Min­neapo­lis po­lice chief pauses union talks, outlines changes in re­sponse to Floyd’s death

He prom­ises re­forms as some of­fi­cials want to de­fund depart­ment

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION & WORLD - BY STEVE KARNOWSKI AND AMY FOR­L­ITI

MIN­NEAPO­LIS — The Min­neapo­lis Po­lice Depart­ment will with­draw from po­lice union con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions, Chief Medaria Ar­radondo said Wed­nes­day, as he an­nounced ini­tial steps in what he said would be trans­for­ma­tional re­forms to the agency in the wake of Ge­orge Floyd’s death.

Faced with calls from ac­tivists and a ma­jor­ity of City Coun­cil mem­bers to dis­man­tle or de­fund the depart­ment, Ar­radondo also said he would use a new sys­tem to iden­tify prob­lem of­fi­cers early and in­ter­vene.

“We will have a po­lice depart­ment that our com­mu­ni­ties view as le­git­i­mate, trust­ing and work­ing with their best in­ter­ests at heart,” he said at a news con­fer­ence more than two weeks af­ter Floyd died af­ter a white of­fi­cer pressed his knee into the hand­cuffed black man’s neck even af­ter he stopped mov­ing and plead­ing for air.

Ac­tivists have pointed to racial in­equities and bru­tal­ity, as well as a sys­tem that rarely dis­ci­plines prob­lem of­fi­cers. The of­fi­cer who had his knee on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chau­vin, had 17 complaints against him and had been dis­ci­plined only once.

Ar­radondo said “tak­ing a de­lib­er­ate pause” to re­view the union con­tract is the first step to­ward change. He said it’s de­bil­i­tat­ing for a chief when an of­fi­cer does some­thing that calls for ter­mi­na­tion, but the union works to keep that per­son on the job.

Ad­vis­ers will look for ways to re­struc­ture the con­tract to pro­vide more trans­parency and flex­i­bil­ity, he said. The re­view will look at crit­i­cal in­ci­dent pro­to­cols, use of

force, and dis­ci­plinary pro­to­cols, in­clud­ing griev­ances and ar­bi­tra­tion, among other things.

“This work must be trans­for­ma­tional, but I must do it right,” Ar­radondo said.

The union’s con­tract ex­pired on Dec. 31 but re­mains in ef­fect un­til there is a new one. Talks be­gan in Oc­to­ber and even­tu­ally in­cluded a state me­di­a­tor; the last dis­cus­sion was in early March, when the coronaviru­s led to talks break­ing off.

Union Pres­i­dent Bob Kroll didn’t im­me­di­ately re­turn mes­sages.

Ar­radondo sidesteppe­d a ques­tion about whether he thought Kroll, of­ten seen as an ob­sta­cle to changes, should step down. He also didn’t di­rectly an­swer a ques­tion about whether res­i­dents should worry about a slow­down in po­lice re­sponse time as a push­back against at­tempts to trans­form the depart­ment. Some City Coun­cil mem­bers have said in the past that their wards saw such slow­downs when they com­plained about po­lice ac­tion.

In an in­ter­view later, Ar­radondo said it’s up to the union’s mem­bers to de­cide whether Kroll should re­sign. But he said he hopes the union lead­er­ship takes to heart “the fierce ur­gency of now.” He said he doesn’t be­lieve rank-and­file of­fi­cers are an ob­sta­cle to change. He also said cit­i­zens “should not be con­cerned or wor­ried” about any slow­down in ser­vice.

Ar­radondo fired the four of­fi­cers who were at the scene of the en­counter with Floyd the day af­ter his death. Chau­vin is charged with se­cond-de­gree mur­der, third-de­gree mur­der and man­slaugh­ter, and the other three of­fi­cers are charged with aid­ing and abet­ting.

One of those of­fi­cers, Thomas Lane, posted bail of $750,000 and was re­leased Wed­nes­day with con­di­tions. Chau­vin, J. Kueng and Tou Thao re­mained in cus­tody.

While a ma­jor­ity of City Coun­cil mem­bers called for dis­man­tling the depart­ment, they pro­vided no clear plan on how that would hap­pen. Mayor Ja­cob Frey has said he would not sup­port abol­ish­ing the depart­ment.

Ar­radondo, the city’s first African Amer­i­can po­lice chief, joined the Min­neapo­lis Po­lice Depart­ment in 1989 as a pa­trol of­fi­cer, work­ing his way up to precinct in­spec­tor and head of the In­ter­nal Af­fairs Unit, which in­ves­ti­gates of­fi­cer mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions. Along the way, he and four other black of­fi­cers suc­cess­fully sued the depart­ment for dis­crim­i­na­tion in pro­mo­tions, pay and dis­ci­pline.

Many hoped Ar­radondo could al­ter the cul­ture of a depart­ment that crit­ics said too fre­quently used ex­ces­sive force and dis­crim­i­nated against peo­ple of color. Ar­radondo made some quick changes, in­clud­ing tough­en­ing the depart­ment’s pol­icy on use of body cam­eras. But crit­ics have said more needs to be done.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Min­neapo­lis Po­lice Chief Medaria Ar­radondo said on Wed­nes­day that he would use a new sys­tem to iden­tify prob­lem of­fi­cers.

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