A local police reform group said Wednesday that its canvassers had so far gathered about 1,100 complaints against Minneapolis police that it plans to turn over to the U.S. Justice Department, which is conducting a sprawling investigation of the department.
Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), said at a news conference that about 35% of the complaints concerned lack of service by the department, about 40% dealt with allegations of excessive force, and the remaining complaints covered a range of other issues.
The group also provided news media with a list of 11 instances, including dates, in which it alleged that Minneapolis police had engaged in harassment of canvassers. The incidents include occurrences where police patrol cars followed people as they canvassed.
The group met with police Chief Medaria Arradondo later in the day Wednesday.
After the meeting with Arradondo, Dave Bicking, a board member of the CUAPB, said Arradondo said he was unaware of the harassment and expressed concern. He said he would send a note out to his leadership team, according to Bicking. On Wednesday night, MPD spokesman Garrett Parten said officers on patrol would be informed about the group's canvassing efforts. "We expect all MPD staff to support and protect First Amendment activity and community-building work in the course of their duties," he said in a statement.
The Justice Department is investigating whether Minneapolis police officers engaged in a "pattern and practice" of violating citizens' rights over the past decade, including during mental health-related calls and at last summer's protests over the murder of George Floyd.
Similar investigations in other cities have sometimes led to a consent decree requiring a police department to make substantive changes with the changes overseen by a federally appointed monitor.
Gross said that people wishing to register complaints against the police can contact her group at CUAPB.org which will either gather the information or refer the person to Justice Department investigators.
Burhan Mohumed, one of the group's main canvassers on the city's South Side, said that he and others were met with some hesitancy while making their rounds in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Some people they encountered were unwilling to share their stories because of fear of retaliation.
He has also noticed a "deliberate campaign to misinform," in which some residents were being told that his group sought to eliminate police completely overnight.
Parten said that it would be difficult to respond to the groups' allegations of police harassment without knowing more specifics about the underlying incidents.
"It would be best if formal complaints were filed," he said.
Libor Jany • 612-673-4064
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224