State asks Minneapolis leaders for consent decree to reform police department

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Following a scathing report released Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MNDHR), the state is looking to use a consent decree to ensure reforms within the Minneapolis Police Department.

The nearly two-year investigation into MPD found in the last 10 years, the department engaged in a pattern or practices of race discrimination, violating the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

During a presentation on the findings, Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said that the state would be seeking a consent decree with the department, a court-enforced, legally-binding agreement.

“Because the consent decree is issued by a judge, it is the judge who holds parties accountable, with monitors that report the progress directly to the judge,” Lucero said.

Responding to the findings Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Jacob Frey said he’s open to a consent decree.

“We need to do right by our Black community, we need to do right by our city. We also need to acknowledge that decisions that are made today will have long-lasting impact to present and future administrations, so we got to get this right,” Frey said.

Former Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey said a consent decree is a powerful tool that Minnesota is uniquely situated to use in this case.

“Very few states have a statewide agency dedicated to ensuring that human rights and civil rights are protected,” Lindsey told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. 

Consent decrees are typically utilized by the U.S. Department of Justice, after investigators conduct pattern or practices investigations into violations of civil rights.

Last year, after the DOJ announced its investigation into MPD, 5 INVESTIGATES traveled to New Mexico, where the Albuquerque Police Department’s been under federal, court-ordered reforms for the last eight years.

In Albuquerque, law enforcement officials and reform advocates said a consent decree in their city led to a long, complex, and difficult process that further tested the relationship between police and the community.

Those individuals also warned the investigation and subsequent agreement could lead to years of federal oversight.

But Lindsey said a consent decree is one of the best ways to hold parties accountable for long-lasting changes.

“That agreement, being a legally-binding document, then gives folks the ability to come back and say to the city, to the police department, you’re not living up to what you said you were going to do in that agreement,” Lindsey said.

With the federal investigation in Minneapolis still looming, Lucero said the state and federal probes and any settlements that follow are separate.

Lucero noted the city could end up with that two consent decrees — one from the state and one from the federal government.

“It is possible to have multiple consent decrees against any entity at any point in time,” Lucero said. “I’m not sure where this will take us next.”