Judge approves Minneapolis police reform deal forged after George Floyd’s killing

Published 5:23 pm Friday, July 14, 2023

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis must enact police reforms in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, after a judge on Thursday approved a settlement agreement between the city and the state Human Rights Department.

The Star Tribune reported that Hennepin County Judge Karen Janisch signed the settlement, which calls for de-escalation whenever possible, limits on the use of tear gas and other chemical agents, and an end to police stops for broken taillights and searches based on the smell of marijuana.

“This is a huge framework. There is going to be a lot of work that the city is going to be doing in the near future,” Janisch said. “I hope that the city is up to that task and that you can find good people to be able to carry this forward.”

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The Human Rights Department began investigating shortly after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes on May 25, 2020, disregarding the Black man’s fading pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd’s death sparked mass protests around the world, forced a national reckoning on racial injustice, and compelled a Minneapolis Police Department overhaul.

Minnesota’s Human Rights agency issued a blistering report last year after its investigation found the police department had engaged in a pattern of race discrimination for at least a decade. The U.S. Justice Department, which also launched a similar investigation, issued a withering critique of the department in June, alleging that officers systematically discriminated against racial minorities, violated constitutional rights and disregarded the safety of people in custody for years before Floyd was killed.

Under the agreement with the state, training in the disputed condition of excited delirium — a key issue in the confrontation that led to Floyd’s death — will be banned.

The settlement also governs the use of body-worn and dashboard cameras; officer wellness; and response to mental health and behavioral crises. An independent evaluator must be appointed to monitor compliance.

“This comes after we spent months with the city negotiating and engaging with and hearing from community members and police officers and bringing their ideas right to the negotiating table to then implement into the consent decree,” Minnesota Human Rights Department spokesperson Taylor Putz said.

Janisch approved the settlement despite calls for revisions by some police accountability groups concerned that it will be too easy for the police union to sidestep changes and that it could mean softer police disciplinary measures are hidden from the public.

Police watchdog group Communities United Against Police Brutality praised most of the consent decree but questioned select clauses stating that “nothing in this agreement will be interpreted as obligating the city or any unions to violate and/or waive any rights or obligations under the terms of the collective bargaining agreements.”

“That means cops can sidestep anything in this consent decree by putting it in their union contract,” volunteer Andrew Kluis told attendees at a community review of the settlement agreement last month.

Floyd, 46, was arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market. He struggled with police when they tried to put him in a squad car, and though he was already handcuffed, they forced him on the ground.

Chauvin was convicted of murder in April 2021 and was sentenced to 22 1/2 years on that charge. He also pleaded guilty to a federal charge of violating Floyd’s civil rights and was sentenced to 21 years in that case. He is serving those sentences in Tucson, Arizona. Three other officers at the scene are all serving prison sentences for their roles in the case.