People with behavioral health disabilities are among whom the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and City of Minneapolis discriminated against. An 89-page report from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) describes in great detail the longstanding issues of misconduct.
The DOJ also announced that city and MPD leaders agree in principle to resolve the issues found through a court-enforceable consent decree with an independent monitor. This is an option to contested litigation, which could take many years to resolve.
“George Floyd’s death had an irrevocable impact on his family, on the Minneapolis community, on our country, and on the world,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The patterns and practices of conduct the Justice Department observed during our investigation are deeply disturbing. They erode the community’s trust in law enforcement. And they made what happened to George Floyd possible. Today, we have completed our investigation, but this is only the first step. We will continue to work with the city and the MPD toward ensuring that MPD officers have the support and resources they need to do their jobs effectively and lawfully as we work together toward meaningful and durable reform.”
“These findings present a sobering picture of a flawed system – but today we turn towards change through justice,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Bildtsen for the District of Minnesota. “This thorough investigation is the foundation to make fair and lawful policing a reality for our entire community.”
The report was released June 16 by Garland. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has already pledged to address the problems. Doing so could take many months and cost millions of dollars.
The report describes how police used excessive force against residents from 2016 to 2022, and violated their constitutional and federal rights. The report also recommends several ways that city officials can address the situation.
The DOJ report outlines four primary categories of violations. Those are:
Both the police and city officials are found to violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in situations involving people with behavioral health disabilities. People who were having mental health crises and behaving erratically were found to have posed no threats to others in many situations. But police used tasers, chokeholds and other forcible measures of arrest in these cases.
MPD was found to have used excessive force, caused unnecessary death, struck people who were restrained and not given needed medical aid to people in custody. The best-know of these cases was the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd, who was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill in a south Minneapolis store.
MPD was found to have discriminated against Black and Native American people during stops. One issue found after Floyd’s death was that many officers stopped reporting race in incident reports. That created incomplete data and also caused problems in trying to address racial disparities. That negatively impacted public trust.
The fourth police violation is of the First Amendment, with retaliation against journalists and community members who record police actions.
The DOJ found that persistent deficiencies in policy, training, supervision, and accountability contribute to the unlawful conduct.
Garland announced the report’s launch in April 2021. it is known in the DOJ as a “pattern and practice’ report. It focused on violations of various federal laws including the ADA and the federal Civil Rights Act. MPD and city officials cooperated fully with the report.
It is a separate report from the criminal cases against four former MPD officers in Floyd’s death.
Changes have already been made by the city and MPD, and it identifies additional remedial measures that the DOJ believes are necessary to fully address its findings.
MPD is already in a consent decree process with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, after a state investigation found problems last year.
Several issues related to behavioral health issues were raised in the June 16 report. Training that has been provided has not been found to be effective or appropriate.
Another issue is that just 0.45 percent of plus-100,000 mental health calls resulted in an arrest at the scene. Many advocates contend that the current reliance on police-only responses is unwarranted, and this statistics emphasizes their point.
Not only is such police response inappropriate in many behavioral health-related situations, and harmful for that response alone, such responses can increase the stigma associated with behavioral health issues. It can contribute to distrust of public services. In some cases the responses have caused trauma.
MPD officers often failed to use appropriate de-escalation techniques when responding to mental health-related calls. these measures can include active listening, giving the individual extra space and time, and speaking slowly and calmly.
The report also urges a better connection with other behavioral health crisis service providers, saying those resources are largely unused.
The report’s focus on training singles out the MPD Crisis Intervention Team training as having “serious flaws” including medically inaccurate information and perceptions that people with mental illness are dangerous. One issue raised in the report is that of “excited delirium” and how that can be misused by police and those in the emergency communications center.
The report also scrutinizes the Behavioral Crisis Response (BRC) team that Minneapolis created in 2021. NAMI Minnesota and a number of Minneapolis mental health providers were opposed to its creation and recommended that the city contract with the Hennepin County crisis team, COPE, to expand their capacity. The DOJ report mentions that mental health specific responses like the BCR have great potential, but the city must address capacity and resources.
The DOJ will reach out to members of the Minneapolis community for input on remedies to address the report’s findings. Individuals may also submit recommendations by email at [email protected] or by phone at 1-866-432-0268.
Find links to the report, settlement in principle and other documents at https://www.justice.gov/usao-mn/pr/justice-department-finds-civil-rights-violations-minneapolis-police-department-and-city