MN Department of Human Rights, Minneapolis seek extension in filling key police oversight role

A key role in navigating reform efforts inside the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) won’t be filled by the court-appointed deadline. 

5 INVESTIGATES has learned the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) and the City of Minneapolis are asking the court for an extension in selecting an independent evaluator. The team is tasked with implementing and overseeing two consent decrees: one from MDHR and another that’s expected to come from the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Under the settlement agreement between Minneapolis and the state, the initial independent evaluator would have been named by mid-November. Now that selection won’t happen until March 2024, according to MDHR.

MDHR said it is reopening applications for the role so the U.S. Department of Justice can join the process.

Six groups have already applied to be the independent monitor, according to data obtained by 5 INVESTIGATES. A spokesperson for MDHR said those teams will still be considered and can update their proposals if they choose.

MDHR said the City will host public meetings for community members to meet finalists and ask questions. 

A judge approved the state-level agreement in July after a multi-year investigation found “a pattern and practice of race discrimination” by the Minneapolis Police Department. 

In June, the Justice Department announced it had found MPD engaged in a similar pattern of civil rights violations. Minneapolis and the DOJ signed an “agreement in principle” but have yet to outline the terms of a consent decree. 

A recent analysis from 5 INVESTIGATES shows the average consent decree, enforced by the court, lasts 9½ years.

“These types of consent decrees can last a long time,” Dr. Antonio Oftelie said in May. Oftelie is the federal monitor for the Seattle Police Department, which has been under a consent decree for 12 years.

“Sometimes you’ll find that police departments will make some good progress initially, and then they’ll kind of take their foot off the gas a little bit,” he said. “And then they’ll go backwards.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey hired Police Chief Brian O’Hara last year because of his experience navigating the federal consent decree with the Newark Police Department. Earlier this year, O’Hara told 5 INVESTIGATES “most police officers here see this as no big deal.”

Sherral Schmidt, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, disagreed. “I think they do see it as a big deal,” she said. “There are some real concerns from the cops that are out there doing this work every day.”