City-commissioned analysis of civil unrest falls short

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Biased toward police, report all but ignores community impacts

The Minneapolis City Council received a report recently on police operations during the uprising after the murder of George Floyd. The council had commissioned this report from security organization Hillard Heintze (now known as Jensen Hughes). 

In its advertising, Hillard Heintze bills itself as “one of the leading security risk management firms in the world, serving Fortune-ranked enterprises, professional sports leagues and law enforcement agencies as well as many of the world’s most affluent families.”

The City paid $229,490.55 for the 86-page report. Despite their claims of providing a thorough analysis of the uprising, the Hillard Heintze report is written from the perspective of how police can organize to more effectively suppress dissent in the future. The bias toward police could not be more obvious:

  • The report is littered with references to “violent protesters” but fails to acknowledge violent policing and its impact on the community, including the police violence that led to the murder of Mr. Floyd and the shooting and beating of Jaleel Stallings.
  • There are only scant references to the injuries suffered by protesters. The New England Journal of Medicine report on these injuries was only included in the report at the insistence of one of our board members, who attended the two public hearings held by Hillard Heintze.
  • There is not a single mention of the violations of civil rights and injuries experienced by members of the media.
  • There is no mention of the role of White Supremacists, who used the uprising to attack businesses owned by People of Color in an attempt to start a “race war.”
  • There is an extensive emphasis on officer well-being, including a rather bizarre discussion of officer feelings of loneliness while “on the front lines.”

Part of the reason so little was mentioned in the report about impacts to the community is that there was little effort to hear from the community. Hillard Heintze held two “listening sessions”—one mid-day on a Thursday and one in the early evening on a Friday. These were poorly advertised and only through city channels, thus were poorly attended. 

Not a single Person of Color attended the Thursday event and only one attendee, our board member, had participated in the protests following the murder of George Floyd. This pattern repeated itself at the Friday event, though there was one Person of Color at that event and two people who had participated in protests.

The report’s biased framing led to recommendations that will, if followed, take the City in the wrong direction. However, this result comes as no surprise to anyone who has analyzed Hillard Heintze’s after-action reports in other cities. It would appear that the City specifically chose this vendor, even over less expensive bids, to assure a whitewash of police violence in an attempt to escape liability for harms to the community and grievously injured individuals.

A true and unbiased after-action report is still badly needed as a guide for effective reforms, not just in this instance but in all police critical incidents, including the killings of Terrance Franklin, Jamar Clark, Justine Damond Ruszczyk, Thurman Blevins, Travis Jordan, Dolal Idd and many others.

Michelle Gross is president of Communities United Against Police Brutality.

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