Minneapolis and Minnesota agree to revamp policing after the murder of George Floyd

‘The agreement isn’t change in and of itself, but it charts a clear roadmap to it,’ Mayor Jacob Frey said at a news conference

George Floyd
A group of protesters marches after former police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd, in June 2021, in downtown Minneapolis.Julio Cortez (AP)

The city of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights signed a “court-enforceable settlement agreement” Friday to revamp policing in the city where George Floyd was murdered by an officer nearly three years ago.

The state agency issued a blistering report last year after a two-year investigation found the police department had engaged in a pattern of race discrimination for at least a decade. City leaders subsequently agreed to negotiate the settlement, which the City Council approved on an 11-0 vote. Mayor Jacob Frey and Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero signed it about half an hour later.

“The agreement isn’t change in and of itself, but it charts a clear roadmap to it,” Frey said at a news conference. “This agreement helps us to embark on the work and then push it even further.”

Lucero pointed out that Floyd was murdered 1,040 days earlier. “It’s been a very long time to get to this point, where he should be alive still,” she said.

“This agreement serves as a model for how cities, police departments and community members across the country can work together to address race-based policing and strengthen public safety,” Lucero said. “This is a model for a new path forward.”

The state agency launched its investigation shortly after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes on May 25, 2020, disregarding the Black man’s fading pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd’s death sparked mass protests that spread around the world. It forced a national reckoning on racial injustice and compelled the Minneapolis Police Department to begin an overhaul.

Chauvin was later convicted of murder. He and three other officers who were at the scene are now serving prison terms.

“We didn’t get here overnight, and change also won’t happen overnight,” Frey said. “This problem that we now face, it has taken hold over many generations, many administrations, mayors and chiefs, and clearly our Black and brown communities have taken the brunt of this.”

Lucero said the agreement is a legally binding pact that requires the city and the police department to make “transformational changes,” to fix the organizational culture that her agency’s report said was at the heart of the problems with race-based policing.

The commissioner said it includes measures to ensure that force is used “only when it is objectively reasonable, necessary and proportional.” Officers will be required to de-escalate conflicts whenever possible and prohibited from using force “to punish or retaliate.” There will be limits on when and how officers can use chemical irritants and Tasers. And training in the disputed condition of excited delirium — a key issue in the confrontation that led to Floyd’s death — will be banned. Pretext stops for broken lights and searches based solely on the alleged smell of marijuana are banned.

Frey, Lucero and Police Chief Brian O’Hara said the agreement reflects the feedback from and concerns of the community and police officers.

“The court-enforceable agreement does not prohibit officers from relying on reasonable, articulatable suspicion or probable cause of criminal activity to enforce the law. We want officers to do their jobs,” Lucereo said. “We want them to be successful and do it well, and that means policing in a nondiscriminatory manner.”

The U.S. Department of Justice is still investigating whether Minneapolis police engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination, and that investigation could lead to a separate agreement with the city known as a consent decree. City officials said they couldn’t provide information on where that stands.

The state settlement, which still requires court approval, runs over 140 pages. It also contains sections governing the use of body-worn and dashboard cameras; training; officer wellness; and responding to mental health and behavioral crises. It also requires the appointment of an independent evaluator to monitor compliance.

While the City Council’s approval was unanimous, several members expressed harsh criticism of the police department and other city leaders over the years.

“The lack of political will to take responsibility for MPD is why we are in this position today,” council member Robin Wonsley said. “This legal settlement formally and legally prevents city leadership from deferring that responsibility anymore. And I hope this settlement is a wake-up call for city leaders, who the public has watched rubber-stamp poor labor contracts, have signed off on endless misconduct settlements, and then shrugged their shoulders when residents asked then why we have a dysfunctional police department.”

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