Minneapolis mayor: City seeks right mentors for new officers

Published 6:50 am Wednesday, August 5, 2020

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the city is working to pair new police officers with “the right individuals” for field training following George Floyd’s death, in which a senior officer rejected a younger colleague’s question about how Floyd was being restrained.

In an interview with The Associated Press as part of its AP Newsmakers series, Frey said the city wants to make sure that the training new officers get isn’t undermined once they go into the field.

“We need to make sure that those who are in a supervisory role, those that are riding with new officers with new cadets, are the right individuals to be role models,” Frey said. “You learn from who your role models are, and that can be a good thing and that can also be a bad thing.”

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Floyd, a 47-year-old Black man who was in handcuffs, died May 25 after Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes as Floyd pleaded for air. Chauvin, who is white, is charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers who were at the scene — Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Kueng — are charged with aiding and abetting.

Attorneys for Lane and Kueng have portrayed the two officers as rookies who deferred to the far more senior Chauvin. Body camera video shows as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe, Lane asked Chauvin whether the officers should turn Floyd from his stomach to his side. Chauvin responded that they would keep Floyd as he was.

The police department has been under significant pressure to change its practices since Floyd’s death, with a majority of City Council members in favor of eliminating the department entirely and replacing it with a new public safety unit. The city’s charter commission is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to advance a proposal that could ultimately send the idea to voters in November.

Frey told the AP that he remains opposed to the idea.

“We should not go down the route of simply abolishing the police department,” Frey said. “What we need to see within this department, and within many departments throughout the country, is a full-on culture shift.”

The mayor and Chief Medaria Arradondo have moved ahead with their own changes since Floyd’s death, including requiring officers to document attempts to de-escalate situations whether or not force is used. They also have expanded requirements for reporting use-of-force incidents, ordering officers to provide more detail.

Arradondo also pulled the department out of negotiations for a union contract, saying he wanted a review aimed at making major changes to things such as the grievance and arbitration process that makes it hard to get rid of problem officers.

Some local residents have voiced concerns about the prospect of dismantling the police department. There were 224% more incidents involving gunfire in June than in June 2019 and 166% more in July than in the previous one, according to a Minneapolis Star Tribune analysis of police data. The police department has also lost scores of officers to firings, resignations and medical leave in the two months that followed Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests, some of which turned violent.

Asked about the perception that officers might be deliberately slowing their response, Frey said he’s seen no evidence of that but acknowledged that the “significant attrition” of officers had slowed response times.

“We have officers in our department who wear the badge that they do, wear the uniform that they do, because they want to make the city a better place,” Frey said.

Asked whether he supports reparations to Black Americans, Frey, who is white, said he does, noting that for generations, Black people have struggled to build wealth for various reasons, including that they’ve had unequal access to higher education and home mortgages.

“There are clear monetary financial impacts to the society that we are living in,” Frey said. “I feel that that should be recognized at some point. … It’s something that I am very open to and I feel it’s the right thing to do.”