Protest review: Minneapolis unprepared
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.