Protest re­view: Min­neapo­lis un­pre­pared

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - STEVE KARNOWSKI

MIN­NEAPO­LIS — A fed­eral re­view re­leased Mon­day found prob­lems with Min­neapo­lis’ co­or­di­na­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion dur­ing an 18-day stand­off out­side a po­lice sta­tion after the fa­tal shoot­ing of a black man in 2015 but praised of­fi­cers for their pro­fes­sion­al­ism and the peace­ful end of the protest.

The Depart­ment of Jus­tice’s Of­fice of Com­mu­nity Ori­ented Polic­ing Ser­vices con­ducted the re­view at the city’s re­quest after the shoot­ing of Ja­mar Clark, 24, on Nov. 15, 2015. His death in a con­fronta­tion with two white of­fi­cers sparked an oc­cu­pa­tion out­side the sta­tion on the city’s north side and other protests that were largely peace­ful, though one on Nov. 18 in­cluded skir­mishes be­tween of­fi­cers and demon­stra­tors.

Some wit­nesses told po­lice that Clark was hand­cuffed at the time, but an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the state Bureau of Crim­i­nal Ap­pre­hen­sion found that the of­fi­cers were un­suc­cess­ful in hand­cuff­ing Clark and he was shot after one of the of­fi­cers shouted that Clark had his hand on the of­fi­cer’s gun. State and fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors de­clined to charge the two of­fi­cers, and they were cleared in the depart­ment’s in­ter­nal re­view.

Clark’s death came at a time of height­ened ten­sions na­tion­wide after protests over the killings of black men by po­lice of­fi­cers in Fer­gu­son, Mo., and else­where. Yet no pro­test­ers were ar­rested at the sta­tion dur­ing the Min­neapo­lis protest, and the only se­ri­ous in­juries oc­curred when a group of al­leged white su­prem­a­cists fired at demon­stra­tors, wound­ing five, the re­port said. The protests cost the city more than $1.15 mil­lion, mostly for po­lice over­time.

Nev­er­the­less, the Jus­tice Depart­ment re­view found a lack of a co­or­di­nated re­sponse among city and po­lice of­fi­cials and said law en­force­ment didn’t have a plan for man­ag­ing the civil dis­tur­bance as it be­came a long-term event.

“Strained re­la­tion­ships, lack of clearly de­fined roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, pub­lic dis­agree­ments and lack of con­sis­tent in­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion” ham­pered the re­sponse, it said.

The re­port praised other as­pects of the re­sponse, say­ing of­fi­cers “demon­strated ex­tra­or­di­nary re­silience and pro­fes­sion­al­ism” de­spite ver­bal abuse and threats to their phys­i­cal safety. Black of­fi­cers, in par­tic­u­lar, were tar­gets of ver­bal abuse, it said.

“The com­mit­ment of the city, the po­lice depart­ment and in­di­vid­ual of­fi­cers to a peace­ful, mea­sured re­sponse played a large role in keep­ing the oc­cu­pa­tion from es­ca­lat­ing into vi­o­lent ri­ots,” the re­port said.

It also noted that elected of­fi­cials de­cided to re­solve the im­passe peace­fully through “ne­go­ti­ated man­age­ment” — a strat­egy it said was con­sis­tent with best prac­tices — with­out in­clud­ing the po­lice lead­er­ship in the dis­cus­sion. That and poor in­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­trib­uted to frus­tra­tions for of­fi­cers at the sta­tion who were left with no clear or­ders and in­con­sis­tent di­rec­tion.

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