From left to right: Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke, U.S. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, and Attorney General Merrick Garland at a June 16, 2023, news conference about a federal investigation into Minneapolis police. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Brian O'Hara stand behind Garland. Credit: Aaron Nesheim | Sahan Journal

The U.S. Department of Justice released a scathing report Friday on extensive misconduct at the Minneapolis Police Department, from denying healthcare to people in medical crisis to killing people who are not a threat to anyone else’s safety.

The findings are outlined in a 92-page report that caps a two-year investigation that looked at whether Minneapolis police routinely violated people’s constitutional rights. The investigation was initiated after Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd in 2020 by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes while he begged for his life.

The Department of Justice, the city of Minneapolis, and the police department reached an “agreement of principle” to enter a consent decree where the entities would agree to reform measures that are enforced by a federal court and monitored by an independent body.

For its investigation, the Department of Justice heard from more than 2,000 community members and organizations, interviewed dozens of Minneapolis police officers, went on police ride-alongs, spoke with current and former city staffers, and reviewed thousands of documents, including police reports. Investigators also analyzed data from the city and police department between 2016 and 2022 on calls for service, police stops, uses of force, and other police activities. 

Here are 10 takeaways from the report:

1/ Officers fail to intervene when colleagues use unreasonable force.

2/ The police department has an inadequate system to report use of force.

3/ Officers often use chemical irritants without justification.

4/ When officers encounter youth, it often results in “unnecessary, unreasonable, and harmful” uses of force. 

Much of the use of force against youth stems from officers’ failure to de-escalate. The department has no minimum age requirement to handcuff someone.

In one case, an officer drew a gun on a teenager and pinned his head to the hood of a car because he allegedly stole a burrito worth $5, said Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

5/ Officers use tasers in an unreasonable and unsafe manner.

Their use of tasers was frequently in violation of the department’s own policy, and the weapons were often deployed without warning

6/ Officers use deadly force against people who are a threat only to themselves.

“We also reviewed a case where officers shot a man who was a threat only to himself. The man was a suspect in a shooting. Officers took him into custody, brought him to an interview room, and left him in the interview room unrestrained. When an officer returned, the man was stabbing himself in the neck with a knife in the back corner of the room. The officer shut the door and talked to the man through the door, ordering him to put the knife down. 

When officers opened the door, the man was still in the back corner of the room, with blood dripping from his neck. One officer immediately fired his taser, but may have missed. The man raised his hands, still holding the knife, and took a few slow steps towards the door, his path blocked by two office chairs. 

Though the man had a knife in his hand, he did not point it at the officers or wield it in a threatening manner. Rather than closing the door again, two officers fired four shots at the man, striking him twice. Shooting a man who is hurting himself and has not threatened anyone else is unreasonable.”

7/ The department banned neck restraints on June 9, 2020, after George Floyd was murdered by an officer, but officers often use the maneuver without warning and utilized poor de-escalation tactics in situations that did not end in arrest.

An officer used a neck restraint on a Black man two months after it was banned. Another used it on a protester in 2021. 

8/ Minneapolis police use unreasonable takedowns, strikes, and other bodily force, including against unarmed, compliant or restrained individuals.

“MPD officers aggressively confront people suspected of a low-level offense—or no offense at all—and use force if the person does not obey immediately.

We found MPD officers often use force on people who are not resisting. In one incident, an officer threw a handcuffed Black man to the ground face-first, claiming he had ‘tensed up’ during a search while other officers had him bent over the hood of a squad car. For several minutes before the takedown, the man had been compliant, submitting to being cuffed and searched. He occasionally lifted his head or torso up from the hood of the squad car, and officers quickly pressed him down and held him by the neck, chest, or arms. 

One of the officers who was pinning him to the squad car said, ‘You are going to get thrown on the ground in a minute if you keep this up.’ Less than two seconds later, a different officer hooked the front of the handcuffed man’s neck with his arm and took him to the ground. The man’s head struck the pavement, and the officer rolled the man onto his stomach and held him down by putting his knee on the man’s neck. 

Body-worn camera footage from this incident shows that the man was compliant with the search and was not resisting. In fact, after the officers pushed him on the hood, they took their hands off him while the search continued. There was no reason for the officer to forcibly take the man to the ground by the neck.”

9/ Minneapolis police fail to provide medical care to people in its custody.

“MPD officers arrested a woman (whom they knew from prior contacts) and transported her to jail. On the way, the woman said she was a Type One diabetic and that she could not see straight. She asked to see a doctor twice. The officers did not call for one. When they arrived at the jail over ten minutes later, the handcuffed woman was limp in the squad car. 

The officers pulled her from the car and laid her on the concrete. As she lay on the pavement moaning, the woman said, ‘I need help.’ She again told the officers that she was diabetic and that she could not see. 

In response, an officer bent down over her and said, ‘Just so we’re clear, since you’re playing games, I’m gonna add another charge for obstruct, okay? So you’re gonna spend more time in the clink. Okay?’ 

As a nurse from the jail approached to examine her, the officer and his partner repeatedly undermined the woman’s claims that she needed assistance, claiming, ‘She does this every time.’ One of the MPD officers also told the nurse that he didn’t know if the woman was diabetic, but joked, ‘She’s got tons of needles, I know that!’ 

After the nurse gave a brief examination, the woman laid back down on the concrete, barely moving. The officers then used a ‘Wrap’ (a full-body restraint typically used to control combative people) to carry the woman into the jail.”

10/ Officers unlawfully discriminate against Black and Native American people.

The department “patrols differently based on racial composition of the neighborhood” without “safety rationale.” 

”We estimate that MPD stops Black people at 6.5 times the rate at which it stops white people, given their shares of the population. Similarly, we estimate MPD stops Native American people at 7.9 times the rate at which it stops white people, given population shares.

Our estimates show MPD stopped 30 white people per 1,000 white residents during vehicle stops, but stopped 192 Black people per 1,000 Black residents and 126 Native American people per 1,000 Native American residents.

MPD leadership has persistently encouraged using traffic enforcement and stops of ‘suspicious’ people and vehicles as a way to reduce violent crime and get guns off the street.”

Hibah Ansari is a reporter for Sahan Journal covering immigration and politics. She was named the 2022 Young Journalist of the Year by the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists. She’s a graduate...

Joey Peters is a reporter for Sahan Journal. He has been a journalist for 15 years. Before joining Sahan Journal, he worked for close to a decade in New Mexico, where his reporting prompted the resignation...