Minneapolis community group says it was left out of police reforms agreement

An influential Black pastor who has long played a role in Minneapolis police politics slammed the agreement the city approved with the state’s Department of Human Rights on police reforms on Friday, saying he and his group had been left out of the process and hadn’t been given the recognition they deserved. 

Rev. Ian Bethel, who played a key role in an agreement to reform the Minneapolis Police Department in 2003, said he felt the group he leads, the Unity Community Mediation Team, hadn’t received due credit in the plan announced by the city and Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero last week. He called for the city to pause its implementation of the plan. 

"The Unity Community Mediation Team objects to being erased from history. That you correct the record and acknowledge the key role of the Unity Community Mediation team and the diverse organizations and communities represented on the Unity Community Mediation team in the settlement agreement and your public narrative," he said during a press conference Monday. 

Bethel, a pastor at New Beginnings Baptist Ministries in South Minneapolis, also criticized the agreement because it contains language saying the city and the police department did not accept the findings of the MNDHR’s investigation, including that the police had, "engaged in a pattern or practice of race discrimination." 

"That is neither transparency is not accountability nor the consequences that this community demands, let alone transformation of a culture," Bethel said. 

While the city has not directly responded to Bethel’s comments, Minneapolis City Attorney Kristyn Anderson addressed questions about the language Bethel cited concerning the city’s acceptance of responsibility during a press conference on Friday. 

"It’s a typical term of a settlement agreement that there is not an admission of liability. We can come to an agreement as mutual parties to negotiation because we want to resolve these legal claims. We want closure on the dispute. We want closure on the idea of potential taxpayer-funded litigation when we know we've got work to do," Anderson said. 

In the same press conference, Lucero defended the community engagement her department conducted for the agreement, noting her staff held a series of community meetings both before and after they announced the results of their investigation. She said this included 15 community forums held last summer.

"Many of them were attended by city council members, by lots of community members. And this was just in addition to the ongoing conversations I had with many community organizations and community leaders," she said.

The city is also working with federal authorities on a separate investigation by the Department of Justice. That investigation will also result in a second, separate agreement.