Posted on April 3, 2023

Tentative Agreement Plots New Future of Minneapolis Policing

Liz Sawyer et al., Star Tribune, March 30, 2023

Update: On Friday morning, the Minneapolis City Council approved the settlement agreement 11-0. {snip}

The Minneapolis City Council is preparing to vote on an agreement that would plot a new course for how the city’s Police Department investigates crimes, uses force against citizens and holds problem officers accountable.

Minneapolis police officers would no longer search a person or vehicle solely because they smell marijuana. They couldn’t use chemical irritants as a form of crowd control. Nor could they pull over a driver for a broken tail light.

The tentative agreement, provided to council members Thursday, emerged from almost a year of negotiations between city staff and state officials, since the Minnesota Department of Human Rights charged the Minneapolis Police Department with engaging in a pattern of illegal, racist behavior.

If approved by the council, the settlement would be enforceable by the courts — making it among the most significant responses to the murder of George Floyd and the calls for large-scale reform that followed.


The agreement would resolve charges brought by Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero last April that said Minnesota’s largest police agency stopped, searched, arrested, used force against and killed people of color — especially Black people — at starkly higher rates than white people during a 10-year period. {snip}


Stops and searches

Much of the tentative agreement is dedicated to policies surrounding when police officers in Minneapolis can stop and search vehicles and people on the streets.

It seeks to limit so-called “pretextual stops” — the use of minor traffic or equipment violations as a legal way for police to pull over drivers they wish to investigate. The draft agreement prohibits police from stopping cars for low-level offenses such as failing to display tabs, not properly signaling a turn or having a broken tail light, mirror or other equipment. Instead, the city would issue a notice of repair to the driver in the mail.

When officers pull over vehicles, they may “professionally greet passengers” but can’t question or require passengers to produce identification unless they have good reason to believe the person is a perpetrator or victim of a crime.

Officers similarly can’t frisk people for weapons during a stop without reasonable suspicion, the settlement says.

It also prohibits them from searching a car or individual based solely on the smell of marijuana.


Data tracking

The Police Department would install a series of computer systems to enable it to publish monthly public reports online that detail each time an officer uses a stun gun, baton, chemical irritant or choke hold, firearm or if the officer strikes a person. Monthly reports would also include incidents in which officers’ use of force was found to violate city policy and times when an officer failed to properly de-escalate a situation.

Police would publish an annual report documenting each time an officer was disciplined — or not — after violating certain police policies and monthly reports with the number of officers disciplined for violating nondiscrimination policies.


The agreement would require that the agency rewrite its use of force policies in the code of conduct to emphasize that its officers “value the sanctity of life and dignity of all people.”

Rank-and-file officers would have to use the lowest level of force needed to ensure their safety, stop an attack, make an arrest or prevent escape. Chemical irritants would be banned for use in crowd control, except in rare scenarios when approved by the chief or a designee.


{snip} Officers would also receive a mandatory 16 hours of training that addresses racial disparities in arrest trends, civil rights and the city’s history related to racial inequality.

Social accounts

The agreement notably lacks details about the Police Department’s use of covert social media accounts.

Among the most shocking allegations in the original charge described how police created phony social media accounts — sometimes with no authorization — to surveil Black people and organizations unrelated to criminal activity, and without operating similar accounts to track white supremacist groups. The allegation became a point of contention during negotiations and temporarily stalled talks after the city’s legal team said they couldn’t substantiate the claim.