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4 years since George Floyd's death, the Minneapolis police force has made some changes


It has been four years to the day since a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on the neck of George Floyd for more than nine minutes and killed him. The horrific scene was captured on a bystander video, and George Floyd's death sparked outrage and calls for police reform across the country. Minnesota Public Radio reporter Jon Collins joins us now from Minneapolis. Jon, thanks so much for being with us.

JON COLLINS, BYLINE: Thanks so much for having me.

SIMON: How have the Minneapolis Police, at least so far, been held accountable?

COLLINS: You know, the main thing that's happened is prosecutions. That's the four officers that were involved in George Floyd's killing. They were either convicted or pleaded guilty to both federal and state charges, with, of course, Derek Chauvin, who was the officer who placed his knee on Floyd's neck, now serving more than 20 years. And these prosecutions were very significant because charges against officers for using lethal force are pretty rare in the United States, and then convictions are even rarer. So these convictions were a big win for prosecutors and then for members of the public who really pushed for these former officers to be charged in Floyd's death.

SIMON: Minneapolis Police were also investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Where do these investigations stand?

COLLINS: Both of these investigations found glaring issues with the Minneapolis Police Department. On the state side, the city and state Department of Human Rights negotiated a court-enforced agreement that requires all sorts of changes to the policies and practices of the Minneapolis Police. So that's everything from training to crowd control to officer wellness. And I spoke to Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero, and she says the city has made progress setting up the foundation for really systemic change, but there's a long way to go.

REBECCA LUCERO: There is so much hunger for community members to see really big substantive changes. And there's this urgency around that because we know lives are at stake here. And to get there, it takes a lot of really important, small steps.

COLLINS: And the separate federal consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice has not yet been finalized, but that's expected very soon here. So that would make Minneapolis the first city in the country to be under both state and federal consent decrees on policing at the same time.

SIMON: Jon, what are some of the other changes that Minneapolis has made?

COLLINS: Yeah, Minneapolis has totally revamped its public safety structure. They hired a commissioner for the first time. A new chief came in. Just recently, they also announced plans to create a new early intervention system. So they say they'll use data to track police officers who seem to be in trouble or on a troubled path and intervene before something tragic happens.

And another high point has been the expansion of the city's behavioral crisis response teams. So people in Minneapolis can now call 911 in nonviolent situations, and unarmed mental health responders are going to show up to help. So Minneapolis appears to be investing in the sort of public safety efforts that do not require armed police, which is what a lot of folks were calling for way back in 2020.

SIMON: And how are the city and the police department still contending with some of the other consequences of what happened to George Floyd in 2020?

COLLINS: The Minneapolis Police Department lost a ton of officers after Floyd's death. So officials say they want to bring on more young, more diverse candidates who also live in or have roots in the city of Minneapolis. Chief Brian O'Hara said they're turning the corner on staffing, but they're not there yet. And then finally, there's the question of what happens to the Third Precinct building, which was famously set on fire during these protests. It's been closed off. It's been surrounded by barbed wire and concrete since not long after Floyd's killing, and it's really become a symbol to the community and also a reminder of what happened to Floyd. There are some proposals, but, tellingly, four years later, it's still not clear what's going to take the place of the precinct.

SIMON: Reporter Jon Collins of Minnesota Public Radio, thanks so much.

COLLINS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Jon Collins
[Copyright 2024 MPR News]
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.