A line of Minneapolis Police officers during a protest against the police murder of George Floyd. Credit: Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News 2020

This story comes to you from MPR News through a partnership with Sahan Journal.

The settlement agreement between the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and the city of Minneapolis is based on a state investigation, which found that people of color, especially Black and Native American residents, are more likely to be arrested or used force against than white residents during similar incidents.

It also mandates changes to police policies and procedures. 

Police union attorney James P. Michels argued in court that the union needs to be aware of anything during the agreement’s implementation that could affect the Minneapolis Police Department union contract. 

Hennepin County District Court Judge Karen Janisch asked Michels why other methods of enforcing the city’s labor contract like filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board wouldn’t suffice.

Michels said the federation is interested in having the “ability to be heard” as issues arise that are important for employees who will be integral to implementing the state agreement.  

“What’s the harm in granting this motion to intervene to the federation?” Michels asked. 

Attorneys for Minneapolis and the state said the police union can only legally intervene if it has a dispute. However, they say the union’s motion is based on hypothetical arguments. 

Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Megan McKenzie said the state has taken great pains to avoid affecting the union’s collective bargaining agreement, including a provision in the legally-binding document that states that no parts of the agreement should undermine the union contract: “We’re talking in hypotheticals because that’s all we can do.” 

Minneapolis City Attorney Kristyn Anderson said allowing the police union to intervene would violate the rules of the court. She said the action in the case is the “claim of discrimination” found by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, and that no claims were made specifically against the union.

Anderson said the police union could keep abreast of anything that might affect their members by following public court processes. 

Janisch said she’ll issue a ruling on the police federation’s motion soon.

The hearing comes just a day before the police union starts negotiations with the city on its next contract. City officials, including Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey have said they want to focus on officer recruitment, mental health support and accountability during negotiations.