Minneapolis work group lays out plan for how to reform and expand police

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey's efforts to reform the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), "transform policing" and add additional officers now have a roadmap in the form of a report released Monday from the city's Community Safety Work Group.

The 29-page report includes recommendations on key areas, including overhauling the police discipline process, strategies for hiring and training more officers, and expanding the city's violence prevention efforts.

Frey praised the recommendations in a press conference Monday, saying they could "change the face of how public safety operates" in Minneapolis. "This is work that is not just going to sit in a binder on a shelf. This is work that can be carried out," he said.  

The 22-member work group has been meeting over the last seven months and includes a wide range of community members, and was co-chaired by Dr. DeWayne Davis from Plymouth Congregational Church and civil rights activist and lawyer Nekima Levy Armstrong.

At the press conference, Levy Armstrong highlighted the committee's recommendation that MPD creates a new leadership position to liaison with the mayor's office and report to the public on the progress of change, saying filling that position would be key to turning the report's recommendations into reality.

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"Now that the voters went to the polls last November, they gave the mayor some increased authority. We want to see the mayor seize that opportunity in order to implement a lot of these changes that we are recommending, if not all of the changes," she said.

Minneapolis police oversight, training and discipline

Levy Amstrong pointed to the group's list of recommendations for overhauling how the department trains officers — as well as who does the training. ,

"When we looked into that field training officer program, what we saw were a lot of gaps in efficiencies, rubber-stamping of the status quo that led to someone like Derek Chauvin being in a position of power and authority that he should never have been in," she said.

She said the group found that MPD's discipline process was "woefully inadequate to address the ongoing concerns" and needed an overhaul. 

The report recommends that the city hire a third party to conduct an audit of its discipline process, review past arbitration decisions, conduct a "reset" of disciplinary standards, implement a "robust early intervention program," and look closely at how "coaching" has been used in lieu of discipline.

"Right now, we feel that there are too many gaps within the system of coaching, and coaching is too often being used as a catch-all for behavior that actually should result in more tangible conduct for officers who violate the law and who violate people's rights," she said.

Officer recruitment and retention

Downtown Council President Steve Cramer presented the group's recommendations on officer recruitment. These included practical steps like expanding the recruitment team (which is currently only one officer) and investing more in marketing, as well as more far-reaching goals, like building a community pipeline and re-framing joining the police as "being the change," the city needs.

"No doubt building back MPD is an urgent matter, but realistically it will take sustained effort over a period of years," Kramer said. "We'll be well-served to continue to invest now to build that first-in-class recruiting and training program, to meet our current challenge and opportunity and to maintain the MPD our community needs over time."

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Levy Armstrong stressed that in her view, communities of color In Minneapolis would benefit from having more police officers, as long as those officers have the right values, perspective and training.

"We want to feel safe in our own communities. We don't want to have to call 911. But if we do, we want someone who is going to show up at the door, who respects our humanity and who values us as a people," she said.

"So I think all of these recommendations taken as a whole and implemented effectively will result in a significant change to the way that the Minneapolis Police Department does business and how we address the rising violence that we have to deal with in our city."