In Minneapolis, "warrior-style" training for cops is out. And hopefully the move will lead to safer communities for citizens and the police officers who serve them.
During his State of the City address last week, Mayor Jacob Frey said officers will no longer be allowed to participate in that type of training even while off-duty. The warrior approach encourages officers to believe that they are always under threat. It's been called a fear-based, confrontational way to deal with the public and has caused some citizens to view police as more of an occupying force than as public servants.
Studies have shown that the warrior approach can harm police-community relations, and Minneapolis is one of many U.S. cities working to build greater trust between cops and citizens. Nationally, police accountability advocates say the training increases the chances cops will use excessive force. Some law enforcement experts argue that the warrior mind-set should be replaced with a guardian approach to keeping communities safe.
"Chief Medaria Arradondo's police department rests on trust, accountability and professional service," Frey said during his April 18 address. "Whereas fear-based, warrior-style trainings like killology are in direct conflict with everything that our chief and I stand for in our police department. Fear-based trainings violate the values at the very heart of community policing."
Warrior-type training became controversial in the Twin Cities following the 2016 police shooting death of Philando Castile. Former St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez, who shot and killed Castile during a traffic stop, had taken a "Bulletproof Warrior" seminar. Yanez was later acquitted of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of reckless discharge of a firearm.
The ban on warrior training is one of several welcome steps Minneapolis has taken in recent months to improve policing. Earlier this year, city and Minneapolis Police Department officials said officers would overhaul the handling of sexual-assault cases. The department also has adopted harsher penalties for officers who do not turn on their body cameras, and Frey said compliance has increased as a result.
While he's made police accountability a priority issue, Frey recognizes the stress cops face, and he used his address to highlight new mental health and wellness training in the department.
Also as part of his annual city report, Frey announced the creation of the Minneapolis Climate Action and Racial Equity Fund. Supported by the city and local foundations, the fund will give grants to local projects that address the intersection of poverty and pollution. The mayor noted that the federal government is not stepping up to address many climate and environmental issues but that the city will not ignore the scientific evidence.
The city's health is at stake. A 2014 University of Minnesota study found that people of color (who are often disproportionately lower income) are exposed to nearly 40% more polluted air than whites. That exposure contributes to increased risks of health problems such as asthma and heart problems. The new city fund will invest in projects that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, with a priority given to those targeting poor neighborhoods.
Frey also reiterated his support for a previously announced partnership with Square Inc. and Village Financial Cooperative, the only African-American-led credit union in Minnesota. With a $500,000 investment from the city, the credit union plans to open this year to improve access to banking in underserved communities.
Together with the efforts to improve police-community relations, emphasizing economic and environmental equity will make Minneapolis stronger.