The Minneapolis Police Department has taken its handful of transport vans off the streets as the death of a man in Baltimore who, according to a state prosecutor, suffered a critical injury in a police van has sparked outrage across the country.
In Minneapolis, the five transport vans are used to bring suspects to places like detox centers, jail, the hospital and the Juvenile Detention Center. The vans are intended to free up patrol officers from spending time off their beats transporting suspects, said Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder.
“This allows us to tie up fewer officers,” Elder said.
In April, the vans were decommissioned for safety examinations, a move that had been planned for some time and was not directly in response to what happened in Baltimore, Elder said.
Vans that had camera systems inside them are getting upgrades and the ones that don’t have cameras are getting them installed, he said.
The department is also looking into installing special restraining systems, which not all of the vans have. But it is not clear yet what type of restraints could be used, Elder said.
On Friday, Minneapolis police also began testing a new belting system in squad cars. The new system allows officers to avoid reaching over people to buckle them into the back of squad cars. The new system could make it safer for both officers and suspects, Elder said.
Last week, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Freddie Gray, who died April 19 in police custody, was arrested illegally. She charged six police officers with his death. Mosby said that Gray’s neck was broken because he was handcuffed, shackled and placed headfirst into a police van, where he was bounced around.
Gray’s death ignited protests across the country, including in Minneapolis, against police use of force, especially against minority men.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.