Minneapolis Mayor Frey, MPD Chief Arradondo, local leaders call on lawmakers to change police arbitration process

Thursday, Minneapolis and local leaders called on state lawmakers to change the state's law enforcement arbitration process.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo were joined at a press conference by Bloomington Mayor Tim Busse, Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris, Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott and Richfield City Council member Mary Supple calling for lawmakers to act.

"The killing of George Floyd has sparked a huge interest in change and police reform like we've never seen before," Frey said.

With the state Legislature currently in a special session, the local leaders called on lawmakers to act now to create change. Proposed changes to the current statute were released Thursday.

"To get the full structural change that we know we need in Minneapolis and other cities, we know we must also focus on a change in culture," Frey said, acknowledging that the current arbitration process undermines a police chief's and mayor's authority and prevents that culture shift.

When an officer commits "egregious conduct," such as providing an untruthful statement, failing to report force used, using unnecessary force, Frey said he wants to ensure those officers can be fired without being reinstated through the arbitration process, but that currently isn't possible under its current structure.

Arradondo agreed and called the process "one of the most debilitating things" for him as chief.

Since Floyd's death on Memorial Day, Arradondo has promised change within the Minneapolis Police Department, but Arradondo said the arbitration process "holds up progress" he's promised and the change in MPD he's committed to.

"This isn't just a Minneapolis issue. This is a Minnesota issue," Frey added.

Supple talked about how the arbitration process often reinstates officers that are terminated for their conduct, noting that it's happened in her city of Richfield in the past. In that case, Supple said arbitration reinstated the fired Richfield officer with only a three-day suspension and eroded the city's trust in the police department even though it couldn't do anything after the city's appeal lost.

"Reforming the arbitration process is essential, but we need the legislature's help," Supple said.

"They (the Legislature) said that reform of policing and law enforcement was their top priority, and it's incumbent upon them to act now," Busse added.

Busse called reforming the arbitration process a "crucial" and "important tool" to keeping the trust of residents in the community and keeping them safe.

"Right now, the entire world is watching us to see how we, as Americans, move forward," Elliott added, urging lawmakers to act.

Harris echoed the calls of the other local leaders, saying, "We can't truly move forward until we get the necessary police reform changes at the state Capitol."

He also added that without state lawmakers making changes and providing city leaders the necessary tools, they aren't able to turn the talk about change into action.

"Without these reforms, our hands are tied at the local level," said Harris.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter stated his thoughts on the matter: “This moment demands decisive action. Reforming arbitration is critical to ensuring we can hold officers who betray our trust accountable.”

Senate leaders have said they planned to end the special session Friday, although it's unclear if they are willing to change that. Gov. Tim Walz said if lawmakers adjourn before addressing everything he deemed as necessary he could call them back for another special session.