By a Minneapolis union member and anti-racist activist
The crimes of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) against the people of Minneapolis are many. This is an organization charged with upholding an unjust and unequal system by any means necessary, after all.
It would be impossible to detail all of the crimes – so this will be a cursory overview of only some of the corruption, cover-ups, torture, and murders.
In 2009 The “Metro Gang Strike Force”, an unaccountable multi-agency unit that included many MPD officers, was finally shut down after years of rampant theft and violence primarily aimed at young Black, Latino, and Asian people. The Strike Force was found to have stolen cars, money, TVs and computers, jewelry and watches from suspects for the officers own personal use. Only one cop was ever charged for this widespread criminality and he was found not guilty after a half-hearted prosecution.
Corruption in the MPD isn’t always so dramatic, but its baked into the day-to-day activities of the police. One of the main ways police make extra cash is working as security for downtown clubs, bars, and restaurants. In may cities this type of off-duty work is organized and regulated by the Department, but in Minneapolis its been a cadre of brutal cops operating independent of any oversight that controls the downtown protection racket. Cops who want to work these jobs have to do so through the crew of officers that control the operation. The effect is to create a dual loyalty outside the Department’s chain of command. If you want to keep this extra work you hav to stay on the good side of the cops in charge of it.
This kind of corruption helps support a kind of semi-fascist consciousness thats rampant within the MPD. Cops start to see themselves as an autonomous force that can leverage its strength against the civilian political leadership with no regard or loyalty to regular people in the city – especially working-class and poor communities of color. Theres a short path from off-duty cops drawing up security plans for the Aquatennial (for instance) as part of their private security monopoly downtown to Police Federation President Bob Kroll delivering full-fledged counterinsurgency plans to Republican state leadership.
Brutality is a normal, every day, condoned feature of policing in Minneapolis. It has been a common experience for generations of people here to be “taken down to the river”, or “taken down top the tracks” or given “a rough ride” in the back of van or in the trunk of a squad car.
In the five years prior to 2020 there were 1490 “actionable” citizens’ complaints against police conduct. Of those, only 29 resulted in disciplinary action. And its not getting better under the new, “refom-minded” Chief: complaints sky-rocketed 42% from 2017 to 2018, with 569 complaints recorded. Considering that formal complaints are only made by a fraction of the residents who have experienced abuse – the actual number of incidents of police brutality must be much much higher.
What does this mean? It means that every day police commit abuse and brutality against the people of this city and get away with it. This is why so many people distrust and hate the cops. The heinous murder of George Floyd was the spark that lit the Uprising, but the kindling was years and years of daily violence and injustice.
In 2018 it was revealed that for the previous 6 years it was a common practice for Minneapolis Police officers to order EMS Medics to administer the so-called “date-rape” tranquilizer drug Ketamine to people under arrest. The ensuing public outrage forced the MPD to release a report that admitted to at least 358 instances of detainees being drugged without their permission – with 49% of those experiencing medical complications after the shot and 57% of them being intubated after the injection.
The police encounters that led to EMS using ketamine ranged from cases of obstruction of justice to jaywalking, according to the report. Those drugged were often already handcuffed or starpped to a gurney. In one case, a woman who had asked for an asthma pump after she had been maced by a police officer was insetad injected with Ketamine.
No officers, EMS, managers, administrators hve been fired or charged for this outrageous conduct.
Dumping rape kits & avoiding investigations
Opposition to police abolition often centers on the need for cops to protect us from the worst anti-social crimes such as rape and murder. But the MPD has not been effective force to prevent rape or seek justice for survivors.
In 2019 MPD Chief Arradondo acknowledged that the Department’s backlog of untested rape kits was not 194 as had been previously reported in 2015, but 1,700 – some going back 30 years. A major investigation by the StarTribune found that the MPD and other Minnesota police forces routinely ignored rape charges and brushed them under the carpet. 75% of rape reports were never even assigned an investigator. Even cases with witnesses, names, social media or other evidence were routinely closed without any real investigation.
The impact of this neglect and disrespect towards the women who have come forward to report rapes has often been devastating and gives the unmistakeable message that rape – a major weapon of perpetuating male power over women – is sanctioned by the state.
The Minneapolis Police kill people on a regular schedule – one, two, three, or more every year. Cops are almost never disciplined for it – often they get medals. There is not enough room here to detail all of the MPD murders but here’s several of the most shocking:
- Lillian Weiss & Lloyd Smalley: Lloyd Smalley, 71, and Lillian Weiss, 65, were killed in a January
1989 in a fire that started after the MPD SWAT Team hurled a stun grenade into their Crystal apartment during a no-knock drug raid. Police at first ignored the elderly Black couple’s roommates who pleaded for the cops and firefighters to get to the back bedroom where Smalley and Weiss were sleeping. When firefighters did finally make it to the back of the apartment – it was too late, Lillian Weiss and Lloyd Smalley were both dead from smoke inhalation. Police searched the house for two days afterward looking for the drugs, guns, and booby-traps that were the basis of the warrant – none were ever found.
- Tycel Nelson: In December 1990, Minneapolis Police Officer Dan May blasted Tycel Nelson with a shot gun, killing the 17-year old African-American kid who was running away from a party after a fight jad turned to shooting. Police justified the lethal force by stating that Nelson had a pistol and was invovled in the shooting at the party, and had turned toward Officer May when ordered to stop. Police claimed that the pistol was found immediately at the scene. But none of this turned out to be true. Community witnesses and other officers reported the pistol was found much later. The gun was found next to Nelson’s right hand, but he was left handed. The gun didn’t have Nelson’s fingerprints on it and hadnt been fired that evening – and Tycel Nelson was shot in the back. Dan May was awarderd a medal from the Police Department for the shooting.
- Martha Donald: Martha Donald, an African-American woman, was shot and killed by police in a
restroom in the Horn Towers apartment building in south Minneapolis in August 2002. Police claim that after patting down the 60 year-old woman, Donald went into the restroom and pulled a gun out of her own butt and shot a police officer before being shot herself. Police often make up the most absurd stories to cover up the more likely scenario of one of the officers accidently shooting their own partner in a confrontation. (See the murder of Terrance Franklin below)
Fong Lee: 19 year-old Hmong man Fong Lee was killed by Police in July 2006 on the Northside of Minneapolis. MPD officer Jason Andersen, accompanied by a State Patrol trooper claimed they had seen
a group of Hmong youth passing around a gun outside a school. Officer Andersen drove his squad car into the group, hitting Lee’s bicycle and causing Lee to run away. Officer Andersen pursued on foot and shot Lee 3 times in the back and 5 more times after he hit the ground. The cops claimed that Lee had a weapon and had aimed at the officer. But surveillance footage from the school shows Lee running with no weapon. The gun that was recovered at the scene had no prints, sweat, or blood on it – and it had been logged into the MPD’s evidence locker two years prior! Andersen was awarded a Medal of Valor for his murder and cover-up. �
Terrance Franklin & Ivan Romero: The deliberate murder of Terrance Franklin and the negligent homicide of Ivan Romero by police are together a perfect snapshot of the MPD. In May 2013 Terrance
Franklin, a 22 year-old Black man was trapped in a residential basement after being chased through a south Minneapolis neighborhood by police after supposedly being recognized as a burglar from a week prior. The police story of what happened next stretches credulity. Police allege that after being cornered and attacked by a police dog, the unarmed Franklin overpowered a couple SWAT Teams officers in the basement, was able to pull away a submachine gun and shoot and wound two cops in the basement before Officer Lucas Peterson was able to get a hold of Franklin’s dreads and shoot him point blank in the back of the head seven times. Two of the cops involved in this appaling murder received medals from the department.
Officer Joshua Young racing to the scene where Franklin was killed in his squad car ran a red light
andstruck Ivan Romero who was giving his girlfriend a ride on his motorcycle. Romero, a 24 year-old Mexican immigrant was killed. The MPD lied about the speed of the vehicle and what part of the squad car hit Romero. There was no discipline of Officer Young.
- Jamar Clark: In November 2015, Jamar Clark, an unarmed 24 year-old Black truck driver was killed outside a Northside party by Minneapolis Police. This murder foreshadowed George Floyd both in its blatant terror and the militant response it provoked. An ambulance had been called
for a woman friend of Jamar Clark who had gotten hurt in a scuffle at the party. The paramedics called the police on Clark who was waiting outside the ambulance. Officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze arrived and immediately escalated the situation. They ordererd Clark to show his hands and aimed a pistol at him. Ringgenberg jumped on Clark and wrestled him to the ground and claimed his gun holster slid around to his back and feared Clark was trying to get it. Schwarze put his pistol to Clark’s head and when Ringgenberg demanded “Shoot him!”, he did.
All of this happened as a predominately Black neighborhood club let out across the street. Dozens of people saw the MPD take down and kill a young unarmed man with their own eyes. The community and acticvists around the Twin Cities responded quickly. The next day an occupation encampment was established at the 4th Precinct just down the street from where Clark was killed. That night large numbers of young people from the surrounding community attacked the precinct with rocks and bottles. One of the MPD’s mobile camera towers was taken down and the precinct was blockaded. The occupation went on for 18 days – and survived an armed attack by fascists when five community members were shot and wounded. The movement organized marches, blocked roads and interstate highways, and occupied the Mall of America. The movement continued and spread after Philando Castile was killed by police in a St. Paul suburb. All of this helped lay the basis for the mighty Uprising in Minneapolis when Greorge Floyd was executed by the MPD.
MPD150, CUAPB, Southside Pride, City Pages, StarTribune, MSR
History of the Minneapolis Department, Part I by the same author
The police: past,present and future by Luke Pickrell