Minneapolis officials have called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the city’s response to the recent 18-day occupation outside the Police Department’s Fourth Precinct headquarters amid continuing criticism over police handling of the protests.
It was unclear if the request, made Tuesday by Mayor Betsy Hodges and Police Chief Janeé Harteau, came in response to a barrage of criticism from activists and protesters about police tactics during the occupation of the police station site just blocks from where Jamar Clark was shot by an officer on Nov. 15.
“To move forward and grow together, we must constantly assess our actions and pursue continuous improvement,” Hodges said in a news release. “An independent review of the city’s response to the protests at the 4th Precinct will provide the city — our leaders, our departments, and our residents — with important insight into what was done well and where we can do better in the future.”
Officials asked the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (also known as COPS) to provide “an after-action review” that would seek to “identify significant findings about critical decisions and practices in order to help develop lessons learned” that other police departments across the country can adopt, according to the release.
The federal agency has reviewed other departments, including the Ferguson, Mo., police force and its handling of the protests that engulfed that town following the 2014 death of Michael Brown and, again, after the officer who shot him was not indicted.
The protests that followed Clark’s death, which drew international attention, produced several tense standoffs between the demonstrators and police officers in riot gear who used pepper spray and batons to disperse crowds. A photo of a heavily armed officer pointing a crowd-control weapon at one of the protesters, the son of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, was shared thousands of times on social media. A small contingent of protesters hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails over the wall of the precinct station.
Some officers have privately accused the administration of bowing to pressure from anti-police protesters in not ending the occupation sooner.
“The COPS office is often called upon to conduct reviews into incidents that are unique or may become a future trend,” Harteau said. “This process will help the Minneapolis Police Department and other law-enforcement agencies nationally look at some new challenges and new opportunities for us to improve our profession.”