Minneapolis riot response was so bad, it'll take years to overhaul

City emergency management officials cautioned Minneapolis City Council on Tuesday that it will take two more years to overhaul the city's efforts after scathing outside reviews of the botched response to the 2020 riots that followed the police murder of George Floyd.

Training, which is underway now, will prepare city staff for a federal emergency response exercise in 2024 at the earliest, said Barret Lane, the city's emergency management director. That would be four years after Floyd's death.

"I would caution everyone not to underestimate the lift that this is going to represent," Lane said. He said outside consultants will lead the training because Minneapolis lacks the capacity to do it. Later, through a spokeswoman, Lane said the consulting budget is to be determined but that he expected it to be "well in excess of $100,000."

Lane, interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman, an assistant fire chief, and the city coordinator all testified about changes they were making in response to more than two dozen action items identified by the Hillard Heintze report made public in March.

That report delivered withering criticism of Lane's agency, which it portrayed as largely absent from the city's emergency response to the rioting that caused an estimated $500 million in damage.

Lane has said Minneapolis Police shut his department out of the command structure. More training and integrated planning will lead to a higher level of connection with MPD in the future, he said Tuesday.

In June, a divided City Council voted 7-6 to postpone a vote on Lane's confirmation to a new term. The vote could be rescheduled for this Thursday's meeting.

Lane declined to answer emailed questions from FOX 9 directly, though a city spokeswoman later sent a response from Lane. "I do not know how the council will vote but I would welcome the opportunity to continue to serve," he said.

Meanwhile, Huffman appeared to satisfy council members when she said MPD would not shut out other emergency management officials if a similar situation happened today. The Hillard Heintze report blamed the police department for poor communication with outside agencies, even with the city's fire department.

"We are certainly operating with a much more unified command structure than we have had in the past," she said, while cautioning that "this is not like flipping a switch."

Prior to Huffman's assurances, Council Member Andrew Johnson said he was concerned that the city's emergency response was no more unified now than it was in 2020.

"I'm concerned if there is an emergency situation tomorrow or the day after tomorrow that we are no more prepared than we were in 2020," Johnson said.

Only one MPD officer has been disciplined for the botched riot response, though more cases are in the system and have not become public, Huffman said.