The Minneapolis City Council is set to hold a special meeting Thursday to discuss a potential settlement in a lawsuit filed by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights over the city’s policing practices following the murder of George Floyd.
City and state officials had been negotiating the agreement, in fits and starts, since the state agency issued a scathing report last year that said the police department had engaged in a pattern of race discrimination for at least a decade. The city and state then agreed to negotiate a court-enforceable agreement known as a consent decree, moving to address the long list of problems identified in the report.
Few details about the closed meeting have been released. Mayor Jacob Frey, in a letter to the council, said he was calling the gathering for the purpose of ‘receiving a briefing’ on the state’s lawsuit. Spokespeople for the mayor did not immediately return calls Wednesday.
A spokesman for Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero declined to provide details Wednesday and Gov. Tim Walz declined to say much when asked at a news conference held on a different topic.
‘This is the Minnesota Department of Human Rights,’ Walz said. ‘I’m not going to speak on this. These are classified agreements that they’re working on together, and again, the goal there is just to make sure that our communities are safer and they’re working together, and I know a lot of work’s been into that.’
The city is also awaiting the results of a similarly sweeping federal investigation into whether the police department has engaged in a ‘pattern or practice’ of unconstitutional or unlawful policing. The Justice Department launched its probe a day after former officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in the May 25, 2020, killing of Floyd.
The Black man repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe, then went limp as Chauvin knelt on his neck for 9 1/2 minutes. The killing was recorded by a bystander and sparked months of mass protests across the country and around the world as part of a broader reckoning over racial injustice.
Chauvin is serving 22 1/2 years on his state murder conviction. He later pleaded guilty to a separate federal charge of violating Floyd’s civil rights and was sentenced to 21 years. The sentences are running concurrently.
The federal investigation is expected to lead to a separate court-enforceable consent decree. The city and state would then modify their agreement to resolve any conflicting provisions.
The state report, issued in April 2022 after a two-year investigation, detailed evidence showing disparities in how officers use force, stop, search, arrest and cite people of color, particularly Black people, compared with white people in similar circumstances.
The report blamed, in part, the culture of the police force, saying officers ‘receive deficient training, which emphasizes a paramilitary approach to policing that results in officers unnecessarily escalating encounters or using inappropriate levels of force.’ City officials disputed a portion that accused police of using ‘covert, or fake, social media accounts to surveil and engage Black individuals, Black organizations, and elected officials unrelated to criminal activity, without a public safety objective.’
The Department of Human Rights sued the city and the police department in June 2020, barely a week after Floyd was murdered, and obtained a preliminary injunction, pending completion of its investigation, that compelled the city to address the allegations of systemic and institutional racism within the police department. Among the immediate changes were a ban on the use chokeholds and neck restraints and a requirement that officers try to stop other officers they see using improper force.