How state and federal consent decrees could make way for broader scope of changes to Minneapolis policing

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Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR), released a joint statement last Wednesday, in which they agreed to resume negotiations for a consent decree. This was following a scathing report by the state agency that found racial discrimination within the Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD’s) policing over the past ten years.


Although talks were delayed by disputes in the evidence, the parties agreed to return to the table. They also agreed to a plan for how they would address another consent decree that could be issued by the U.S. Justice Department, as federal investigators investigate MPD.


Although city officials have resisted multiple consent decrees, others argue that this could lead to more permanent and broadening reforms to the troubled police department.


Two investigations


The MDHR investigation into MPD began with George Floyd’s murder by Derek Chauvin. In April, a report was released stating probable cause that the department engaged discriminatory policing. This included disparities in the use of force and traffic stops by officers, as well as use of social media accounts to monitor Black activists and groups. It also revealed racial disrespectfulness and misogynistic language.


After the investigation, MDHR began to work with the city of Minneapolis to develop a consent decree. This is a court-enforceable agreement that would outline the changes needed in MPD policies, and provide a time frame. Although initially cooperative, the city pulled out of many meetings with human rights officials due to disagreements over state agency’s findings.

According to the MDHR’s joint statement of principles, the state and city officials finally reached an agreement last month after weeks of stagnation. Despite the fact that the city continues to dispute some of the findings, there are several meetings scheduled for next month. The two sides hope to reach an agreement before the fall.


“Although we don’t agree with all the MDHR findings, the City agrees that some of the findings raise important questions, and the City’s committed to addressing these issues.”


span style=”font weight: 400 For years, our Black residents have been telling us about how the MPD treats them. “I am ready to work alongside all who are willing to fight for justice and equity for everyone. This includes continuing collaboration and negotiation with MDHR and I am encouraged to have reached a Joint Statement of Principles span>

Negotiations with MDHR are continuing. A federal investigation was launched last year, one day after Chauvin was convicted of murder. It examines whether Minneapolis police have used a pattern of policing that is illegal or unconstitutional. Federal investigators are investigating the use of force by MPD, its treatment of protesters, its accountability systems, and whether officers engaged in discriminatory police work.


If the DOJ and the city reach a consent decree, MDHR will amend their agreement to remove any conflicting provisions from the two court orders.


Could be more

Christy Lopez, a Georgetown Law professor who was formerly a Justice Department official, said that it is not unusual for cities or police departments to have multiple consent orders for different topics such as housing, schools or hiring practices. However, she noted that it’s rare for one department to have multiple consent orders focusing on misconduct. She cited another example from Cincinnati, where Roger Ownesby Jr. and Jeffrey Irons were killed by Cincinnati police officers in 2000.


Lopez, who was the leader of the group in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division which conducted similar investigations between 2010 and 2017, stated that multiple consent decrees negotiated jointly by multiple plaintiffs (the federal government as well as private plaintiffs) were beneficial to Cincinnati. This allowed for greater flexibility in terms of changes to be included in the agreements. It is possible that it will work in the same way in Minneapolis, where both plaintiffs were government entities.


“It could be an advantage because there are two sets of plaintiffs who can help to ensure that things are being put in place that have a wider scope and that all the necessary changes are made,” she stated. It could work .”


Michelle Gross from the local chapter, Communities United Against Police Brutality, (CUAPB) agreed that multiple consent decrees could do more good. She argued that the federal and state investigations are different and therefore could cover more ground for changes to MPD policies.


“I think having two consent decrees will really broaden the scope of oversight of police in this city.” I believe having two consent decrees will greatly expand the oversight of police in this area .”


Gross stated that her group has collected over 2,300 stories from Minneapolis residents about their experiences with the police since the investigation was launched. They then relayed these accounts to federal and state investigators.


Through a work group and more than two dozen events, CUAPB asked Minneapolis residents to tell them what changes they wanted to see in MPD.


Lopez stated that the plaintiffs in court orders that will result from the consent decree process are the state and federal agencies, but it is their responsibility to channel the views, rights, and concerns of the public affected by policing Minneapolis.


Lopez stated that consent decrees were intended to end misconduct patterns that violate the rights of members and the community. They should be central in this process .”

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