Activists on Monday called for several changes with the Metro Transit police force weeks after a Minneapolis woman was handcuffed and wrestled to the ground by officers in an incident that was widely shared on social media.
Kenya Chandler, who is black, was arrested Aug. 21, prompting activists to complain that nonwhite transit passengers are more frequently harassed by Metro Transit police, particularly during fare checks on light-rail trains.
“Metro Transit has no interest in the safety of people of color,” said Henry Pan of the Twin Cities Transit Riders Union, an advocacy group. “Police have no place on public transit.”
Three people attended a Metropolitan Council Transportation Committee meeting on Monday to voice their opinions about the conduct of transit police.
They called for the Met Council to abolish the Metro Transit police force, fire the officer involved in Chandler’s case, have non-law enforcement employees conduct fare checks, and eliminate fares altogether. No one on the committee commented during the meeting.
The controversy spurred activists to boycott Metro Transit service on Aug. 28. Black Lives Matter Twin Cities also held a protest, briefly shutting down light-rail service in downtown Minneapolis. The transit agency said Monday the boycott had little effect on overall bus and train ridership that day.
According to Metro Transit police, Chandler engaged in a “verbal altercation” with a driver while aboard a bus in downtown Minneapolis. The driver alerted police. Once Chandler got off the bus, Metro Transit Sgt. Tim Lawrence asked for her identification, but said she refused to hand it over after taking it out of her purse.
The video shows Lawrence pinning Chandler’s arms behind her back and pulling her to the ground as bystanders grew increasingly angry. A second, unidentified officer, appears to press a Taser on Chandler’s shoulder, but police said the weapon was not discharged.
Chandler was charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, but the charge was later dropped.
Janet Nye, of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said Monday that Lawrence’s “lack of judgment escalated the situation.”
Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla said that Lawrence, an Officer of the Year in 2017, remains on duty, although the incident itself is under investigation.
Fare checks on the Green and Blue lines are dictated by police procedure and are conducted equitably, Padilla said. Police typically check fares while aboard trains and some select bus routes.
Nye said she hoped that, in the future, “law enforcement has more important things to do than policing people’s language.