Posted on June 4, 2020

Minneapolis Police Use Force Against Black People at 7 Times the Rate of Whites

Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Lazaro Gamio, New York Times, June 3, 2020


About 20 percent of Minneapolis’s population of 430,000 is black. But when the police get physical — with kicks, neck holds, punches, shoves, takedowns, Mace, Tasers or other forms of muscle — nearly 60 percent of the time the person subject to that force is black. And that is according to the city’s own figures.

Community leaders say the frequency with which the police use force against black residents helps explain a fury in the city that goes beyond Mr. Floyd’s death, which the medical examiner ruled a homicide.

Since 2015, the Minneapolis police have documented using force about 11,500 times. For at least 6,650 acts of force, the subject of that force was black.

By comparison, the police have used force about 2,750 times against white people, who make up about 60 percent of the population.

All of that means that the police in Minneapolis used force against black people at a rate at least seven times that of white people during the past five years.

Those figures reflect the total number of acts of force used by the Minneapolis police since 2015. So if an officer slapped, punched and body-pinned one person during the same scuffle, that may be counted as three separate acts of force. There have been about 5,000 total episodes since 2015 in which the police used at least one act of force on someone.

The disparities in the use of force in Minneapolis parallel large racial gaps in vital measures in the city, like income, education and unemployment, said David Schultz, a professor at Hamline University in St. Paul who has studied local police tactics for two decades.

“It just mirrors the disparities of so many other things in which Minneapolis comes in very badly,” Mr. Schultz said.

When he taught a course years ago on potential liability officers face in the line of duty, Mr. Schultz said, he would describe Minneapolis as “a living laboratory on everything you shouldn’t do when it comes to police use of force.”


The protests in Minneapolis have also been fueled by memories of several black men killed by police officers who either never faced charges or were acquitted. They include Jamar Clark, 24, shot in Minneapolis in 2015 after, prosecutors said, he tried to grab an officer’s gun; Thurman Blevins, 31, shot in Minneapolis in 2018 as he yelled, “Please don’t shoot me,” while he ran through an alley; and Philando Castile, 32, whose girlfriend live-streamed the aftermath of his 2016 shooting in a Minneapolis suburb.


The city’s use-of-force policy covers chokeholds, which apply direct pressure to the front of the neck, but those are considered deadly force to be used only in the most extreme circumstances. Neck restraints are also part of the policy, but those are explicitly defined only as putting direct pressure on the side of the neck — and not the trachea.

“Unconscious neck restraints,” in which an officer is trying to render someone unconscious, have been used 44 times in the past five years — 27 of those on black people.

For years, experts say, many police departments around the country have sought to move away from neck restraints and chokeholds that might constrict the airway as being just too risky.

Dave Bicking, a former member of the Minneapolis civilian police review authority, said the tactic used on Mr. Floyd was not a neck restraint under city policy because it resulted in pressure to the front of Mr. Floyd’s neck.

If anything, he said, it was an unlawful type of body-weight pin, a category that is the most frequently deployed type of force in the city: Since 2015, body-weight pinning has been used about 2,200 times against black people, more than twice the number of times it was used against whites.

Mr. Bicking, a board member of Communities United Against Police Brutality, a Minnesota-based group, said that since 2012 more than 2,600 civilian complaints have been filed against Minneapolis police officers.

Other investigations have led to some officers’ being terminated or disciplined — like Mohamed Noor, the officer who killed an Australian woman in 2017 and was later fired and convicted of third-degree murder.

But, Mr. Bicking said, in only a dozen cases involving 15 officers has any discipline resulted from a civilian complaint alleging misconduct. The worst punishment, he said, was 40 hours of unpaid suspension.

{snip} He noted that the former officer now charged with Mr. Floyd’s murder had faced at least 17 complaints.