Minneapolis city attorneys will begin taking a more active role in police officers' discipline cases, as the city seeks to bolster the chances that terminations and lesser punishments will be upheld.
"Good peace officers do not want bad officers on the MPD," Chief Medaria Arradondo said during an online news conference Tuesday afternoon. Ensuring quick, thorough investigations into allegations of misconduct is "vitally, critically important to our residents," he said.
The chief announced the changes alongside Mayor Jacob Frey, City Attorney Jim Rowader and other city officials.
The city, like some others in Minnesota, has seen many officer firings and other discipline overturned by arbitrators.
More than 80 fired police officers across Minnesota fought their discharge in arbitration over the past 20 years. About half got their jobs back, according to a Star Tribune analysis in June of decisions logged with the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services.
In the months since George Floyd's death, some city officials have identified the arbitration process as an obstacle to making changes in the Police Department.
In recent years, city attorneys have often been brought into disciplinary proceedings late in the process, usually after an officer has appealed a decision.
This summer, after Floyd's death, city attorneys began discussing how they could strengthen the discipline process and join the work earlier. Under the new arrangement, city attorneys will start consulting on cases in the beginning stages of an investigation.
Tracey Fussy, litigation manager in the city attorney's office, compared it to the work prosecutors do with police officers, when they offer suggestions on how to strengthen a case before it heads to trial.
While many specifics are still being worked out, Fussy said she could imagine a scenario where city attorneys begin sitting in on interviews to provide feedback to investigators on how they could strengthen their work. She could see them eventually phasing that out, after a training period, and then offering legal analyses of the case summaries that investigators produce.
"We're definitely in an absolutely unique position ... of understanding the law, of understanding why officers need to do what they need to do in certain situations and why, in other situations, the behavior is not warranted," she said.
Some changes will begin in the coming weeks, but Rowader said they hope to have the new arrangement fully up and running by the middle of 2021.
The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, the union representing officers, said it "welcomes the changes." "We appreciate thorough fact finding," the union said in a statement. "We just wish the Chief would discuss these things directly with us, rather than finding out from the press." It noted that Arradondo had not participated in labor meetings for a large portion of the year.
Arradondo announced shortly after Floyd's death that he was withdrawing from labor negotiations with the union, though other city workers continue to participate in them.
Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994