Local police reform advocates gathered on Monday morning to call for a moratorium on the implementation of Minneapolis’s settlement agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (DHR), because the city took no accountability in the state agency’s findings.
The Unity Community Mediation Team (UCMT) held a press conference on April 3, in response to the settlement agreement between the City of Minneapolis and DHR on Friday, March 31. They expressed their frustration in feeling as though they were left out of the process despite having an influential role.
Rev. Ian Bethel, a pastor at New Beginnings Baptist Ministries where the press conference was held, was joined by members of the UCMT to voice their disapproval of the signed agreement. The organization, which dates back to the early 2000s, is a multicultural group of residents working to bring solutions around public safety and public health issues.
Rev. Bethel serves as the group’s chair and played a role in a 2003 agreement, which called for the reform of the Minneapolis Police Department then. The UCMT believes that their history in leading police reform and their involvement in reaching a settlement agreement were ignored.
“The content of the settlement agreement is really a reinstatement of the memorandum of understanding negotiated and signed by the Unity Community Mediation Team and the Minneapolis Police Department and vetted by the City Attorney’s office,” Bethel said. “The Unity Community Mediation Team objects to being erased from history, and we insist that you correct the record and acknowledge the key role of the UCMT, and the diverse organizations and communities represented on the Unity Community Mediation Team in the settlement agreement and your published narrative.”
The settlement agreement aims to reconstruct the city’s police department following the murder of George Floyd by former MPD officer Derek Chauvin. Last year, the DHR issued a report that found the police department were in violation of state law and exhibited a pattern of racial discrimination.
The Minneapolis City Council approved the settlement with an 11-0 vote, which was signed by Mayor Jacob Frey and Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero last Friday.
Commissioner Lucero and Mayor Frey both refer to the agreement as “a framework” to help guide the city in a direction that addresses race-based policing and upholds the integrity of public safety. Though the agreement is seen as legally binding, the city of Minneapolis and its police department admitted no fault to the findings of the DHR. This lack of accountability is what members of the UCMT believe falls short in the agreement.
“My biggest concern, as a Black man, is the lack of acknowledgement of the wrongdoing that our police officers have done to us,” said AJ Flowers, project coordinator for the Young People’s Task Force. “If we cannot acknowledge the discrimination and abuse that we have suffered, our African American brothers and sisters and our Native brothers and sisters, along with all our melanated brothers and sisters within this city of Minneapolis, then we will never move forward on a path of true justice.”
Minneapolis City Attorney Kristyn Anderson has stated that it is typical for a settlement agreement not to have an admission of liability. The agreement, she stated, was to come together for negotiations of reform.