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October 27, 2014

St. Paul, Minn, - The American Civil Liberties Union has released data that shows dramatic racial disparities in the Minneapolis Police Department's arrest rates for a number of low-level non-violent offenses from 2004 – 2012. The data released covers white and African American arrest rates for four low-level non-violent offenses: marijuana possession, disorderly conduct, vagrancy, and juvenile curfew violations/loitering. In conjunction with the data release, the ACLU-MN sent a letter  to Mayor Hodges and Police Chief Harteau calling their attention to this alarming data and urging them to investigate the causes of these racial disparities and the solutions that could transform the Minneapolis Police Department into an institution that treats all parts of the City's community fairly and reflects the City's progressive values. The ACLU released the data and sent the letter to provide additional context for the Mayor and the Police Chief's ongoing discussions with the community about policing in Minneapolis.

"The Department is not meeting its Constitutional duty to protect and serve everyone equally and fairly," said Emma Andersson staff attorney for the ACLU. "An arrest – even without a conviction – makes it harder for anyone to get a job and rent an apartment, and it can significantly limit educational opportunities."
The Minneapolis Police Department's own data, as reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting, reveals that between 2004 and 2012, an African American individual was, on average:

  • 11.5 times more likely to be arrested than a white individual for marijuana possession;
  • 8.86 times more likely to be arrested than a white individual for disorderly conduct;
  • 7.54 times more likely to be arrested than a white individual for vagrancy; and
  • 16.39 times more likely to be arrested than a white juvenile for curfew/loitering

"The Minneapolis Police Department has the ability to change its policing practices for enforcing these non-violent low-level arrests," said Charles Samuelson, Executive Director of the ACLU-MN. "These arrests are largely subjective and therefore prone to the abusive exercise of officer discretion. The Mayor and Police Chief need to reassess its current arrest practices and take into account these alarming disparities when working on a plan for the Department's future.