Mayor says he’s outraged and horrified, but some question his sincerity
After a nearly two-year investigation, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) has found the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) engaged in a pattern of racial and gender discrimination.
According to the 72-page report released on April 27, MPD is more likely to stop, search, cite, arrest, and use force against Black civilians than their White counterparts. They also had a pattern of using racist and sexist epithets on body camera footage, and used fake social media accounts to surveil activists who were not suspected of a crime.
The report was compiled based on interviews conducted by the MDHR with a wide variety of City officials and MPD officers and administrators, as well as 2,200 community members who have interacted with MPD.
Statistics from between 2010 to present, 480,000 pages of City and MPD documents, and 700 hours of body camera footage were also examined for the report. MDHR Commissioner Rebecca Lucero and Deputy Commissioner Irina Vaynerman held a press conference on Wednesday to present the findings.
“This investigation is not about one individual or one instance, but whether there is a pattern within the police department of treating people of color and indigenous people differently because of their race,” Lucero said.
According to the findings, Black people are almost twice as likely to be pulled over by the MPD than White people. Also, 78% of vehicle searches were conducted against Black people despite Black people comprising 19% of Minneapolis’s demographic makeup.
“We found that MPD officers are more likely to stop vehicles with people of color and Indigenous individuals, and they treat Black and White individuals differently once they have pulled someone over,” Lucero said.
The report also found that the use of racist and misogynistic language was common in the department, and that officers were not consistently reprimanded for such language.
“According to body-worn camera footage, discipline records, statements from community members, and interviews with MPD officers, some MPD officers and supervisors use racial slurs,” the report states. “They call Black individuals ‘n*****s’ and ‘monkeys’ and call Black women ‘Black b*****s.’
“One MPD supervisor referred to Somali men as ‘orangutans.’ Similarly, community members reported examples of MPD officers calling Latino individuals ‘beaners.’ MPD officers reported that their colleagues called fellow Black MPD officers ‘nappy head’ and ‘cattle.’”
The MDHR reports that the MPD used “covert social media accounts” where MPD officers posed as community members to “surveil and engage Black individuals, Black organizations, and elected officials unrelated to criminal activity, without a public safety objective.”
The report states that one officer used a fake account to RSVP to the birthday party of “a prominent Black civil rights lawyer and activist.” Some community members have speculated this event may refer to the birthday of local Civil Rights Lawyer Nekima Levy Armstrong. Levy Armstrong did not return a request for comment.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who has control over the MPD, reviewed the report and called it “repugnant, at times horrific… It made me sick to my stomach and outraged and I think that our community feels the same way,” Frey said.
Frey acknowledged that racial discrimination by Minneapolis police is not new to the Black community. “They’ve been saying this for years, for decades and for generations, they’ve been talking about the misconduct that was identified,” Frey said
Some community members expressed doubt over the sincerity of Frey’s reaction to the report.
“I’m still trippin that the mayor referred to the MDHR report as ‘horrific’ as if this is the first time he has heard of any of this info,” local activist D.A. Bullock said in a tweet. “He is still playing for the ignorant seats, still betting on the willful ignorance or disinterest of the city.”
Lucero said the MDHR will work with the City to develop a consent decree, a legally binding document that will require the City to address issues found in the report.
The judge that issues the consent decree would enforce it and would be given regular updates on each party’s progress by an independent oversight agent. Lucero adds the City does not need to change collective bargaining agreements to implement culture and policy changes at the MPD.
“This process does not start and it does not end with these findings,” Lucero said. “The City has made and continues to make efforts to address these concerns, and as we know throughout the determination the City can make immediate changes that are fully within control of the City and MPD and do not require modifications to any collective bargaining agreement or state law.”
Citizens can submit comments on what they would like to see in a consent decree by calling the MDHR at 651-539-1100 or through their online contact form at mn.gov/mdhr/mpd/contactus
Henry Pan contributed to this story. Connect with Pan at email@example.com.
Cole Miska is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.