Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and a majority of City Council members hinged their campaigns on promises to improve accountability for police — but a tentative contract agreement with the police union includes few measures aimed at improving discipline for officers.

Local activists are now calling on City Council members to reject the deal, saying elected leaders have long pegged the contract as an obstacle to reform and now have a chance to actually fix it.

But, they say, that requires changes.

"There is not one thing that fixes a very broken disciplinary system," Stacey Gurian-Sherman, an attorney for Minneapolis for a Better Police Contract, said of the contract.

The contract with the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis has gained renewed scrutiny in recent years following a series of high-profile police killings, after which the city's elected leaders often said the contract constrained their ability to change the discipline processes. Some of them vowed to overhaul it in the wake of George Floyd's murder.

Now, with days left before the City Council is set to discuss the matter, some elected leaders are encouraging residents not to pin their hopes for change on the police union contract alone. Some changes, they say, are better made in policy manuals.

"A strong police chief, a strong mayor can make those changes," said Council President Andrea Jenkins.

What's in the contract

The contract with the police federation — which typically runs about 130 pages long — covers a wide variety of topics ranging from officers' pay rates, to their work schedules and rights in discipline proceedings.

The latest, tentative agreement includes raises for officers and $7,000 incentive payments if they remain on duty through the end of the year. By year's end, an officer who has graduated from the academy would be set to make about $74,000 per year, with the ability to earn more if they work certain shifts that come with bonus pay or stay on the force for more than seven years.

The deal makes two changes to the discipline section. One revision aims to clarify what happens to police supervisors who are demoted and then rejoin the union ranks. Another e-mails officers when someone requests public records about them and tells them who made the request.

Another change elsewhere in the document aims to give the police chief wider latitude to decide where officers should be assigned when they return from a "critical incident" — one in which they are seriously harmed or seriously harm or kill someone else.

What's not in the contract

Critics see the latest agreement as a sign that Frey has failed to follow up on his public statements that officers should be both paid more and fired more.

"We got the raises. We did not get the accountability," said Dave Bicking with Communities United Against Police Brutality.

Among other changes, activists wanted city leaders to add a "discipline matrix" outlining the penalties for various infractions, arguing it could help strengthen and standardize the processes for holding officers accountable. Frey said he thought that was better kept in other policies that don't have to be negotiated with the union.

In an interview, Frey said city officials reviewed the recommendations submitted by activists and attempted to incorporate some but rejected others because they feared they would have unintended consequences.

"There is a misperception that having more disciplinary language in the contract is better," the mayor said. "We are better able to dictate disciplinary actions when the chief and their administration have the authority to do so unilaterally."

The police union did not comment on activists' demands for more disciplinary changes or requests for clarity on which, if any, discipline-related provisions they'd be open to changing. Federation members approved the tentative deal last month, and Frey supports it as well.

The City Council's role

The contract also requires approval from the City Council. For 10 of the council's 13 members, this will be the first time they're voting on a police contract. Police officers have been working under a contract that was approved in the spring of 2017 and expired at the end of 2019.

On the campaign trail, council members expressed varying opinions about whether the city's Police Department should be replaced in the wake of Floyd's murder — but they almost universally said the city needed to improve accountability for any officers that did remain.

In Minneapolis, the mayor has control over many of the Police Department's daily operations, but the council still has influence on three crucial topics: its budget, the selection of the police chief and the approval — or denial — of the union contract.

Council Member Andrew Johnson said he understands the activists' concerns.

"I'd like to see more in this contract. That's certainly fair to say," Johnson said. He declined to say which specific changes he'd like to see in the agreement, saying he felt constrained by state laws that limit what officials can say during negotiations.

Activists are now pushing the council to delay a vote on the union contract and hold a public hearing on the topic. The council is expected to discuss the deal on Tuesday.

As council members mull the delay request, Johnson said they are trying to weigh the benefits of asking for more changes against the risk they could lose other wins if the negotiations end up in binding arbitration.

Another negotiation

In an e-mail to constituents, Jenkins also acknowledged that the tentative agreement "doesn't directly achieve many of the goals that community members have expressed a desire to see." She noted that this agreement would expire at the end of the year.

"At that point, the City and the union will be back at the table, providing an opportunity to incorporate many of the ideas that can ultimately help make police officers more accountable and our community safe," she said.

The activists pushing for change say that approach isn't acceptable. They note that negotiations have in the past often dragged out for years and, if they do so next time, the terms of this agreement could remain in place after 2022.

"The council has to use its checks and balances right now, in this contract," Gurian-Sherman said. "That is an excuse not to do your duty of care."