The Minneapolis Police Department routinely engages in multiple forms of racially discriminatory policing, fails to hold officers accountable for misconduct and has used fake social media accounts to target Black people and organizations, according to a damning investigation released Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
The Police Department has a “culture that is averse to oversight and accountability,” and city and department leaders have failed to act with “the necessary urgency, coordination, and intentionality required” to correct its problems, the investigation concluded.
The Minneapolis police have been under intense scrutiny since cellphone cameras captured the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a police officer during an arrest May 25, 2020. The state’s human rights investigation began about a week later. The department is under a similar investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Both investigations could result in consent decrees, agreements that are overseen by monitors and enforced by the courts. Such agreements generally include a long list of required changes, bench marks and timelines. The state human rights department is seeking public comment on what such a consent decree should include.
Its investigation found that officers stopped, searched, arrested, ticketed, used force on and killed Black and Indigenous people at a higher rate than white people. Although Black individuals make up approximately 19% of the population, in 10 years of data, 63% of the instances in which officers recorded the use of force were against Black people, the report said.
The department did not have enough data to look at treatment of other racial and ethnic groups, state Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said at a news conference.
Investigators reviewed 700 hours of body camera footage, finding that officers and supervisors used racist, misogynistic and disrespectful language to suspects, witnesses, bystanders — and to one another. The report provides an exhaustive list of slurs that officers used against women and Black people.
The disrespect was so flagrant that local prosecutors said it was difficult to present body camera videos to juries, according to the report. “When MPD officers scream obscenities at community members, it makes it challenging for prosecutors to do their job.”
Officers used “covert social media accounts,” which the report said were “unrelated to any actual or alleged criminal activity,” to observe and engage with elected officials, Black individuals and organizations, sometimes posing as community members to engage or comment. In one instance, the report said, an officer posed as a Black resident to send a message criticizing the NAACP.
Floyd was killed after two rookie officers responded to a call that he had tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. Floyd declined to get into the squad car. A field training officer, Derek Chauvin, and his partner arrived to provide backup. Chauvin forced Floyd to the pavement and knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes, while his partner stood guard and the two rookies helped pin Floyd down.
Chauvin was convicted of murder and pleaded guilty to federal civil rights violations. The three other officers have been convicted of failure to intervene or provide medical aid and still face state charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
Although field training officers like Chauvin have tremendous sway over rookies, the department does not offer ongoing instruction for them, the investigation found — an oversight that it said “furthers race-based policing.” It cited a 2020 case in which a training officer allowed a trainee to search a Black woman who was unarmed, but said that searching an intoxicated white man who admitted to having a knife in his bag would be a waste of the trainee’s time.
The investigation found that the department still fails to empower officers to intervene when they see something wrong. On the first day of training in 2021, the report said, recruits were told that “instant and unquestioned compliance is in order.”
That attitude trickles down — MPD officers demand unquestioned compliance in “even the most banal interactions,” community members told investigators. More than 2,000 residents were interviewed.
Since the 2021 academy class, the department has begun peer-intervention training for all officers.
Mayor Jacob Frey and the police department have touted numerous policy changes since the killing of Floyd, including banning chokeholds and neck restraints and updating the department’s use-of-force policy.
But officers reported that they in some cases had to wait a year or more to hear the details. In the case of the new use-of-force policy, which includes the new limits on restraints, investigators found that officers were provided with only a 15-minute “narrated PowerPoint presentation” on the changes.
The department lacks accountability measures from top to bottom, the investigators found. They said more than one-third of officers who are referred for coaching, the least severe form of intervention, do not receive it, and that supervisors fail to flag excessive uses of force.
The report cited a 2017 case in which an officer hit an unarmed 14-year-old in his bedroom with a flashlight and choked him until he lost consciousness, all because the teenager did not stand up quickly when ordered to do so. A supervisor approved the officer’s actions.
The report said the entities responsible for investigating misconduct often fail to review body camera footage, or give deference to officers over witnesses. It said that the department’s internal affairs unit handled one-quarter of complaints improperly, and the Office of Police Conduct Review, which includes civilian investigators, mishandled half of the complaints it investigated.
As of midafternoon Wednesday, neither the police department nor Frey’s office had responded to requests for comment.