The Minneapolis City Council will hold a special session Thursday to discuss a possible settlement in a lawsuit filed by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights over the city’s policing practices following the murder of George Floyd.
City and state officials had been negotiating the deal in rushes since the state agency released a damning report last year that said the police department had been complicit in a pattern of racial discrimination for at least a decade. The city and state then agreed to negotiate a court-enforceable agreement known as the Consent Decree to address the long list of issues identified in the report.
Few details about the closed session were released. Mayor Jacob Frey, in a letter to the council, said he called the gathering to receive “a briefing” on the state’s lawsuit. Spokesmen for the mayor did not immediately respond Wednesday.
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A spokesman for Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero declined to give details on Wednesday, and Gov. Tim Walz declined to say much when asked about a different issue at a news conference.
“This is the Minnesota Department of Human Rights,” Walz said. “I won’t talk about it. These are secret agreements that they are working on together and again the goal is to make sure our communities are safer and they are working together and I know a lot of work goes into that.”
The city is also awaiting the results of a similarly comprehensive federal investigation into whether the police department was involved in a “pattern or practice” of unconstitutional or unlawful policing. The Justice Department opened its investigation a day after former officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of Floyd’s murder and manslaughter on May 25, 2020.
The black man repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe, then went limp as Chauvin knelt on his neck for 9 1/2 minutes. The killing was recorded by a viewer and sparked months of mass protests across the country and around the world as part of a broader reckoning of racial injustice.
Chauvin is serving 22 1/2 years on his state murder conviction. He later pleaded guilty to separate federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights and was sentenced to 21 years. The sentences run parallel.
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The federal investigation is expected to result in a separate court-enforceable consent order. The city and state would then amend their agreement to resolve conflicting provisions.
The state report, released in April 2022 after a two-year investigation, contains detailed evidence showing differences in how officers use force, stopping, searching, arresting and citing people of color, especially black people, compared to white people in similar circumstances.
The report blamed police culture in part, saying officers “receive a lack of training, emphasizing a paramilitary approach to policing that leads officers to unnecessarily escalate encounters or use inappropriate force.” City officials denied a portion that accused police of “using covert or fake social media accounts to monitor and engage Black individuals, Black organizations and elected officials unrelated to criminal activity without a public safety objective.”
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The Department of Human Rights sued the city and police in June 2020, barely a week after Floyd’s killing, and obtained a temporary restraining order pending investigations, forcing the city to address allegations of systemic and institutional racism within the city to deal with the police department. Immediate changes included a ban on the use of chokeholds and neck restraints and a requirement that officers attempt to prevent other officers they see from using undue force.
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