Judge approves agreement between Minneapolis, Minnesota Department of Human Rights
A Hennepin County judge signed a court enforceable settlement agreement between the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights on Thursday.
Speaking from the bench Thursday afternoon, Judge Karen Janisch said she would allow the two parties to move forward with the agreement that they negotiated.
“I am going to approve it as it has been presented to the court,” Janisch stated before the end of the hearing.
The Minneapolis City Council approved the agreement at the end of March.
“The agreement is the first of its kind in the state of Minnesota,” Minneapolis City Attorney Kristyn Anderson said.
The agreement follows a multi-year state investigation that found the Minneapolis Police Department engaged in a “pattern and practice of race discrimination”.
It includes additional requirements for supervisors and how they will have increased access to body-worn cameras, as well as a new focus on the well-being of officers.
According to MDHR, the agreement also requires the city and its police department to require officers to deescalate, prohibit officers from using force to punish or retaliate, ban searches based on alleged smells of cannabis, prohibit so-called consent searches during pedestrian or vehicle stops, and restrict less-lethal uses of force — including rubber bullets, chemical irritants and Tasers. The agency adds the agreement doesn’t prohibit an officer from relying on reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity to enforce the law.
It also calls for an independent evaluation team to support the city and MPD as they make the required changes, track the progress of the implementation and provide regular reports.
After four years, the independent evaluator will provide a “comprehensive termination evaluation”, which will determine whether the agreement ends or continues. The independent evaluator is selected by the city and MDHR.
“We know from talking to other cities that similar agreements have taken far more than four years,” Anderson noted while addressing the court. “So we don’t necessarily anticipate that the city will achieve full compliance on all pieces of the agreement by then but we will work hard to get full compliance on as many as we can as soon as we can.”
The city and MDHR have 120 days to select an independent evaluator, according to the agreement.
The city has already requested proposals and received six responses. According to Anderson, there will likely be a lead monitor supported by a team of experts. The city has set a pay cap for the monitor at $1.5 million per year.
“I anticipate the first year of the agreement is a huge amount of work and undertaking and imagine after that, the evaluation team might get smaller but it really is flexible in its design,” she said.
Anderson said the monitor will approve the proposed policy revisions before the city can move forward to implementation and training.
Thursday’s hearing also comes less than a month after the U.S. Department of Justice announced its findings from an investigation into MPD, saying the department “engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the first and fourth amendment of the United States Constitution.”
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland added that the DOJ also has reason to believe there have been violations of not only Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, but also the Safe Streets Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
If there is a conflict between the court enforceable settlement agreement approved Thursday and the expected DOJ consent decree that prevents the implementation of provisions of the court order, the city said it will renegotiate the settlement agreement to resolve the conflict. Any changes would require court approval.
“We don’t anticipate conflict,” said Assistant Attorney General Megan McKenzie, who represented MDHR. “It really has to be a situation where you can’t comply with both things”
According to McKenzie, one independent monitor will ultimately oversee both the state and federal agreements. The DOJ is providing feedback on the current search. If federal court appoints a different monitor to oversee the consent decree from the one selected by the state and city for the settlement agreement, the contract with that independent evaluator will be terminated. In that case, McKenzie explained, the federally appointed monitor would take over enforcing the state agreement.
Several members of the community attended the hearing.
Toshira Garraway, the founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, felt encouraged by the progress.
“We have a set of rules to tell human beings how to treat other human beings like human beings and so that part is really heavy for me, when you really think about what a consent decree is,” said Garraway. “But it gives me a little bit of hope that going forward people will understand if you mistreat someone, there is a set of rules in place to hold you accountable for that.”
Read the full settlement agreement below: