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Minneapolis police and partners launch SafeZone initiative

Downtown Minneapolis residents and visitors should expect to see more police in the summer months as authorities launch their annual SafeZone initiative.

The Minneapolis Police Department in partnership with the Downtown Improvement District, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, and Metro Transit Police announced the safety collaboration earlier this week.

In June, July, and August, more officers will be patrolling the downtown core some on bicycle, horseback and in plainclothes to help counter and deter crime, said Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder.

SafeZone has been in place during the summer since 2005.

See video above for announcement.

ACLU: Blacks 9 times more likely to be arrested for minor crimes in Mpls.

People of color are more likely to be arrested for low-level crimes in Minneapolis compared to their white counterparts, according to a detailed study released Thursday of thousands of arrests made by city police.

The American Civil Liberties Union's Criminal Law Reform Project and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU) published their analysis of more than 96,000 arrests made by Minneapolis police officers for low-level offenses from January 2012 through September 2014.

The Picking up the Pieces: Policing in America, a Minneapolis Case Study shows that blacks were 8.7 times more likely than white people to be arrested for minor offenses, which are violations that are punished by fines of $3,000 or less and/or a year or less in jail. Native Americans were 8.6 times more likely than white people to be arrested. Among young people ages 17 and under, black youth were 5.8 times more likely to be arrested for low-level offenses than white youth; for Native Americans, this figure was 7.7.

"Minneapolis police show the same patterns of racial bias that we're seeing across the country and that demands reform," said Emma Andersson, staff attorney with the ACLU, in a statement. "In Minneapolis, the eyes of the law look at blacks and Native Americans differently than whites. The resulting injustices—more fees and fines, more time in jail, more criminal records—hurt Minneapolitans and undermine public safety."

The study is an expansion on an ACLU report released last fall that drew on arrest data from 2004 to 2012.

During a news conference Thursday, Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau addressed the report and said that the department had taken steps to improve police interactions with residents. She said police have participated in fair and impartial police training and that the department continues to review its policies and practices.

“Positive contact” between police and community members such as the time officers spend out of their squads checking with businesses and attending meetings has increased more than 40 percent year to date, according to police statistics.

The goal is to show that police officers are here to help, Harteau said.

The chief cautioned that the ACLU report didn’t take into account repeat offenders who had been arrested on multiple occasions.

Picking up the Pieces presented recommendations for reforms such as establishing an empowered civilian review body that has authority to discipline officers and expanding pre-arrest diversion programs that would give young people and homeless people arrest alternatives.

In a statement Thursday, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said, “This data is another reminder of the work that we have in front of us, the work that I am committed to doing.”

"The ACLU commends Minneapolis Police Chief Harteau for recent changes, such as adding implicit bias training. However, these changes are only a start. We urge the chief and other policymakers to engage in the sweeping reform necessary to correct the extreme racial disparities documented in this analysis," said Charles Samuelson, executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota, in a statement.

In addition to the report, the ACLU also released the above video of some residents discussing their take on police interactions including Faysal Mohamed, a teen who recently took a cell phone video of a Minneapolis officer who apparently threatened to break the legs of Mohamed's friend during an arrest.

Arrests by race