Community group calls for halt in implementing Minneapolis police reforms
Days after the city of Minneapolis approved significant reforms for its police department, some community members are calling for a pause on their implementation.
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) filed complaint and a proposed joint agreement Friday to revamp policing in Minneapolis after a state investigation found a “pattern or practice of race discrimination” by the Minneapolis Police Department.
Unity Community Mediation Team (UCMT) and members of other community groups gathered Monday to voice concerns about how the settlement agreement was handled. UCMT said they are upset because they were left out of the negotiation process, which is not a requirement by the state.
“We’re not involved in the actual negotiation process. When the consent decree was released, community members nor council members even had time to review before this was even agreed upon,” said AJ Flowers with UCMT Youth Task Force.
“The community that was injured by the racial discrimination this agreement says it is responding to has been cut out of the process,” said Ian Bethal, UCMT chair. “This is more of the same practice of denial and exclusion.”
MDHR reports extensive community outreach took place last summer. The agency heard from more than 2,200 people, with 43% of them being people of color or Indigenous. MDHR also conducted 15 community sessions outside of its regular meetings with community groups, including UCMT.
“This intentional engagement allowed the Minnesota Department of Human Rights to bring ideas directly from community members to the negotiation table with the City of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Police Department,” an MDHR spokesperson said. “As a result the court enforceable agreement — between MDHR and the City — contains many provisions that are based on what community members shared.”
The spokesperson added that MDHR and the City entered into this court enforceable agreement, also known as a consent decree, to avoid the risks, expense, and burdens of litigation and to voluntarily resolve the claims raised by the Commissioner and MDHR.
Community members also voiced concerns that “the City and MPD did not and do not admit or agree with the findings” according to the settlement agreement.
“If you don’t admit to the fault, you can’t acknowledge to the abuse and trauma that we would never move forward anyway,” Flowers said.
During Friday’s press conference, Minneapolis City Attorney Kristyn Anderson explained it’s standard legal practice to not admit to all findings and how that is a typical term of a settlement agreement that there is not an admission of liability.
“We can come to an agreement as mutual parties to a negotiation because we want to resolve these legal claims. We want closure on the dispute. We want closure on the idea of potential taxpayer litigation when we know we got work to do,” Anderson said. “This work, it’s already started but this really gives us a roadmap to really start this work in great earnest with a huge amount of accountability through that independent evaluator and that’s what we’re really aiming towards, not disputing all these different points but really coming together and making a positive change to the community.”
A city spokesperson explained “non-admission” clauses are a typical and essential term of any settlement agreement; the settlement agreement allows the parties to amicably resolve all of the legal claims, whether or not they are disputed, without the need for further litigation.
Once the court enforceable settlement agreement is approved by a state judge, the city and state will have to agree on independent evaluators who will monitor the progress.