Update: On Friday morning, the Minneapolis City Council approved the settlement agreement 11-0. Mayor Jacob Frey, Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero and other leaders are planning a news conference later this morning.
The Minneapolis City Council is preparing to vote on an agreement that would plot a new course for how the city's Police Department investigates crimes, uses force against citizens and holds problem officers accountable.
Minneapolis police officers would no longer search a person or vehicle solely because they smell marijuana. They couldn't use chemical irritants as a form of crowd control. Nor could they pull over a driver for a broken tail light.
The tentative agreement, provided to council members Thursday, emerged from almost a year of negotiations between city staff and state officials, since the Minnesota Department of Human Rights charged the Minneapolis Police Department with engaging in a pattern of illegal, racist behavior.
If approved by the council, the settlement would be enforceable by the courts — making it among the most significant responses to the murder of George Floyd and the calls for large-scale reform that followed.
The document, obtained by the Star Tribune, addresses a wide range of procedures, from providing mental health resources to police to devising ways of early intervention for officers showing patterns of dangerous conduct.
Part of the report responds to issues that arose during the trials of the ex-officers convicted in Floyd's killing. Several pages dictate policies for the selection and review of the department's field-training program. Another section emphasizes the duty to intervene when fellow officers break the rules. Much of the report reinforces policies already in place, such as prohibiting officers from directing paramedics on medical decisions such as sedating an agitated person.
City Council members spent more than six hours examining each line of the agreement with attorneys during a closed session at City Hall on Thursday, a meeting attended by Chief Brian O'Hara and Acting Assistant Chief Amelia Huffman.
The agreement would resolve charges brought by Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero last April that said Minnesota's largest police agency stopped, searched, arrested, used force against and killed people of color — especially Black people — at starkly higher rates than white people during a 10-year period. The state's two-year investigation also found that city and police leaders had long been aware of the pattern of discriminatory behavior and failed to fix it.
The agreement stipulates that Minneapolis and its police "do not admit or agree" to the state's charges, but says they "engaged in good-faith negotiations to resolve this matter to avoid the time and expense of taxpayer funded litigation."
The City Council is scheduled to meet Friday to consider the agreement. If approved, the city would be required to create a new unit to implement the terms within 60 days.
"Terrible things have happened here in the past — and we own up to that," O'Hara said. "The vast majority of Minneapolis police officers acknowledge … there's some things we need to change. They're just looking for support and clear direction about what we need to do going forward."
The framework the agreement provides will help ensure officer wellness, he said, and provide the resources and training that officers need to become the police force everyone wants.
Stops and searches
Much of the tentative agreement is dedicated to policies surrounding when police officers in Minneapolis can stop and search vehicles and people on the streets.
It seeks to limit so-called "pretextual stops" — the use of minor traffic or equipment violations as a legal way for police to pull over drivers they wish to investigate. The draft agreement prohibits police from stopping cars for low-level offenses such as failing to display tabs, not properly signaling a turn or having a broken tail light, mirror or other equipment. Instead, the city would issue a notice of repair to the driver in the mail.
When officers pull over vehicles, they may "professionally greet passengers" but can't question or require passengers to produce identification unless they have good reason to believe the person is a perpetrator or victim of a crime.
Officers similarly can't frisk people for weapons during a stop without reasonable suspicion, the settlement says.
It also prohibits them from searching a car or individual based solely on the smell of marijuana.
The settlement prescribes the processes for handling misconduct complaints against officers so they won't stall for longer than six months, except under certain circumstances.
The city's Department of Civil Rights will convene a review panel for misconduct allegations that will forward its findings to the police chief. The chief will then rule on whether the allegation is "sustained," "not sustained," "unfounded," or "exonerated." The chief can also exonerate an officer but flag a "policy failure."
MPD must continue to develop its body and squad camera policies. Police will also receive new training on how to respond to people showing signs of mental illness or severe agitation.
The Police Department would install a series of computer systems to enable it to publish monthly public reports online that detail each time an officer uses a stun gun, baton, chemical irritant or choke hold, firearm or if the officer strikes a person. Monthly reports would also include incidents in which officers' use of force was found to violate city policy and times when an officer failed to properly de-escalate a situation.
Police would publish an annual report documenting each time an officer was disciplined — or not — after violating certain police policies and monthly reports with the number of officers disciplined for violating nondiscrimination policies.
The agreement would require that the agency rewrite its use of force policies in the code of conduct to emphasize that its officers "value the sanctity of life and dignity of all people."
Rank-and-file officers would have to use the lowest level of force needed to ensure their safety, stop an attack, make an arrest or prevent escape. Chemical irritants would be banned for use in crowd control, except in rare scenarios when approved by the chief or a designee.
State oversight would require more rigorous use-of-force reporting by officers, who are expected to document specific details on every interaction in which they use a weapon or cause physical injury. Any officer who observes a colleague using what they perceive as an unreasonable amount of force "must attempt to safely intervene by verbal and physical means." If they fail to act, they may be subject to discipline.
Supervisors must immediately respond to the scene when a subordinate officer uses force that results in an injury so they can identify witnesses, collect evidence and ensure medical care is provided.
Police would also create a new training plan to instruct officers not to issue citations or arrest people for conduct that "offends, annoys or insults an officer," unless the conduct physically interferes with the officer's duties or threatens public safety. Officers would also receive a mandatory 16 hours of training that addresses racial disparities in arrest trends, civil rights and the city's history related to racial inequality.
The agreement notably lacks details about the Police Department's use of covert social media accounts.
Among the most shocking allegations in the original charge described how police created phony social media accounts — sometimes with no authorization — to surveil Black people and organizations unrelated to criminal activity, and without operating similar accounts to track white supremacist groups. The allegation became a point of contention during negotiations and temporarily stalled talks after the city's legal team said they couldn't substantiate the claim.
The tentative settlement contains one paragraph related to social media accounts. It says "the parties recognize the value" of police using covert accounts in a "lawful, nondiscriminatory manner."
Implementation and enforcement
Implementing the agreement would include $1.5 million a year to fund an office run by an independent evaluator responsible for alerting the city and state if something isn't working. The position would be posted within two weeks, and the evaluator hired within 120 days.
A Hennepin County judge would hold ultimate power over enforcing the settlement.
Each year, MPD would conduct a review to ensure that its policies continue to meet the agreement's objectives. The settlement won't be considered closed until the court determines that the city and MPD have "achieved full and effective compliance."
It's not immediately clear how long it may take to fulfill the terms of the agreement, but the document indicates that it could remain in place for years.