Four years after George Floyd, are reforms building trust in Minneapolis police?

When George Floyd was killed at the hands of Minneapolis police, it sparked outrage, protests and spurred scathing investigations into the department.

But four years after Floyd’s murder, patience with the slow pace of police reform in Minneapolis is thin.

"It’s absurd that we have to wait," Marquita Stephens, President and CEO of the Urban League Twin Cities told FOX 9.

Despite policy changes and mandated oversight from the state and federal governments, Stephens said she hasn’t seen any indicators that would suggest overall trust in the police department has improved. 

This week, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey attempted to address those concerns when he announced a new early intervention system – a type of technology aimed at better tracking police officers. 

"We are in a better place," Frey said at the time. "We leaned into change, we’re shifting not just a culture within the police department but we’re transforming the way that our city does business with the general public." 

The multi-million-dollar technology will use data to internally track Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers, pulling information from records systems, including use of force incidents, traffic stops, hours worked, and complaints. 

Frey said the intervention system identifies "certain problematic behavior before it gets really bad."

When an officer is flagged by the system, a supervisor will be responsible for taking further action. 

However, Stephens is skeptical of the technology’s effectiveness since it would rely in part on supervisors within the police ranks.

"They don’t have a track record of trust," Stephens told FOX 9. "The [Derek] Chauvin trial pointed that out."

A Blind Spot 

MPD Chief Brian O’Hara acknowledged during a press conference that there may be a "blind spot" when it comes to the supervisor roles.

"We will only be as good as an agency as our worst supervisor," O’Hara said.

Federal lawsuits and investigations have highlighted past problems with MPD supervisors.

In one case, body camera footage showed former officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on a 14-year-old’s neck and beating him with a flashlight, three years before George Floyd. The victim’s lawsuit said "MPD supervisors failed to discipline" Chauvin.

Another lawsuit filed this week by a city worker accuses Chauvin of excessive force and again evading discipline.

Last year, the Justice Department found "MPD Does Not Adequately Supervise Officers."

Stephens said any reform must focus on transparency and accountability. 

"If you don’t have that, you don’t have anything to build on," Stephens said.

Frey acknowledged the early intervention system has limits but insists it will make a difference. He added the ongoing oversight from the state and the federal government will complicate the pace of progress.

"All of this will take time. We could all pretend to take the easy way out and pass a reform here and there. Issue a talking point here and there. That's not what people want," Frey said. "People want true and deep change – and that's what we're trying to get to."

MPD plans to train its supervisors on the early intervention system early next year.

However, it could take a full year to become fully operational, which further underscores how lengthy a process the pace of reform could be for Minneapolis.

Stephens credits the slow roll of reform to "indecision."

"The fact that it’s stalled, the fact that we have no measurable progress, no measurable change – it’s not because there hasn’t been any dialogue," Stephens said. "I think we’ve got all the parts, we’ve got all the voices… indecision."