So far this summer, the Department of Justice has held at least 20 meetings around Minneapolis to better understand, from the community’s perspective, what to include in the consent decree with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).
A recent DOJ community meeting addressing discriminatory policing at Farview Park in North Minneapolis was attended by a small group of about 15 people. And, according to Dr. Chaunda Scott of the Minnesota’s Black Community Project, most of the attendees have been to past meetings the DOJ held. “It’s the same White people that come,” said Scott.
In June, the DOJ found the MPD engaged in patterns and practices of discriminatory policing, including that they are eager to use force, pull over people with darker skin colors, and retaliate against those who report on them. Since they announced the findings, the DOJ has been facilitating meetings around the city to understand what a consent decree should entail.
Scott is not confident that the DOJ’s consent decree will amount to anything, citing the incompetence of the facilitators as an example. “[The facilitators] are young, White kids that are only just reading what they know. But they’re not really invested,” said Scott.
“[One of the facilitators, a White woman,] didn’t even want to write down ‘anti-racist training’ until a White man said, ‘Could you write down what [Scott] said?’” Scott believes the DOJ needs a Black facilitator who is local and knows about policing issues in Minneapolis.
Some at the meeting believe that people need to take police accountability into their own hands. Others think the police need to do less, while some think the police need to be more involved in the community.
One of those who has lost confidence in the City being able to hold police accountable in doing their job is Mansoor Akhtar, a Loring Park resident who recounted being hassled by Minneapolis police officers. “[Minneapolis police] lost the videotapes of me getting assaulted [by their officers],” said Akhtar.
Akhtar suggested at the Farview Park meeting that people should start a website where citizens can give Minneapolis police officers reviews, just like how people can review items on Amazon. “If somebody’s watching you, you moderate your behavior,” reasoned Akhtar.
“If you have these kinds of things available in the public domain, then 90 percent of this problem will disappear. [Police] have unlimited power right now because everything is [hard to access],” he said.
One White woman at the meeting thinks police should be gradually defunded, with surplus funding to go to policing alternatives, saying that the police are less likely to cause problems if they are given less to do. Still, others at the meeting believe the opposite—giving them more to do—would result in them causing less problems.
“Let’s do something where they’re not doing eight hours of policing,” said Southsider Terinda Love. “Let’s do, like, maybe four hours of being an emergency person, for instance. Maybe a personal care assistant? You still have the gun and badge.” Love also said at the meeting that officers should be serving people meals and recounted when officers gave community members haircuts ahead of their court appearances.
Some contend that the DOJ is not looking at the bigger picture, saying that people in Minnesota can be racist and may be making [MPD] do racially discriminatory things. A former Minneapolis 911 dispatcher who was at the meeting recounted being reprimanded for refusing to dispatch police officers for a caller who wanted a vehicle with a Black male removed simply because they appeared to be suspicious.
“A lot of times we had people who call in and say, ‘There is a suspicious vehicle and there’s people in there. I want the police to get them out of here.’ I was told if [it’s a] call for service, we have to send the police out. It happened four or five times a day,” said former Minneapolis 911 dispatcher Eddie Osorio.
To help the MPD, which is short 300 officers, the dispatcher will often ask questions to clarify what the suspicion is. [When I ask], ‘What is suspicious? I need more information,’ they will call and complain and I will get in trouble,” said Osorio.
Community members who are interested in attending future sessions or providing their feedback on the consent decree can email email@example.com or call 866-432-0268.