The Minneapolis Police Department does not make the laws officers are sworn to enforce. We do not have the option to pick and choose which laws we enforce. However, we can control how we, as a law enforcement agency, conduct details (operations targeting specific crimes and/or issues). In this particular instance, I’m only speaking about details; narcotics details in particular. In consultation with the Mayor’s Office, the MPD will no longer engage in any details specifically focused on “low level” marijuana.
Details focusing solely on “low level” marijuana offenses have produced an unintended consequence; one we must confront together as a community.
Recently criminal justice system workers studied downtown public safety details and a concern was raised over the disproportionate number of African American males arrested for small amounts of marijuana during these details. These 1st Precinct public safety details were focused on reducing violent crime and improving livability conditions, and I want to commend 1st Precinct officers for achieving the goals we set earlier this year. Their hard work and attention to detail has produced both a reduction in violent crime and an overall improvement in livability conditions in the Downtown area.
It is important to note the details did not focus on specific demographics. Instead, they focused on behaviors that drew officers’ attention to criminal activity. Every aspect of the MPD’s service is centered on Procedural Justice; treating people with respect, giving them voice, being neutral and building spaces of trust. The officers’ actions as we conducted these details were professional and legal.
However, as the Chief, I need to raise my voice when I see a concern that impacts our city as a whole.
I need to speak up when I see major problems, and from what I have observed, some of the conduct downtown is alarming and has prompted me to ask for a community “Call to Action.” I believe there is a large number of African American males who feel their only choice to survive and provide for themselves is by selling illegal narcotics. That deeply troubles me as a Chief and as a citizen. I never want the MPD to contribute to a sense of hopelessness to our community and I also know police cannot solve this problem alone. Solutions will require a collaborative effort to address these systemic challenges that, unfortunately, are still present in our great city.