After nearly a year of negotiations, Minneapolis and state human rights officials are closing in on a tentative agreement to resolve charges that the city's police department engaged in a pattern of illegal racist behavior over a period of a decade.
Mayor Jacob Frey called a special meeting for Thursday at City Hall for the city attorney to brief the City Council in a closed session on the status of negotiations between the state department and the city.
A source familiar with the private negotiations said it is "likely" — but not certain — that the council will vote on approval of the agreement by the end of the week. The source was not authorized to speak on the record.
The human rights charge, brought by Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero last April, marks one of the most damning systemic indictments of the Minneapolis Police Department in recent memory. It followed an investigation initiated after the murder George Floyd. The agreement will provide a court-enforceable path forward that will guide the police department's operations.
In the meantime, the city is still bracing for the results of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation launched around the same time, which could result in a federal consent decree for the police department. If that does happen, the state has agreed to modify its agreement if necessary to eliminate "conflicting provisions" and ensure there is only one referee — called a "monitor" — charged with making sure the agreement is followed.
The Department of Human Rights investigation found that Minnesota's largest police agency stops, searches, arrests, uses force against and kills people of color — especially Black people — at starkly higher rates than white people, according to the 72-page report underlying the charges. City and Police Department leaders have long been aware of the pattern of discriminatory behavior, which undermines Minneapolis' public safety system, the report found. "Yet, these leaders have not collectively acted with the urgency, coordination, and intentionality necessary to address racial disparities to improve public safety."
After Lucero announced the findings of her department's investigation, then-City Attorney James Rowader said he was "fully committed to working with [the Human Rights Department] to address the issues in the report." But Rowader resigned two weeks later, and the city's lawyers skipped meetings with human rights leaders after saying they couldn't verify some of the findings. Among the findings in dispute: that Minneapolis police used covert social media accounts to spy on Black people and Black organizations with no public safety objective, and that they didn't surveil white supremacist groups.
Last June, after six weeks of deadlock, the city reluctantly returned to negotiations, and the two parties said they were committed to a "frequent schedule" of meetings "to meet the importance of this moment." At the time, they predicted they would finalize the agreement by fall 2022.
City spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said she could not comment on the status of negotiations beyond the public agenda notice for the meeting this week. A spokesman for the Human Rights Department declined comment.