Federal investigation of MPD may soon enter new phase, city attorney says

Minneapolis officials think the U.S. Department of Justice is wrapping up the discovery phase of its patterns and practices investigation of the city's police department, but no one knows the feds' timeline, a key city official said Tuesday.

Interim City Attorney Peter Ginder told the City Council that Minneapolis has handed over terabytes of data to the Justice Department. City officials say they fully expect the process to end in a consent decree, a legally binding settlement agreement overseen by a court-approved independent monitor.

"We don’t know when they’ll make a decision on this," Ginder said.

DOJ's investigation started in April 2021 but paused for several months during the trial of four police officers in George Floyd's murder. The agency is looking into discrimination and the use of force within the Minneapolis Police Department.

There have been 43 consent decrees across the U.S. since 1994. Some have lasted a decade or more, including the ongoing court monitoring of police departments in Portland and Seattle.

The cost of complying with a consent decree will likely be at least $1 million a year "and maybe well above that,"  Ginder said. Much of that cost is the independent monitor, which the city must hire. Policy changes and police training are additional costs.

"During the consent decree, the city to a large decree loses control of the police department," Ginder said, noting that the independent monitor takes control.

City Council officials raised concerns about that lack of local oversight.

"It is a little frustrating to know, with this (consent decree) comes ballooning costs, lack of local control, which almost feels, initially, like the opposite direction that the community wants to go when it comes to managing the department," Council Member Jeremiah Ellison said. "But these are sort of the consequences of having a department functioning the way it is functioning."

Council President Andrea Jenkins says the city has invited DOJ to talk through the process, but "They’re kind of like, 'Yeah, we’re doing our own thing. We’ve got this.'"