Minneapolis police officers did everything that was asked of them when crowds of students converged in Dinkytown after the Gophers men’s hockey team lost in the title game, and the Minneapolis Police Department says it would not change anything about their response.
“The officers showed a lot of discipline,” said Assistant Chief Matt Clark at a media event Wednesday. “They did everything we asked them to do.”
The department reviewed videos taken by its employees to ensure officers followed protocol, and wanted to assure the public that force was used to disperse the crowd only after students ignored police orders.
Crowds of University of Minnesota students gathered in Dinkytown after the Gophers lost in the NCAA title game on April 12, ignoring warnings from police and university officials who said law enforcement would be out in full force after celebrations spiraled out of control days before when the Gophers won in the semifinal round.
Clark said police initially had a “low key” presence, not wearing any helmets or protective gear and simply talking to people in the area about safety.
Police issued 20 to 30 orders to disperse and arrested 19 people that night, police said.
The first arrest came 18 minutes after the first dispersal order was issued.
When students ignored those orders, the officers only used less-than-lethal means to break up the crowds. Clark said officers used sponge rounds, which can be used to mark a person with a colored powder, chemical spray and a launch bang canister, which is used to make a loud booming sound.
At the news conference, the department demonstrated how the sponge rounds were used on one of its own officers, who said it felt like he was hit with a softball.
Officers in Dinkytown were trained to aim for the thighs or calves and not the chest or head.
The department said only about 25 officers are trained to carry the sponge rounds, which are deployed from a launcher resembling a rifle.
Mike Schmit, the U’s student body president, said it’s hard to know if the police’s response was “overkill or not.”
“There were aspects that seemed like it was overkill,” Schmit said. “I would reiterate that we expect police officers to respect students in whatever situations arise.”
Inspector Kathy Waite, who is in charge Minneapolis’ 2nd Precinct, was in charge of training officers and preparing the area. The businesses and residents in the area were very pleased with the police response because it led to very little damage to their businesses, Waite said.
Clark said the department is looking at ways to integrate tactics used that night into regular training.
“This is what we are going to do if we have another spontaneous sports disturbance,” Clark said. “ We want to make that very clear to the public.”