Minneapolis: MPD consent decree falls short and keeps power out of community hands
Fight Back News Service is circulating the following April 6 joint statement of the Twin Cities Coalition 4 Justice 4 Jamar and Minneapolis for Community Control of Police. Consent decree falls short and keeps power out of community hands We need an all-elected Civilian Police Accountability Commission to permanently reign in the abuses of MPD
On Friday, March 31, the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) announced the signing of a consent decree to address human rights violations by the Minneapolis Police Department. The agreement was negotiated entirely behind closed doors; community had zero opportunity to even read it before it was voted on by City Council and signed by the Mayor. MDHR conducted extensive community engagement, while the City did nothing to engage with the residents of Minneapolis. With no input from the community, the City negotiated the agreement entirely behind closed doors.
While the agreement lays out some much-needed policy changes, ultimately the structure of the power mechanism is unchanged, with Jacob Frey as the only elected civilian with any power over the police. Frey and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights concede the agreement is just a roadmap, but who is driving us down that road? This plan hinges on the Police Chief having the will to carry out changes and at the end of the day, the Police Chief reports directly to the Community Safety Commissioner, an unelected bureaucrat, and the Mayor, an unaccountable elected official. Now they are asking for blind trust from a community that has borne the brunt of racist and violent policing for decades.
MDHR’s investigation into the City and Police Department documents what Minneapolis residents already knew: left to its own devices, the Minneapolis Police Department will avoid accountability and reparative action at all costs. How can the families and communities who lost Jamar Clark, Fong Lee, Terrance Franklin, Justine Damond, Travis Jordan, George Floyd, Amir Locke and countless other stolen lives trust the very institution that has inflicted decades of brutality to carry out reforms? The City and MPD have resisted these reforms for decades. Why should we trust that it will be different this time?”
The consent decree outlines policy changes, culture changes, and accountability measures that must be implemented. It offers two forms of accountability and oversight: the newly-created and problematic Community Commission on Police Oversight (CCPO) and the Independent Evaluator team. The CCPO is made up of City Council and mayoral appointees, the Independent Evaluator will be selected by MDHR and the City and approved by the Court. Before the Independent Evaluator is selected, the top 3 finalists for the role have to present to the public and answer questions, but there is no mechanism to ensure the public’s preferred Independent Evaluator is ultimately the one approved by the Court. All of the City staff and bureaucrats tasked with carrying out these changes ultimately report to “Strong Mayor” Jacob Frey. Worse, the Police Chief is also appointed by the Mayor (with Council approval) and only the Mayor has the power to remove the Chief. All of these mechanisms of accountability and oversight are fundamentally undemocratic. Appointees are not accountable to the public in the same way elected officials have to be.
Another fatal flaw of the process laid out by the settlement agreement is it assumes the same people who have exacerbated Minneapolis’s police brutality crisis for years will suddenly have the discernment to designate appointees that will actually listen to and implement feedback from the community. Our community has been shut out of and ignored in every city program or policy meant to increase police accountability.
In addition, the CCPO appointees are not empowered to determine policy or enforce discipline. Instead, discipline is determined by the Police Chief alone. The only civilian with power over the Chief is Mayor Frey, who famously campaigned on his bogus no-knock warrant ban, just a few months before Amir Locke was murdered on the couch where he slept as the result of a no-knock warrant.
Leaving this much power in the hands of a Police Chief depends on them being aware of and committed to eradicating the egregious racism, sexism, and discriminatory behavior baked into police culture. The failures of even so-called “progressive” chiefs like Medaria Arradondo in making any substantive changes to the MPD’s racist practices and culture is a testament to how our community can’t count on MPD or City leadership to hold the MPD accountable. This continues the pattern of promising change without delivering. Without empowering community members to lead accountability and reform efforts, especially those most impacted by racist police violence, we can’t break free from the endless cycle of police abuse and inaction.
These reasons outline the need for elected oversight of the MPD. It’s why we need Community Control.
There can be no accountability without analysis and punishment of past crimes perpetrated by officers in the MPD. The settlement makes no provisions for firing or disciplining officers based on past records of conduct and does not offer any plan to investigate cases for victim’s families that have alleged abuse or cover ups. Derek Chauvin was not the only officer with dozens of undisciplined complaints, and multiple civilian murders on his record, but he’s one of very few who’ve faced any real consequences. Many of the most violent officers still serve on the MPD force. Not only do the families of past victims of police violence deserve acknowledgement of harm, it's also critical to the safety of community members that officers with documented records of abuse are removed from the force.
This consent decree does not make the police permanently accountable. Effectively, it only puts them on probation. Someday, the consent decree will be terminated. After that, aside from the powerless CCPO, there will be no other form of permanent oversight, and therefore no assurance that the policy changes imposed on the MPD will continue to be enforced. A court-appointed Independent Evaluator will monitor the Police Department and have the authority to check the power of the Mayor is positive, but independent oversight with decision making power like this should be both permanent and elected.
The consent decree is not enough to meet the longtime demand by community members that MPD be held accountable for its violent racist practices. In order to have true accountability, the people of Minneapolis need to be steering the process from start to finish: we need community control of police.
The Minneapolis Civilian Police Accountability Commission (CPAC) is a community-led, grassroots, historical demand to enact community control of the Minneapolis Police Department. If implemented, CPAC would be an all-elected, all-civilian body directly accountable to the people. Instead of a temporary period of oversight, the CPAC would be enshrined in the Minneapolis Charter, making it difficult to remove or undermine its powers. Civilians, including those who have experienced police violence, would be empowered to determine MPD policies, and to enforce disciplinary measures against officers who violate those policies and break the law. CPAC would have the power to hire and fire the Chief of Police, set and review the MPD budget, and remove officers it finds unfit for duty.
Minneapolis for Community Control of Police and Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar are currently collecting signatures to get CPAC on the ballot for this year’s City election. Our communities have waited long enough for real, concrete change to policing in Minneapolis. Though no system can transform police into a force for public good, we can create a system in which they are held accountable for the ways they have harmed our communities and prevent further racism and violence.
The deadline for signature collection is May 1, so we are in the final push to get CPAC onto the ballot this year. Nearly 9000 signatures are required; we are 80% of the way and doing a final push right now. If you’re interested in signing the petition to enact permanent, concrete oversight of the MPD, look on our website for the list of community sites hosting the petition – mpls4ccp.square.site. If you need a volunteer to bring the petition to you, contact us on the website or text us at (612) 234-2041.
If you’ve already signed the petition, you can support this critical work by joining our volunteers to collect petition signatures. Use the same contact info to: invite us to your apartment building to knock your neighbors doors to ask them to sign; get a petition sheet from us to have your friends, family, and neighbors to sign the petition; invite us to community events or tabling opportunities where we can gather signatures. Any registered voter in Minneapolis can sign the petition! The people of Minneapolis deserve to direct the process of transforming public safety: we deserve the Civilian Police Accountability Commission now!