The Minneapolis City Council passed a resolution Friday calling on police to stop using tear gas, rubber bullets and other "less lethal" weapons to disperse crowds.
While the resolution doesn't affect law enforcement's discretion in using those tactics, the council's action nevertheless drew a sharp rebuke from Chief Medaria Arradondo and Mayor Jacob Frey.
In a public meeting, City Council members expressed deep concerns about the tactics used on protesters in Brooklyn Center following Daunte Wright's killing and said they wanted to see a less violent response to protests here.
Council Member Jeremiah Ellison said he believes less lethal weapons have been "consistently misused" in the past year, pointing to incidents where people were blinded or suffered skull fractures. He said he'd never seen them successfully disperse a crowd.
"They've always sort of bubbled into more chaotic situations and they've always created the atmosphere for folks to be … enraged," Ellison said.
Tensions are running high at City Hall as Minneapolis awaits the end of the murder trial for ex-officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged in George Floyd's death. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday and are expected to draw protests.
Operation Safety Net, a coalition of state and local police agencies and National Guard members, has scaled up its presence in the city.
Minneapolis City Council members overwhelmingly passed a resolution Friday that calls on law enforcement leaders to "end the use" of less-lethal weapons to disperse crowds in Minneapolis. They described their resolution as a "statement of values."
The final decisions will still rest with law enforcement leaders coordinating security plans.
"I think that the City Council's resolution action was both unhelpful and uninformed, but it also emboldens those individuals who … are here to strike harm and chaos and destroy our city," Arradondo said in an interview.
Arradondo said there have been instances when police have used less-lethal weapons to save lives. During the unrest last year, he said, officers used them to disperse a crowd and save a stabbing victim in the parking lot of a Target store that was being looted.
"If you're asking officers who are sworn to save lives, you're asking them to go into an unruly crowd of hundreds and you're asking them to do that with just their gun on their side and a baton, I think it is reasonable to predict there's a higher risk of the officer being injured or a community member," Arradondo said.
His concerns were echoed by Linea Palmisano, the lone council member to vote against the resolution.
The agencies that participate in Operation Safety Net each have their own policies regarding less-lethal weapons.
In Minneapolis, only Arradondo or his designee can authorize police to use such tactics, and only a limited number of officers are authorized to carry launchers.
The city's charter gives the mayor "complete power" over the Police Department's operations. The council asked the City Attorney's Office to provide an opinion by mid-May as to whether it has the authority to ban less lethal weapons.
In an interview, Frey strongly backed the chief and accused council members of waiting until the last minute to lob their critiques.
"Right now, I'll tell you the city does not need more bickering," Frey said. "We need unity."
Some council members questioned the mayor's decisions to issue an emergency declaration and impose curfews, as well as his absence from their meeting Friday.
"What we see in this moment is all the responsibility with no accountability," said Council Member Phillipe Cunningham.
Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994