In a rebuke of Mayor Jacob Frey, the Minneapolis City Council voted Friday to reject a contract with former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates to lead an independent investigation into whether city police inappropriately urged paramedics to sedate people with ketamine during emergency calls.
The Council voted 10-3 against paying $195,000 to Yates’ Atlanta-based firm, King and Spalding LLP, to perform an exhaustive probe of police officers and ketamine dating back to 2015, and produce a report by the end of the year.
Those opposing the measure said it did not make fiscal sense, given the funds would come out of a police budget already strained from Super Bowl security costs, and because the city’s Office of Police Civilian Review conducted its own investigation.
“We have a sense of what happened,” said City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison. “I think our civil rights department did a great job in completing the study. And I’m not going to support nearly $200,000 that could go elsewhere to go toward an independent contractor who’s just going to tell us what our own civil rights department has already told us.”
In doing so, the city still must pay $50,000 to the firm for work already completed.
Friday’s meeting marked a reversal from the urgency three months ago for an independent investigation that would quell public alarm over a draft city report, obtained by the Star Tribune, that described how on multiple occasions police officers asked paramedics to sedate people with ketamine.
By hiring Yates to investigate, “Chief [Medaria] Arradondo and I did our best to answer the community’s call for transparency and accountability,” Frey said Friday. “A matter of months ago, it was clear people wanted answers. They wanted answers provided by an impartial, third-party source with no connections to Minnesota or our city.”
At a June 18 council meeting, a council committee voted unanimously on a resolution for an independent evaluation of the city’s ketamine research in order to “increase transparency.”
Council members gave no indication at the Friday meeting that they planned to follow through on that directive, and many who voted in favor of the third-party examination in June voted against the contract Friday.
They include Council Member Phillipe Cunningham, who chairs the committee overseeing the civil rights department; Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins and Council Members Jeremy Schroeder, Andrew Johnson and Cam Gordon.
“This is something that we all agreed was necessary just three short months ago,” said Council Member Linea Palmisano, one of three who voted in favor of authorizing the Yates contract.
In July, the city’s Office of Police Conduct Review published its final report on ketamine and police, which included several examples of police officers telling paramedics to sedate people with ketamine when responding to 911 calls.
Many of those people were then enrolled in a medical study, which did not require prior consent from the patients, being conducted at Hennepin Healthcare. The hospital has since suspended that research.
At Friday’s meeting, Johnson credited city police oversight staff for a thorough review, and said he did not think hiring Yates was necessary, noting Hennepin Healthcare is also participating in independent reviews of its ethics and research protocols.
“I think we can move forward knowing that we’ve learned from this, and also that we have more information on the way from these independent reviews,” said Johnson.
In an interview after the meeting, Council President Lisa Bender said she didn’t think the Yates investigation went far enough beyond the city’s internal probe to justify the cost. She said she regretted not addressing the previous council direction for the third-party evaluation, and said the council will take it up at a future meeting.
“This is a huge issue and clearly there is concern in the community to know more about what happened and why at every level of government,” Bender said. “I acknowledge that, and the city may need to do more as this unfolds.”