MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The city of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights signed a “court-enforceable settlement agreement” Friday to revamp policing in the city where George Floyd was murdered by an officer nearly three years ago.
The agency issued a blistering report last year after an investigation found the police department had engaged in a pattern of race discrimination for at least a decade. The City Council approved the settlement in an 11-0 vote. Mayor Jacob Frey and Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero signed it soon after.
"The agreement isn't change, in and of itself, but it charts a clear roadmap to it,” Frey said at a news conference.
Lucero said: “This agreement serves as a model for how cities, police departments and community members across the country can work together to address race-based policing and strengthen public safety.”
The state agency launched its investigation shortly after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on Floyd's neck for 9 1/2 minutes on May 25, 2020, disregarding the Black man's fading pleas that he couldn't breathe. Floyd's death sparked mass protests around the world, forced a national reckoning on racial injustice, and compelled a Minneapolis Police Department overhaul.
Chauvin was convicted of murder. He and three other officers on the scene are serving prison terms.
“We didn't get here overnight, and change also won't happen overnight," Frey said. "This problem that we now face, it has taken hold over many generations, many administrations, mayors and chiefs, and clearly our Black and brown communities have taken the brunt of this.”
Lucero said the legally binding agreement requires the city and the police department to make “transformational changes" to fix the organizational culture at the heart of race-based policing.
She said it includes measures to ensure force is used “only when it is objectively reasonable, necessary and proportional” and never “to punish or retaliate.” Officers must de-escalate conflicts when possible. There will be limits on when and how officers can use chemical irritants and Tasers. And training in the disputed condition of excited delirium — a key issue in the confrontation that led to Floyd's death — will be banned. Stops for broken lights and searches based on the alleged smell of marijuana are banned.
Frey, Lucero and Police Chief Brian O'Hara said the agreement reflects feedback from and the concerns of the community and police officers.
“The court-enforceable agreement does not prohibit officers from relying on reasonable, articulatable suspicion or probable cause of criminal activity to enforce the law. We want officers to do their jobs," Lucero said.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump and other lawyers who won a $27 million settlement for the Floyd family called the agreement “monumental” and the “culmination of years of heartbreak and advocacy by those impacted by the poor policies and practices of the Minneapolis Police Department.”
The U.S. Department of Justice is still investigating whether Minneapolis police engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination. That investigation could lead to a separate agreement with the city known as a consent decree. City officials couldn't provide information on where that stands.
Several police departments nationwide operate under federal consent decrees. Justice Department and city officials asked a judge Tuesday to end most federal oversight of the Seattle police department, saying its sustained, decade-long reform efforts are a model for other cities.
The Minneapolis settlement, which requires court approval, also governs the use of body-worn and dashboard cameras; officer wellness; and response to mental health and behavioral crises. An independent evaluator must be appointed to monitor compliance.
Several council members criticized the police department and other city leaders.
“The lack of political will to take responsibility for MPD is why we are in this position today,” council member Robin Wonsley said. “This legal settlement formally and legally prevents city leadership from deferring that responsibility anymore. And I hope this settlement is a wake-up call for city leaders, who the public has watched rubber-stamp poor labor contracts, have signed off on endless misconduct settlements, and then shrugged their shoulders when residents asked then why we have a dysfunctional police department.”
Some activists were upset that the agreement wasn’t posted publicly until after the vote.
Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said she will ask the state data practices office whether the council acted legally. She said her group must study the agreement before commenting on its merits.
“This is not the way to start this process and vote on something the community’s going to have to live with for the next five or six years,” Gross said.
Even council members had only about a day to study and discuss the document.
“This is something we’ve been waiting for for a long time and my hope is the city will act with fidelity, the city will act with integrity, and the city will follow through.” civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong said.
Steve Karnowski, The Associated Press