The Minneapolis City Council approved on Thursday police brutality settlements of $7.5 million and $1.375 million for a teenager and a woman pinned by Derek Chauvin three years before the former officer murdered George Floyd.
The council spent just over two hours in a closed session to discuss the proposed settlements before voting publicly 11-0 in favor of them.
John Pope, 20, and Zoya Code, 40, filed their claims in June 2022 seeking unspecified damages for separate encounters with Chauvin. He has pleaded guilty to violating their civil rights.
Their federal lawsuits faulted not just Chauvin but the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department, saying it "encourages and enables racist, predatory police officers and unconstitutional force practices."
After the vote, Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Brian O'Hara publicly apologized to Pope and Code and emphasized that their treatment at the hands of Chauvin preceded the city's reckoning after Floyd's murder.
"That is where we have been, but not where we are going," Frey said.
O'Hara acknowledged the systemic nature of the problem and said the department now has "zero tolerance" for the tactics used by Chauvin or the inaction of the officers who watched him.
"We are dealing with the ugly consequences stemming from a systemic failure within the Minneapolis Police Department that has allowed for, and at time times encouraged, unjust and brutal policing," O'Hara said.
Chauvin's police badge will be destroyed, and his badge number — 1087 — will never be assigned to another Minneapolis police officer, O'Hara said.
Council President Andrea Jenkins said the unanimous vote "sends a message that the city is taking responsibility for the egregious actions of Minneapolis police officers like former officer Chauvin, and it gives us impetus to make sure that those type of officers are no longer a part of the Minneapolis Police Department."
Chauvin's actions have cost the city millions. In March 2021, the city settled a lawsuit with the Floyd family for $27 million. Also, many former police officers have left the department with payouts, citing PTSD from the unrest following Floyd's murder in May 2020.
Attorney Bob Bennett of Robins Kaplan in Minneapolis said Chauvin used his "signature move," a dangerous knee-to-the-neck restraint on both Pope and Code, violating their constitutional right to be free from excessive force.
Six other officers were also named for failing to aid Pope. On the body camera footage, the officers turn away and leave the room as 14-year-old Pope lies restrained under Chauvin's knee, bleeding from his ear and pleading for help.
The city initially argued it was legally prohibited from releasing the entire Pope video, but Magistrate Judge Tony Leung ordered its release. Leung wrote in his order at the time that "police use of force in America is an issue of significant national public interest, being perhaps one of few other issues that capture more of the public interest than the 2020 presidential election."
Leung said the video shows Chauvin using a knee to Pope's upper back and neck, "a premonition of the same force later used" on Floyd.
Bennett has said the video dispels the notion of "one bad apple" in the department as other officers, and a supervising sergeant, saw what Chauvin did and neither helped nor reported the behavior.
Pope, now a soft-spoken college student who also works as a bank supervisor, said releasing the footage was important to him.
"The video makes a statement in itself," he said. "It shows there's a problem with the city as a whole; it's not just the Police Department, it's a lot of them working to cover their tracks."
He also hopes the video encourages others to "bring more solutions" forward.
The lawsuit said a culture of racism and violence permeated the MPD for decades and that rather than discipline or fire Chauvin, he was "left free to prowl for more Black persons to subjugate and torture."
Council Member Elliott Payne, who made the motion for the settlement with Pope, said watching the video brought back the trauma of Floyd's murder. "If we don't let the outrage of what we witnessed today shape our policy … we will continue to have incidents like this,"he said.
Code declined to comment on the settlement. She was in her late 30s in 2017 when Chauvin knelt on her neck.
"I didn't know his name. All I knew was he was a police officer with Minneapolis Police Department," she said when the lawsuit was filed. "I didn't know what precinct he was at. All I knew was his face. [Chauvin] haunted me until I seen him on top of George."
In Pope's case, he was lying on his stomach on the floor in his bedroom when Chauvin came in and told him he was under arrest, smacked his head with a flashlight and kneeled on his neck. It wasn't until after Floyd's death in May 2020 that Pope learned from a reporter that Chauvin was the same man who had restrained him.
Zoya Code's lawsuit stemmed from a 2017 incident where body camera video shows former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on her neck after she was handcuffed. Code described the encounter in "Police on Trial," a collaboration between the Star Tribune and PBS FRONTLINE.
On that night, Chauvin was acting as a field-training officer for officer Alexander Walls when the two responded to a domestic assault call at 8:45 p.m. to Pope's home in the 5700 block of Chicago Avenue S. Pope was there with his sister and his mother, Deanna Jenkins.
Upon arrival, the officers called in a "Code 4," meaning the situation was under control and no assistance was needed. But Jenkins, who was drunk, the lawsuit said, told Chauvin and Walls she wanted Pope and his sister arrested for using electricity to charge their phones.
She claimed Pope had grabbed her from behind and filled out domestic assault paperwork. The officers then went to talk to Pope in his bedroom, according to the lawsuit and the video.
When the officers walked in, Pope spoke calmly to them, saying his mother was drunk and often called police. But Chauvin escalated, striking Pope on the head with a heavy flashlight. Pope's hands were then cuffed behind his back and Chauvin kneeled on his neck for 15 minutes while Pope cried out in pain and said he couldn't breathe.
At one point another officer asked Chauvin if he needed a break, but Chauvin said no and continued the illegal restraint. Pope's mother was heard saying, "Please do not kill my son."
At least eight officers, including Walls and five others named in the lawsuit, saw Chauvin kneeling on an unmoving Pope but did nothing, the lawsuit said.
Pope was taken to the hospital for stitches and then the Juvenile Justice Center, where he was charged with fifth-degree domestic assault, a misdemeanor, and obstructing the legal process, a gross misdemeanor. The charges were quickly dropped.
Pope said he hopes the video and his story embolden others to call out police violence, stand up and eventually move on. "Don't let it define you," he said. "Don't let it take over your life. You can become better and do more good."
Council Members Andrew Johnson and Robin Wonsley were absent for the vote.