Minneapolis officials are launching a new effort to find trends in where police make stops, whom they stop — and who is arrested and charged with misdemeanor offenses.
During its approval of the 2015 budget, the City Council separately voted to direct the Police Department and the city attorney’s office to gather five years’ worth of police stop-and-arrest data. The reports will include information about the race, gender and age of the people involved in incidents from 2010 to 2014, along with where the arrests took place.
The data will be presented to the council’s public safety committee by summer.
Council Member Cam Gordon, who introduced the plan, said he’s heard concerns about racial profiling and other issues since before he was first elected to the council nearly a decade ago. He brought up the issue in 2008, when he led a similar push to gather data on the city’s “lurking” regulation. That law allows police to arrest people who are hanging around public and private spaces, trying not to attract attention, with the intention of committing a crime.
A review of lurking arrests over two years found that black people were eight times more likely to be arrested than white people. Native Americans were arrested at nine times the rate of whites, while homeless people were 20 times more likely to be arrested.
While Gordon was not successful in getting the law overturned, he said he may bring it up again. After months of protests over people killed in altercations with police, he said interest remains high in how police interact with some community members.
Gordon expects that getting a broader range of data could be a better way to reach the city’s equity goals than trying to target some specific laws, one by one.
It will be nice to get a big-picture view and get more of an analysis about where [stops and arrests] are occurring and why,” he said.
Gordon said the data might lead to questions about the use of the “broken windows” model of policing to prevent crime. That strategy involves putting a major focus on lower-level crimes, like graffiti, vandalism or loitering, as a way to improve neighborhoods and reduce the number of more serious crimes.
Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said she welcomes the news that the city will take a more thorough look at how policing is working in Minneapolis.
She hopes this will be the first step in pinpointing the root of practices that could be causing problems with police-community relations.
"We need to have a better understanding of what’s going on and that needs to start at the level of what’s the overall picture,” Gross said. “But eventually that needs to drill down to see if there are issues, are they with particular officers or a wider problem?"