The family of Amir Locke, who was killed by Minneapolis police as they served a no-knock warrant, was invited to meet with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights last summer as the agency negotiated a settlement agreement to reform police work in the city.
On Friday, Locke's father Andre Locke Sr. voiced gratitude that the sweeping agreement reflected the feelings and experiences his family shared about the Minneapolis Police Department.
Locke's family supported a stipulation that the police department will continue to prohibit no-knock warrants. Officers must announce themselves and wait a reasonable period after knocking before forcing entry. And the agreement, approved Friday by the City Council, says officers must complete a risk assessment before executing a warrant and may be subject to discipline for "providing knowingly inaccurate or incomplete information in support of these warrants."
"I agree that it's a step forward," said Karen Wells, Amir Locke's mother. "At the same time, I do feel that it's a year too late, a day too short — because if this would have been implemented years ago, I do believe that our son Amir would still be here."
Racial justice advocates were still absorbing the ramifications of the 144-page document on Friday and asking: Does it go far enough?
The agreement follows a year of negotiations between city and state officials since the Minnesota Department of Human Rights released a report finding that the Minneapolis Police Department had engaged in a pattern of illegal, racist conduct. The agency's investigation came amid calls for a radical transformation in public safety following the police murder of George Floyd in 2020.
The Locke family's civil rights attorney, Antonio Romanucci, praised the agreement as "monumental" in scope.
"From my initial review, this one appears to be one of the most overarching ones that I've ever laid eyes on," said Romanucci, who has represented victims of police killings nationwide. "And I haven't finished it because it's a monumental piece and obviously the result of some horrible, terrible, egregious acts that have occurred in Minneapolis. But in terms of scope, and the number of changes, it really will revolutionize policing as Minneapolis has ever known if this is carried through."
A joint statement he made with Ben Crump and Jeff Storms — all attorneys for Floyd's family — said it was their "fervent hope that the reform agreement will improve the quality of policing, enhance the training and well-being of officers and most importantly, increase trust of law enforcement in the community, particularly among those who have for so long have been marginalized and mistreated."
Marcia Howard, one of the residents who has occupied George Floyd Square, called it an "easy win" for the agreement's prohibition on officers searching cars and people solely based on the smell of marijuana, given that marijuana may become legal in Minnesota.
As for the mandate that chemical irritants not be used for crowd control unless authorized by the police chief? Howard compared that exception to the loopholes in the no-knock warrant ban that led to Locke's killing in February 2022.
Is the agreement's requirement of 16 hours of training on "non-discriminatory policing" the first year (with eight hours annually after that) adequate? She questioned in what way a police officer would be held accountable and possibly lose their position for misconduct under the new agreement.
"What is fundamentally changing about what's required of police officers on the ground?" Howard asked. "The rank-and-file police officers … is there anything in there with teeth to keep them from behaving in the way that they are right now?"
Howard said she doesn't have a lot of trust in how the new rules will be enforced. And she takes issue with the ability of the police chief to identify a "policy failure" even after exonerating an officer of a misconduct allegation, which Howard called a "get-out-of-jail-free card for dirty cops."
"I don't see anything thus far ... that says, 'This is a way in which we get rid of bad cops,' Howard said. "'This is a way in which we create a precinct of cops that understands the value of human life.'"
Like Howard, civil rights leader Nekima Levy Armstrong is concerned that the agreement doesn't sufficiently address disciplinary action against problematic police officers. She said the community safety work group last year recommended the need for a "disciplinary reset" because there's too much leeway in how it occurs and whether it sticks, and "that is a part of why officers have felt comfortable engaging in misconduct and abuse."
She sees some familiar policies she sought when meeting with previous Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, such as bans on stopping a vehicle only for a broken taillight or similar equipment violations.
"I think [the agreement] could be a step in the right direction, but that is really going to depend largely upon the monitor enforcing the terms of the agreement as well as the city of Minneapolis acting in good faith, which we haven't seen the city of Minneapolis [do] up until this point," Armstrong said.
And the success of this agreement, according to Armstrong, will also depend on how well city leadership and the new police chief can instigate a cultural shift within the police department.
"A cultural shift would result in officers holding each other accountable in the field and on the streets so that a circumstance does not become violent or deadly unnecessarily as we saw in the case of George Floyd, Amir Locke and so many others who have been killed by Minneapolis police," she said.
Jeanelle Austin, lead caretaker at the memorial where Floyd was killed, grew excited when she read in the report of an independent review system — "Yeah, that's what we need," she said to herself. Then she read further and saw that the city's Department of Civil Rights would convene a review panel for misconduct allegations that forward its findings to the police chief, who would then rule on whether the claims were sustained.
"So if there's misconduct and the police chief gets the last call, well, it's all still internal and we've had a history of police not actually being held accountable … How does that create a sense of progress?" she asked.
Dave Bicking, vice president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, was not happy with the lack of public access to the agreement before its abrupt approval by the City Council.
"We were urging them to take their time so that the public can know what the heck they were voting on, maybe even for them to know more about what they were voting on, and certainly for them to get some advice and feedback," he said. "So now because everything's been secret, we're just now starting to look at the consent decree, and it may be good and it may be bad, I don't know yet. But the process for doing this was absolutely outrageously secretive and undemocratic … And that's setting a precedent for the rest of this process."
Read the agreement:
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