Mayor’s task force rolls out proposals to reform MPD

On Monday, leaders of a citizen-led public safety committee created by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called on elected officials to usher the police department into a new era by overhauling how the city recruits, trains and holds officers accountable.

The Community Safety Task Force urged city leaders to hire an Indianapolis-based law enforcement company to help rewrite the training curriculum. The system for disciplining officers who break the rules is also “woefully inadequate” and needs wide-scale change, said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights lawyer and activist who serves as co-chair of the task force.

Proposed reforms include creating a new community safety liaison to help oversee police, expanding the city’s mental health and intervention programs, and allocating more money to violence interrupters and to outreach workers who are helping to combat the rise in gun crime.

Frey announced the creation of the task force in December as city leaders sought to chart a course forward for the beleaguered police department while curbing crime in one of the most violent times in decades. The 22-member group includes activists, clergy, business leaders and a former police officer. Levy Armstrong has long been a vocal critic of police and some elected officials in Minneapolis — particularly Frey, who she ran against in 2017 — but at the press conference they came together to present the group’s findings .

Frey said some of those recommendations are already being implemented and he plans to include others in his 2023 budget proposal, which will be released later this summer.

“There’s no quick and easy solution for public safety,” Frey said. “There is no simple solution for liability. What we do know is that they are not mutually exclusive.”

The list of proposals comes two months after the Minnesota Department of Human Rights accused the city of a model of racially biased policing in violation of the law. The two-year investigation found in the past that city leaders had made policy changes – such as banning warrior-style training – but they were not effectively implemented.

Frey said the task force offered recommendations to ensure the reforms “are not just on paper”, such as creating a police liaison position to help oversee the changes.

The report cites a significant challenge in recruiting new officers. Since the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing unrest, hundreds of Minneapolis police officers have resigned or taken leave, and the current pace of recruitment is moving too slowly, according to the report.

The group recommends spending $180,000 next year on administrative support and $175,000 to $200,000 on marketing to attract high-quality candidates.

Recommendations to improve police accountability include more resources for the Police Conduct Review Office, an alternative route for Internal Affairs complaints, and revamping or replacing the Police Oversight Commission. Police Conduct, a citizens’ watchdog whose members mostly walked away in protest at a malfunction. and inefficient process.

To increase transparency, the city should reassess its reliance on a practice called “coaching,” the task force said. Coaching is a form of one-on-one mentoring that the city says is not a real discipline and therefore classifies these misconduct records as private data. In recent years, coaching has been by far the most common outcome in cases of proven police misconduct

“Coaching is too often used as a catch-all for behavior that should actually translate into more tangible conduct for officers who break the law and violate people’s rights,” said Levy Armstrong.

Reduce violent crime

The report says local leaders should collaborate better to improve public safety through regular meetings, while the Minneapolis Police Department needs a better system for sharing data with other city divisions tasked with crime prevention.

At the press conference, Lisa Clemons, founder and director of the non-profit A Mother’s Love, criticized the task force’s primary focus on police reform.

“I went through this whole thing,” said Clemons, a former police officer, holding the report. “It didn’t tell me anything that’s going to be done about this violence that we’re experiencing in this community right now.”

Frey said the government restructuring proposed in the report – which he has already recommended – will include a neighborhood safety office. He said many of the recommendations, such as better recruitment, will also help reduce violent crime.

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