Court-enforceable police reform is coming to Minneapolis.

Updated at 12:45 p.m. on March 31.

Eleven months ago, investigators with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights issued a blistering report on the Minneapolis Police Department.

The 72-page document confirmed what many Minneapolis residents already suspected: The city’s police department used harsher tactics against people of color and Indigenous individuals than they did against their white neighbors.

To many critics, the names of Black men killed by MPD officers — including Terrence Franklin, Jamar Clark and Floyd— were only the most high-profile examples of this pattern. The state’s report did note that all but one of the people killed by MPD officers between 2010 and February 2022 have been men of color.

But the bulk of the state’s report focused on painting a stark picture of day-to-day policing in Minneapolis.

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“What pains me in this is that we needed a report to validate what Black people have been saying for decades,” said Saray Garnett-Hochuli, who is Black and led the city’s Department of Regulatory Services, at a city press conference after the report’s release in April 2022.

The report laid the groundwork for a settlement between the state and Minneapolis: an agreement to enact reforms to MPD, on a specific timeline, under supervision of a court. City Council members voted to authorize that deal Friday morning after an all-day closed-door meeting Thursday; Mayor Jacob Frey and Minnesota’s Human Rights commissioner signed the deal shortly thereafter.

RELATED: What you need to know about Minneapolis’ court-enforceable police reform agreement

Here’s a rundown of what led up to that pivotal report — and what has happened before and since:

June 2020: Floyd’s death triggers investigation & immediate changes

Less than one week after MPD officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd on May 25, 2020, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) opened an investigation into whether MPD was engaged in racially discriminatory policing.

Two weeks later, at MDHR’s request, a Hennepin County court issued an order that required MPD to begin taking five immediate actions:

  • Ban officers’ use of neck restraints, commonly known as “chokeholds”
  • Require the chief’s permission to use crowd control weapons — like chemical agents, rubber bullets, flash-bangs, batons or marking rounds.
  • Speed up the discipline process against officers accused of misconduct
  • Implement an audit process for all footage from officers’ body-worn cameras
  • Bolster officers’ duty to intervene when they see a colleague using force without authorization, even if that colleague is their superior

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As the city began these initial steps — all of which were completed by August — MDHR investigators began what would be a two-year long investigation of MPD.

The inquiry was wide-ranging, involving some 700 hours of bodycam footage, 480,000 pages of records and use of force data from the previous decade. Investigators also completed multiple ride-alongs with officers, sought community input and crunched their data with the help of national police experts and a criminologist from the University of Pennsylvania.

Fall 2020: New limits on force, no-knock warrants?

As the investigation played out over the ensuing months — and with widespread anticipation that court-enforced reforms were on the way — MPD and city leaders began rolling out a series of policy changes.

The earliest reforms were aimed at limiting officers’ ability to use deadly force. In September 2020, the department instructed officers to use de-escalation techniques and tightened MPD policy to require officers to “consider all reasonable alternatives to deadly force and use the minimum level of force needed.”

In November 2020, MPD also announced new limits on no-knock warrants — restrictions that Mayor Jacob Frey would later describe as a “ban” or “moratorium.” (MPD’s subsequent killing of Amir Locke showed that, in practice, police could still execute “unannounced” search warrants under department policy, as MinnPost reported).

Throughout 2021: More policy changes

Minneapolis leaders continued to roll out policy changes, announcing that MPD officers would stop pulling over drivers for minor violations like expired tabs or broken license plate lights. MPD also instituted new prohibitions against officers turning off their bodycams. 

April 2022: Two-year investigation concludes

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On April 27, 2022, state investigators published their final report, concluding that MPD had “engaged in a pattern or practice of race discrimination” — especially, though not exclusively, in how officers policed Black residents.

In recent years, the state’s team found that — in a city where 19% of residents are Black:

  • Black people were involved in 63% of the cases where MPD officers used force. An expert-led review of body camera footage showed that officers were less likely to use force against white individuals than Black individuals in circumstances. Specifically, officers were almost twice as likely to use a neck restraint against a Black person than a white individual.
  • A little more than half of MPD’s traffic stops involved Black drivers. The vast majority of the searches, tickets and arrests that stemmed from these traffic stops involved Black individuals. Tellingly, investigators found officers were less likely to stop drivers of color just after sunset — when it becomes harder to ascertain the race of the driver.
  • Black individuals received 66% of MPD’s citations for disorderly conduct or obstruction. In the report, a “high-level” police leader described these as charges officers often used to arrest individuals “for things that could fall under the category, arguably, of pissing off the police.”
  • During these low-level incidents, MPD officers were more likely to use chemical irritants, like mace, against Black individuals than similar cases involving white people. The report noted that officers who used this tactic often escalated their encounters with Black men.

The report also concluded that MPD officers were too quick to use force, regardless of the race of the other person in the interaction. In a review of 300 use-of-force files, experts found that officers failed to de-escalate in 56.8% of cases, and “improperly escalated” in another 32.7% of cases.

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But the MDHR’s findings went beyond the numbers:

  • Despite officially banning “warrior style” training years earlier, investigators concluded MPD essentially continued to teach a “paramilitary” approach to policing, which led to unnecessary escalation — and “exacerbated a pattern of race-based policing.”
  • MPD lacked a “meaningful independent review process” for misconduct cases, with too close a relationship between the city’s civilian-led investigative arm and the police department’s Internal Affairs Unit. An oversight commission meant to bring community members’ voices into the process lacked resources and was frequently stonewalled by MPD and the city, investigators said.
  • MPD officers and supervisors used racial slurs about community members of color, and also about Black MPD colleagues, according to bodycam footage investigators reviewed. The video footage also captured misogynistic remarks about women.

At a news conference, Frey said the report’s contents “made me sick to my stomach and outraged.” The mayor also said the city was “open” to a court-enforceable agreement spelling out further reforms to be rolled out under court-monitored supervision.

“I feel this conviction to my core right now to make these changes,” the mayor added.

Meanwhile, MPD continued its drumbeat of policy changes, announcing a new ban on “all” no-knock warrants, though officers could still enter without announcing their presence in certain “exigent circumstances.”

Spring 2022: Rocky early talks

A disagreement over one of the MDHR’s findings led to snags in early talks.

State investigators had concluded that MPD officers “used covert social media to surveil Black individuals and Black organizations, unrelated to criminal activity.”

In May 2022, the city skipped several negotiation sessions with MDHR over concerns it could not “independently verify” this claim, according to the Star Tribune. The city wanted the state to share more evidence; MDHR argued the city had all the evidence it needed, and that sharing more could “reveal confidential sources.”

This stalemate delayed talks for several weeks.

July 2022: City, MDHR begin work on a settlement

Two-and-a-half months after the state’s report came out, MDHR and city leaders signed an agreement to begin work on a settlement that would enact reforms to the police department.

The reforms would “ensure non-discriminatory policing” in Minneapolis, according to a joint statement signed by both the mayor, City Council president Andrea Jenkins and MDHR commissioner Rebecca Lucero.

“Although the City does not agree with all of MDHR’s findings,” the joint statement said, “it agrees that a number of MDHR’s findings raise important issues, and the City is committed to addressing those issues.”

While the document was mostly a framework for future talks, it did include a formal agreement on a key substantive point:

Federal investigators are conducting their own inquiry into whether MPD’s practices are racially discriminatory. If the U.S. Department of Justice also found this pattern, the federal government could pursue a similar court-enforceable settlement — a consent decree — with Minneapolis.

Hoping to avoid a muddle between the two settlements, Minneapolis and MDHR leaders agreed that, if the feds enter into a consent decree with the city, the state would amend its settlement to ensure the two did not conflict.

They also agreed to use the same court-appointed monitor, who would oversee compliance with both settlements. (The Department of Justice investigation is ongoing.)

The announcement of these discussions came just weeks after the city hired its first ever Commissioner of Community Safety, Cedric Alexander, who would oversee MPD and other existing public safety agencies — along with a new office that would explore other ways to keep neighborhoods safe without involving police.

September 2022: Minneapolis announces pick for new police chief

Frey nominated Brian O’Hara — then a deputy mayor in Newark, N.J. — to succeed retired MPD chief Medaria Arradondo.

In announcing his pick, the mayor cited O’Hara’s experience instituting a consent decree in that city — “which is obviously a route that we are in the process of going down.”

March 2023: Preparing for settlements, MPD announces administrative changes

In early March, O’Hara briefed City Council members on a series of proposed changes to the police department’s organizational hierarchy — with some changes taking effect immediately, and others taking effect later.

One immediate change: creating a new assistant chief position who would oversee the parts of the department “that work to rebuild trust, engage with community and … change the narrative around policing.”

In the future, the chief said MPD planned to create a new deputy chief position that would oversee a new “Constitutional Policing Bureau” — an office that would oversee all of the reforms that the coming settlement or consent decree would require.

“It’s all about coming into compliance. That’s what these things are all about,” O’Hara said.

He added that, while the city would pay for the court-appointed monitor to oversee the reforms, the onus for change “falls on us — you know, mostly on the police department — to get this stuff done, and to be able to prove in some way that we’re implementing [the agreement provisions] almost perfectly … I believe this is the structure that will get us there faster.”

A few council members raised concerns about bloating the ranks of the department’s administrative ranks. One council member — Ward 4 representative LaTrisha Vetaw — ultimately voted against the new assistant chief position over this concern.

O’Hara said new senior positions were necessary to signal the importance of these changes internally, to the department, and externally, to the public.