Minneapolis Mayor Hodges Criticized for Handling of Protests

4th precinct protests. Photo by Tony Webster. CC-BY-SA 2.0

WASHINGTON – A review of Minneapolis’ handling of the 4th precinct protests in December of 2015 has resulted in a 108 page Justice Department report laying out 71 different recommendations.

The report, published Monday by the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), criticizes Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges for taking too much control of the police’s response to the 18 day long protests.

“The apparent strained relationship between Mayor Hodges and Chief [Janeé] Harteau, and the mayor’s unfamiliarity with the implications of the terminology she used when in charge, likely contributed to the inconsistent direction given to MPD personnel and the resulting frustration among officers over poor communication and inconsistent, uncoordinated leadership,” the report said.

The Minneapolis city charter grants the civic government an unusual amount of control over police operations. The charter gives the mayor of Minneapolis, “complete power over the establishment, maintenance, and command of the police department.” As such, Hodges was much more involved than mayors in other cities might have been.

Many of the report’s findings and recommendations center on the lack of communication and coordination between officials. There are sharp criticisms not only regarding failures of consistent public relations messaging, but also communication to rank-and-file police officers regarding the use of force, conditions for making arrests, or strategy on managing the protests.

“In part, that lack of clarity may have derived from inconsistent horizontal coordination and communication among elected officials, between civic and police leadership, and within MPD’s executive and command structure,” said the report.

The report frequently calls the 4th precinct’s occupation an unprecedented event, a theme that Hodges was keen to emphasize at a press conference Monday. She also acknowledged her shortcomings during the occupation.

“Regardless of whether it was because I lacked the bandwidth, I was constrained for legal reasons, or I simply lacked the skill, I did not communicate in a way that would have helped the situation go better. I’m sorry,” Hodges said according to the Star Tribune.

Police used force a number of times during the precinct’s occupation. Generally police officers are required to fill out a report by the end of their shift for any incidents of use of force. The COPS analysis shows that MPD totalled only three force reports over the 18 days. Higher ranking staff in MPD made a decision early on in the occupation to file only one report per day. This means that multiple incidents of use of force were compiled into a single report, rather than properly being filed as individual incidents.

You can read the full report here.


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Anders Koskinen