The Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD) Fourth Precinct police station has been the source of much strife, contention, negativity, lingering protests, outrage, and hostility as a result of the demeaning, discriminatory, and abusive treatment that many officers have displayed towards North Minneapolis residents.
Just three years ago, the Fourth Precinct was the site of an 18-day occupation by activists and community members following the shooting death of Jamar Clark. Clark was a 24-year-old Black man, who despite being unarmed, was shot in the head at point-blank range by Minneapolis police officers within 61 seconds of encountering him.
Neither of the two officers was held accountable and will likely remain on the police force, although both officers had a history of excessive force prior to being hired by the MPD.
Since Clark’s death on November 15, 2015, Fourth Precinct police officers have shot and killed two other men of color, both within the last six months — Thurman Blevins and Travis Jordan.
Both of these tragic situations could have ended much differently with proper de-escalation techniques and mental health interventions and the lives of these men could have been preserved. Again, there has been no accountability for the officers in question, leaving the community in jeopardy and without any real assurances that similar incidents will not happen again.
In addition to deadly police shootings at the hands of Fourth Precinct police officers, North Minneapolis residents are routinely subjected to racial profiling and bogus traffic stops for petty reasons, such as failure to use a turn signal, illegal searches and seizures, undue harassment, and criminalization.
Our community has made repeated requests for an evaluation of the systemic patterns of police misconduct and abuse arising from Fourth Precinct police officers, to no avail. Were the MPD to mine its own data, patterns would emerge showing that these issues are occurring with regularity and are causing significant harm and trauma to an already under-resourced and over-burdened community.
Most recently, the Fourth Precinct was the site of yet another egregious incident: a racist Christmas tree display that was taken down only after a public outcry. Although two officers are allegedly being investigated for their role as perpetrators (and we expect that they will be fired), the question remains as to how many other Fourth Precinct officers and supervisors knew about the racist display and said or did nothing?
These individuals are just as culpable as the two officers responsible for decorating the tree. Their collective silence and acquiescence to police misconduct, racism, and demeaning of an entire community are reflective of a culture that is in dire need of change and a radical overhaul.
Thus, as concerned community members from across the Metro area, we write to you today to demand that the staffing and leadership of the Fourth Precinct Police station be completely restructured.
- We demand that a specific and narrowly-tailored plan for community policing be implemented, that includes input from North Minneapolis residents and stakeholders.
- We demand that every officer and staff member be required to reapply for a job at the Fourth Precinct under this new plan.
- We demand that officers who have a history of excessive force complaints, discipline, domestic abuse, and harassment be denied access to operate out of the Fourth Precinct.
- We demand greater levels of racial diversity of officers placed at the Fourth Precinct and that civilian positions for North Minneapolis residents will be created.
- We demand the creation of a Northside police advisory commission that has regular access to Chief Arradondo, Mayor Frey, and senior leadership of the Fourth Precinct, as well as data regarding arrests, traffic stops, and complaints lodged against Fourth Precinct police officers.
- Finally, we demand that the Fourth Precinct no longer serves as a drop off location for Toys for Tots and that the site is transferred to a trusted community location.
We request a public response to each of these demands by Monday, December 17, 2018. Please take the concerns and suggestions seriously, for the sake of residents who are forced to rely upon city leaders to do their jobs effectively and diligently and to work to protect us.
Thank you in advance for your consideration and response.
Nekima Levy Armstrong, attorney, and co-founder, Racial Justice Network
Marques Armstrong, co-founder, Racial Justice Network
Raeisha Williams, Black Coalition
Chauntyll Allen, Black Lives Matter Twin Cities
Nekima Levy Armstrong is a civil rights attorney, former law professor, activist, legal scholar, and national racial justice expert. She is the founder and owner of Levy Armstrong, PLLC Law Firm & Black Pearl, LLC Consulting. In 2017, she was named 100 People to Know by Twin Cities Business. In 2016, she received the Distinguished Service Award from the Governor’s Commission on Martin Luther King Day. In 2015, she was named one of “40 Under 40” by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. In 2014, she was named a “Minnesota Attorney of the Year” by Minnesota Lawyer and recognized as one of “50 Under 50 Most Influential Law Professors of Color in the Country” by Lawyers of Color Magazine.