The Minnesota Department of Human Rights has issued a 72-page charge finding probable cause to conclude that the Minneapolis Police Department has massively discriminated against blacks in the course of its enforcement duties. The department has an investigation page that links to its charge as well as its press summary.
The Star Tribune is flooding the zone with coverage including an editorial that takes a pass on a key question: “Questions also may be raised about some of the statistical conclusions in the report. Data comparing arrests under ‘similar circumstances’ is critical and damning, but many factors beyond race and bias could complicate drawing broad conclusions about some disparities.” The editorial quickly moves on without elaboration.
Torey Van Oot’s Axios story is generally accessible, as is Deena Winter’s Minnesota Reformer story. Winter also compiled a list of “jaw-dropping statements” from the report. Reformer editor and former Star Tribune reporter Patrick Coolican comments in the column “We knew a lot about Minneapolis police, but we did nothing.” This is all worth reading
In this post I want only to make a few big-picture observations that bear on the report.
• Minneapolis is in the throes of a crisis of crime and disorder. The demoralization of the police department proceeds apace and will deepen the crisis. We are living the evidence of “the Ferguson effect.”
• The report cites supporting materials including some 480,000 pages of documents, but the report is merely an indictment that barely touches on the underlying materials. I do not believe the underlying materials have been made available.
• The methodology finding disparate treatment is in critical respects laughable on its face. Even the Star Tribune editors note the issue in the editorial linked above.
• The report tries to address this issue at critical points by referring to “similarly situated” persons. Note, however, that the analysis draws on one variable (such as whether the person “tensed up” during a stop) to support certain findings. That’s a joke.
• Racial disparities permeate the criminal justice system, from the racial identification of perpetrators by victims to convictions and reflect the vast racial disparities in offending rates. The substantive issue is disparate treatment.
• The report maintains a discreet silence on the racial disparities in offense rates faced by Minneapolis police on a daily basis.
• Racial disparities are also reflected in victimization rates. The report maintains a discreet silence on this issue as well. The war on the police in the name of the black community is curiously limited.
• When you get to key parts of the report, they are about one page long. Is there another side of the story? No other side is presented. Did anyone speak on behalf of the police on the statistical or other analytic issues? I don’t see it in the report.
• The city and the MPD cannot wait to enter into a consent decree with the Human Rights Department.
• The chief of the MPD from 2017 to January 2022 — i.e., this past January — was Medaria Arradondo. He is black. Can we go to him for comment? Is he a racist? Does he take responsibility for the department’s systemic racism?
• Municipal authorities might want to ask who in his right mind would now go to work for the Minneapolis Police Department at this time.
There is much more to be said, but I doubt anyone beyond Heather Mac Donald can be persuaded to say it. I invite readers with any expertise bearing on the issues to review the report and write us at [email protected]
UPDATE: I filed a request for inspection of the underlying documents under the Minnesota Data Practices Act. The Department of Human Rights denied my request in a response dated May 10 that I posted here.