Stark racial disparities remain as police use-of-force rate rises

When Minneapolis police use force against someone, such as the kind of restraint that led to George Floyd's death, it's most often against black men and occurring in the city's most diverse neighborhoods.

The police department's own publicly published data shows about 60 percent of use-of-force incidents since 2008 were against black people.

It also shows that, after a decade of falling, the share of police incidents involving some form of force has increased in the past three years.

Floyd died May 25 after former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin pinned him down with his knee into Floyd's neck. It's not clear if that incident would be considered a neck restraint or a body pinning tactic, which is the most common form of force used by Minneapolis police.

Of at least 195 people who have died in encounters with police throughout Minnesota since 2000, only nine were the result of some type of physical restraint. Five involved the Minneapolis Police Department.

A request for comment from the department was not returned.

Force use rises, neck restraint declines

The past two years, and through 2020 so far, police use-of-force rates have been rising in Minneapolis, reversing several years of declines.

These higher rates are mostly swayed by totals of annual citywide police calls, which data show have been significantly falling, while force use incidents have stayed steadier.

And while the use of neck restraints has become a lower share of incidents, officers still used the tactic about 430 times since 2012, with 49 incidents last year alone. In 68 cases, the individual lost consciousness. More than half of people in neck restraint incidents were black.

Neck restraints overall are an unusual application of force for Minneapolis police, who more often use other types of body weight pins.

Racial disparities remain

Police data show high rates of force disparately used against black people, who comprise nearly two-thirds of individuals in those cases.

This is despite black people only representing about 20 percent of Minneapolis and 47 percent of convictions in city crimes from 2008 to 2018.

Calls about a suspicious person are often the initial encounter leading to a force use incident. Only 8 percent of suspicious person calls are received via 911 – compared to about 41 percent for force incidents overall – and overwhelmingly target black men.

A U.S. Department of Justice study using data spanning 2002 to 2011 found that 3.5 percent of black people experienced nonfatal force during their most recent police encounter, more than twice the rate of white people.

Force use is unevenly distributed

These incidents are also most likely to occur in the city’s most diverse neighborhoods in central, north and Midtown Minneapolis.

In pre-pandemic times, Downtown West in the First Precinct often had the highest concentration of police force use reports, due in part to being a major event and weekend destination.

Outside of Downtown, North Side neighborhoods in the Fourth Precinct, where Jamar Clark was killed by police in 2015, and Third Precinct on the South Side, where Floyd died, make up nearly half of all police use-of-force incidents combined.

Use-of-force reports by neighborhood, 2008-2020
MPD precinct
fatal police shooting
nonfatal police shooting

Officer-involved shootings and other fatal police encounters follow similar geographic and demographic trends as the use-of-force overall.

A separate publicly available police database shows that most of the 81 officer-involved shootings since 2008, both fatal and nonfatal, occured in these areas. Of those shot, 47 were black and 13 were white.

And a Star Tribune analysis of death records shows at least 34 people have died in fatal Minneapolis police encounters the past two decades, and 22 of them were black, including Thurman Blevins within the Fourth Precinct in 2018. Five were white, including Justine Ruszczyk Damond, who died in the Fifth Precinct in 2017.

Both the North Side and Midtown areas have among the highest percentages of nonwhite residents in Minneapolis. The Second and Fifth precincts, in Northeast and Southwest Minneapolis, are the whitest.