Minneapolis City Council approves significant reform to police department

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During a meeting Friday morning, the Minneapolis City Council voted 11-0 to change nearly every aspect of policing in the city. As we’ve reported, the city and Minnesota Department of Human Rights has been working toward a consent decree for nearly a year. A consent decree is also called a court enforceable agreement.

Sources told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS earlier this week the finalized agreement between the city and Minnesota’s Human Rights Department was to be voted on during Friday’s meeting, nearly three years after the murder of George Floyd.

Councilors approved the agreement at 9:46 a.m., more than hour after the meeting began. CLICK HERE to learn more about the consent decree. The full legal agreement can be found at the bottom of this article, or by CLICKING HERE.

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The agreement calls for the need of an independent evaluation team, who will be able to look at data collected by the department and write reports. In addition, the team will oversee the police department, as well as its operations.

Among the major overhauls include addressing pretextual stops, as well as restrictions on less lethal uses of force – including rubber bullets, chemical irritants and Tasers.

Other changes include 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 the Department of Human Rights, the agreement also requires the City, as well as the Police Department, to require officers to de-escalate, prohibit officers from using force to punish ore retaliate, ban searches based on alleged smells of cannabis and prohibit so-called consent searches during pedestrian or vehicle stops. The agency adds the agreement doesn’t prohibit an officer from relying on reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity to enforce the law.

The agreement comes after a multi-year state investigation found a “pattern and practice of race discrimination” by the Minneapolis Police Department.

After the vote passed, Rebecca Lucero, commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, issued the following statement:

“Minneapolis community members deserve to be treated with humanity. This court enforceable agreement provides the framework for lawful, non-discriminatory policing, reduces unnecessary dangers for officers, and results in better public safety for Minneapolis. I am grateful to Mayor Frey, Chief O’Hara, City Council and City and MPD staff for their commitment to set a path towards a more just future for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color in Minneapolis.”

Rebecca Lucero

As previously reported last summer by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, Minneapolis city leaders and the state agreed to negotiate terms of reforms within the Minneapolis Police Department last summer.

The terms of the agreement include possible termination after four years from implementation, or at the time a consent decree is reached with the Department of Justice.

John Baker, a criminal justice professor at St. Cloud State University and a former police officer trainer for a decade, says a key part in the department’s success with implementation falls on those in charge.

“For me, it always comes down to three things: leadership, leadership and leadership,” Baker said, adding: “It’s going to take a lot of leadership by not just the chief and the hierarchy, but the lieutenants and sergeants to make sure all of this is implemented.”

Baker points to the lack of police officer involvement in creating this agreement as one of the biggest challenges ahead.

“That, to a rank and file police officer, may not be very palatable to begin with because ‘You didn’t include us in this discussion,’” Baker added.

Efforts to reach the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis — the union representing MPD officers — to be part of this story were unsuccessful.

“I intend to be present in the department, I intend to be out there, I intend to show the officers that I’m not going to ask them to do anything that I’m not willing to do myself,” Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS after being asked about pushback from officers.

Gov. Tim Walz gave the following statement Friday afternoon:

“This critical work from Commissioner Rebecca Lucero and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights is an important step to make Minneapolis a safer community for all. I’m grateful for MDHR’s partnership with the City of Minneapolis on this agreement and the work to engage community members and law enforcement for feedback along the way. This is an important step, but let’s not lose sight of the work left to do – this is the beginning of a process to restore trust and ensure public safety for all.”

Gov. Tim Walz

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan offered the following statement:

“Lawful, non-discriminatory policing is good public safety. People in Minneapolis – and across the state – deserve to be safe. Community deserves to be heard. And the people charged with keeping us safe should be supported in their work. Minnesotans have been asking for change, and today I’m proud of the step Commissioner Rebecca Lucero, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, and City of Minneapolis are taking to bring that change.”

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison provided the following statement:

“The consent decree between the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and the City of Minneapolis is historic. For the first time ever, very significant steps that the City and the Minneapolis Police Department have bound themselves to take to build community trust and make every Minneapolis resident and police officer safer, centered around transformational changes to organizational culture, will be enforceable in court. As someone who has been working for human rights and safer communities in policing for 30 years, I am very hopeful.

“I want to thank Commissioner Lucero, MDHR staff, and the Walz–Flanagan administration for their investigation and steady pursuit of a settlement that will benefit all Minneapolitans and all Minnesotans. My thanks also go to Mayor Frey, the City Council — which approved the consent decree today on a unanimous vote — Public Safety Commissioner Alexander, former Acting Chief Huffman, and Chief O’Hara for their willingness to stay at the table and work through historically hard challenges to get to this resolution. I also very much want to thank the staff of my office who represented MDHR throughout the process for their commitment, diligence, and professionalism.

“Now the challenge is implementation. Other cities have implemented similar agreements in ways that have centered human rights and brought about dramatically increased community trust and safety for all people. Minneapolis can, too. I commit to doing everything in my power to help.”

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison

CLICK HERE for KSTP’s complete George Floyd coverage.

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