Last Thursday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey submitted written testimony for the State legislature’s joint committee hearing on public safety. In his testimony Frey expressed appreciation for House DFL lawmakers, including the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) caucus and Minneapolis delegation, for their enduring commitment to criminal justice reform. Frey highlighted provisions to strengthen statewide data collection, prohibit white supremacist affiliation for all sworn Minnesota officers, and reporting requirements for bias and discrimination-based criminal activity. The mayor also called on Senate Republicans to negotiate in good faith and advance proposals that would help make Minnesotans safer and renewed his push to give local government the ability to terminate law enforcement officers in instances of established, egregious misconduct.
“We’ve taken steps at the local level to strengthen our internal disciplinary processes by adding investigative capacity to our Civil Rights Department, accelerating our timeline for disciplinary decisions, and shoring up the thoroughness of misconduct investigations by dedicating an experienced Assistant City Attorney to this vital work,” Frey wrote.
“One additional element requiring attention is peace officer arbitration reform. In Minnesota police departments, roughly 50 percent of all disciplinary decisions – including termination – are overturned by an arbitrator. Police Chiefs and Mayors, and by extension our residents, would greatly benefit from a targeted change to State law so that the disciplinary decisions of Chief Law Enforcement Officers cannot be overturned through arbitration for proven instances of egregious misconduct, like lying on a police report or excessive use of force.” Frey continued.
Frey joined other Minnesota mayors last summer to propose a targeted change to State law that would allow local governments to further instill accountability in their departments by ensuring that the disciplinary decisions of Chief Law Enforcement Officers would be upheld in cases of egregious misconduct.
Frey has worked with the City’s Civil Rights Department, Internal Affairs (IA) unit, and City Attorney’s Office (CAO) to improve both efficiency and thoroughness of Minneapolis’ internal disciplinary processes. In his 2021 budget, Frey doubled the Civil Rights Department’s investigative capacity by adding two full-time investigators along with another full-time body camera analyst.
In February, he embedded an Assistant City Attorney with valuable legal expertise in the disciplinary process. In the intervening months, the CAO has helped streamline communications across departments and helped ensure that investigative work, including witness interviews and evidence collection, is as thorough as possible prior to the case reaching Chief Medaria Arradondo for a disciplinary decision. The City has implemented and is honoring a commitment to turn around all final disciplinary decisions within 30 days of a case file reaching the Chief’s desk for a decision.
Frey and Arradondo have also prioritized accountability in practice: 36 disciplinary decisions have been issued in the last 12 months alone. Under the Minnesota Data Practices Act, officials are barred from discussing the details of those decisions until they reach final disposition. Final disciplinary decisions are posted to the City’s website. Disciplinary decisions become final only after the arbitration process. Local government leaders and experts across the country have identified the arbitration process as a systemic barrier to change that demands a systemic solution.