Minneapolis police chief: Penalties will be 'last resort' for stay-at-home order violations

Minneapolis city leaders say police will focus first on education and outreach, not arrests, when it comes to violations of Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order, which goes into effect Friday night. 

The governor issued the two-week stay-at-home order as the next step in Minnesota’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, four people in the state have died from the virus and nearly 400 have been infected. 

At a press conference Friday, Mayor Jacob Frey said he expects “100 percent compliance” with the stay-at-home order from the city’s residents and visitors. 

Frey told residents that failing to comply with the stay-at-home order will lead to lives lost in Minneapolis, the state’s most populous city. Although it is unknown how many COVID-19 cases there are in Minneapolis alone, there are currently 141 cases reported in all of Hennepin County—the most of any county in the state. 

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said his department will not use broad sweeping arrest powers unless it is clear that most people are not complying with the order. Police will allow free travel on city streets and will not demand papers from anyone, including the city’s immigrant community, he said. 

“Penalties will be the last resort for our officers,” the chief said. 

Arradondo said officers will respond to community complaints regarding violations of the stay-at-home order, however. 

“Our number one goal is getting voluntary compliance,” he said. “But, if that fails, we will use enforcement measures.”

Several public officials in Minnesota, including the governor, have voiced concerns in recent weeks that Asian-Americans are being targeted in bias-related incidents because the virus originated in China. Arradondo sad residents should call 911 or 311 if they experience bias-related incidents related to the pandemic. 

Although the governor’s stay-at-home order still allows people to leave their homes for outdoor activity, Frey said at times, there have been too many people in the city’s parks. To help people continue to follow social distancing guidelines, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board closed two parkways, West River Parkway and Main Street Southeast, to cars so pedestrians have more room to spread out. 

Frey said he is working with the park board to close the parkways around Lake Harriet and Lake Nokomis to vehicles as well. 

Frey said he believes Minneapolis businesses have been almost 100 percent in compliance with closure orders, but said there were a couple of exceptions that have already been dealt with.