from 2020 to 2022, MPD still stopped Black people at 7.8 times the rate of white people, and Indigenous people at 10 times the rate; the rate for searches was even worse.
- MPD uses unjustified excessive force, including deadly force, even when there was no immediate threat or reasonable suspicion. For example, the DOJ cited a police officer drawing his gun on a child and pinning that child to the hood of a car for not paying for a $5 burrito.
- MPD unlawfully discriminates against people with behavioral health disabilities, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. The vast majority of calls for behavioral health emergencies involved people who were unarmed and posed no threat. However, Minneapolis’ pilot crisis response program “lacks the capacity” to respond promptly, and police are still the default response.
- MPD retaliated against protesters and journalists engaging in First Amendment-protected activities during the demonstrations in response to George Floyd’s murder and journalists covering those protests. The DOJ cited an example of police officers beating, kicking and shoving protesters who were restrained. Additionally, DOJ found MPD retaliates against people who challenge unlawful police stops and who record police doing their jobs.
The ACLU-MN has filed three lawsuits seeking to address several of the unconstitutional MPD practices referenced in the DOJ report. The ACLU-MN settled a $600,000 lawsuit that limits MPD from arresting and attacking demonstrators in lawful protests. A second lawsuit on behalf of journalists arrested and assaulted by law enforcement while covering the George Floyd and Daunte Wright protests was settled against Minnesota State Patrol, but continues against the city of Minneapolis and others. The third lawsuit for the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information that challenges MPD’s policy of hiding disciplinary action by calling it “coaching” is ongoing.
The ACLU and ACLU-MN hope the city will agree to include all of DOJ’s recommendations in the coming consent decree, including policies that limit use of force, identify and reduce racial disparities, increase transparency and accountability, respect the First Amendment, strengthen civilian oversight, and expand the use of behavioral health experts.
As the MPD police chief and Minneapolis mayor acknowledged in a press conference, the police abuses long preceded George Floyd’s murder — an ACLU report found similar problems a decade ago. The city, police department, and DOJ have reached an agreement to negotiate a consent decree, and the ACLU and ACLU-MN call on all agencies to fulfill their promise to include community input.
The following statements can be attributed as noted:
Deepinder Mayell, executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota:
“The findings of the DOJ’s investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department are troubling, and sadly not surprising. Minneapolis residents — especially Black and Indigenous people, and people with behavioral health disabilities — have long been victim to excessive force and discriminatory treatment at the hands of MPD. Police have treated the people and the First Amendment with blatant disrespect by assaulting protesters and journalists. We hope the coming consent decree finally helps create a community where all people are safe, and police follow the law.”
Yasmin Cader, deputy legal director and director of the ACLU’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality:
“Every person deserves to be safe — and that includes being safe from police violence. Police violence isn’t limited to the more than 1,000 annual police killings, but also includes the daily violations people of color, low-income people, and people with disabilities face when they encounter police — violations which are rarely recorded or redressed.
“State and local authorities have a responsibility to change police cultures that breed violence. Minneapolis, while unique, is emblematic of national challenges related to policing and police violence. Ensuring that people are safe in their communities — including safe from police violence — requires robust investment in community safety solutions outside of policing while simultaneously holding police accountable to legal norms and the communities they serve.
“This can begin by establishing mechanisms inside and outside the police department that interrupt and prevent police violence, such as: civilian review boards with subpoena power; ensuring the harms from police violence are redressed, including compensation for those who are injured; and reducing reliance on police where armed responders are not needed. More importantly, ending police violence means empowering the impacted community to design accountability measures and define safety on their terms.
“As the DOJ enters negotiations for a consent decree, it is necessary that those closest to the harms of police violence are centered in the process.”