Family of woman shot by Minneapolis police want changes

Published 8:34 am Friday, July 21, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — The family of an Australian woman shot dead by a Minneapolis police officer wants changes in police protocols, including a look at how often officers are required to turn on their body cameras, a family attorney told local media.

Other police shootings around the U.S. — particularly the killings of black men by police officers — led to calls for changes that included everything from bias training for officers to upgraded technology. Sometimes those changes have been initiated by departments themselves; sometimes they have been ordered by the federal government or through a lawsuit.

In the most recent Minneapolis case, Officer Mohamed Noor shot Justine Damond, a white 40-year-old life coach, once through the window of his police vehicle after she approached the car, minutes after she called 911 to report a possible rape. Noor’s partner told state investigators he had been startled by a loud noise right before the shooting. Noor, who is Somali-American, has declined to be interviewed.

Email newsletter signup

An attorney for Damond’s family, Robert Bennett, told Minneapolis television station WCCO that the family is in disbelief. He said the Australian woman was no threat, and any notion that the officers feared an ambush is “ludicrous.”

Authorities said neither officer had turned on his body camera. Bennett, who helped the family of black motorist Philando Castile reach a nearly $3 million settlement after he was killed by a suburban police officer last summer, said the Minneapolis department’s body camera policy, and how often the cameras are turned on, are among issues the family wants examined.

Minneapolis police have said they already were reviewing their body camera policy before Damond’s death. Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo said police will soon release changes to body camera requirements, without elaborating. Arradondo said supervisors would work with patrol officers to ensure the cameras are activated more frequently.

In a blog post Thursday, Mayor Betsy Hodges said low use of body cameras is “not acceptable,” and said she expects officers to activate them the moment they begin responding to any call. She also said she would push for an immediate audit of the program.

Joseph Schafer, a criminology and criminal justice professor at Southern Illinois University, said calls for changes are common after critical events such as police shootings.

“The challenge can be that a single incident, while horribly tragic and unfortunate … doesn’t necessarily establish there is a systemic problem that needs to be fixed,” Schafer said, adding that changes may not always prevent future mistakes.