Despite their coordination in providing security during the trial of Derek Chauvin, state and local law enforcement agencies will follow their own varied policies about deploying tear gas, rubber bullets and other less-lethal munitions to control crowds.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo gave an update Thursday about his department's role in Operation Safety Net, a coalition of at least nine law enforcement agencies.
Law enforcement's massive show of force in Brooklyn Center following the killing of Daunte Wright has triggered a growing backlash and concern that those same tactics will be employed after the verdict in the Chauvin case, which could come next week.
Arradondo said he will make decisions on when Minneapolis police can use gas, rubber bullets and other similar tactics.
"Ultimately, in our jurisdiction, it will be my call," Arradondo said. "That, of course, can transfer. For example, if the situation were to occur on our highways and freeways, [Minnesota State Patrol] Col. [Matt] Langer then will have that jurisdiction."
The chief said other agencies are aware of new restrictions placed on his department after the unrest that followed Floyd's death. "They still have their own policies that they have to abide by," Arradondo said, "but we're working in concert with each other."
That setup and the tactics used by Operation Safety Net partners in Brooklyn Center following Wright's killing worry some Minneapolis City Council members.
"I'm very concerned that the way that this seems to be playing out over the last few days is a way of diffusing accountability," Council Member Steve Fletcher said. "We're hearing all this talk about the need for a strong executive in the debate around policing and what that looks like. I could not tell you where the buck stops in any of the Operation Safety Network. Is it the governor? Is it the sheriff?"
Fletcher and at least 18 other local politicians, through the progressive organization Local Progress, issued a statement Thursday calling for Operation Safety Net members to stop using tear gas and other "less-lethal" munitions, stop imposing curfews, drop the charges against all protesters and boost investments for mental health and trauma services. Other Minneapolis council members who signed the letter were Council President Lisa Bender, Phillipe Cunningham, Jeremiah Ellison, Cam Gordon and Jeremy Schroeder.
Law enforcement leaders have defended the decision to use the crowd control munitions in Brooklyn Center by noting that some people threw bricks, bottles and other items at them or shot fireworks over a protective fence. People who live near the Brooklyn Center Police Department say tear gas wafted into their homes and marking rounds landed on their balconies, prompting some of them to seek shelter with friends.
Arradondo and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Thursday sought to distinguish their officers from the ones working in Brooklyn Center and noted their department hadn't been involved in protests there.
"I want to make it absolutely clear that Chief Arradondo and I do not have authority or control over any non-MPD law enforcement activity in any jurisdiction other than Minneapolis," the mayor said.
Last year, after the riots that followed George Floyd's death, Minneapolis entered an agreement with the state that says only the chief or his designee can authorize Minneapolis police to use tear gas, rubber bullets and other similar tactics.
Arradondo said he will make decisions regarding tear gas and other similar munitions based on "real-time information from folks that are out there" and will communicate with the mayor.
"I think there's a clear distinction we've always tried to make over the past several months of what's encouraged and what's unlawful," the chief said.
Langer said the State Patrol will consider multiple factors when deciding whether to use less-lethal munitions, including wind direction, who's in the crowd and whether they're near residential areas.
"Our perspective and our policy, our culture and our mind-set of those that are using these munitions is that it must be judicious and with purpose and as much safety as possible," Langer said during a news conference early Thursday morning.
Operation Safety Net has posted slides on its social media channels saying "peaceful assembly," marching (except on freeways), remaining in public areas and "assembling in designated areas" are "encouraged activity." It lists protesting on or entering freeways, throwing objects, setting fires, damaging property, using illegal fireworks, displaying or using illegal weapons and reckless driving as "unlawful activity."
Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994