The Minneapolis Police Department's system for training new officers in the months after they leave the academy lacks accountability and oversight, according to a new city report.
At a news conference Monday, Mayor Jacob Frey said he would include money in his 2022 budget to carry out some of the report's recommendations, which could include incentive payments to help attract better trainers.
Critics both inside the department and out have blamed the field training officer program for entrenching a culture of aggressive policing that stretches back decades. Some of those concerns surfaced earlier this year during the trial of Derek Chauvin, who was allowed to continue training younger officers even as he accumulated at least 17 civilian complaints.
Chauvin was sentenced last week to 22½ years in prison for the murder of George Floyd, whose death on a south Minneapolis street corner last year sparked nationwide protests and calls for police reform — or in some cases abolishment — and a deeper look at use-of-force training nationwide.
Presenting the new report at the City Council audit committee meeting Monday, Internal Audit Director Ryan Patrick said the department's decentralized field training officer (FTO) system sometimes allowed trainers to operate with little scrutiny. And while the department tracks rookies via body camera footage and evaluation reports, there was no formal process for keeping tabs on their progress, he said.
"It's somewhat more piecemeal," he said.
Patrick said officials would study other training programs across the country and offer further recommendations, adding "we can propose alternatives, but it's up to MPD to look at what might be tangible and possible in the city."
Officials said they would check back in with the department in six months to see what progress had been made.
After the presentation, the audit committee chairwoman, Council Member Linea Palmisano, read a prepared statement from Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who said that "doing this right is of paramount importance." Palmisano's council colleague Steve Fletcher said that he agreed with the chief's assessment that "this is a critical issue" — particularly the fact that there seemed to be no formal process for picking FTOs.
"I think we've seen and heard anecdotally some ways this is a place that the process is not working," said Fletcher, one of the department's staunchest critics on the council. He also wondered how the department intended to account for the fact that training can vary widely from precinct to precinct.
"How do you standardize a training for something with that much discretion?" he asked.
Like many departments, Minneapolis modeled its program after San Jose, which started the nation's first FTO program in 1971.
After graduating from the police academy, new hires in Minneapolis spend roughly five months shadowing more experienced officers to supplement what they learned in the classroom about proper use of force and other aspects of police work.
In practice, critics say, rookie cops were often being placed with jaded veterans who, by their words or actions, could undo months of academy learning.
Speaking to reporters at City Hall on Monday afternoon, Frey said that he agreed with the need for more "quality control" within the FTO program, including regular check-ins with the trainers themselves. Such changes, he said, "will require some form of budgetary investment."
"The truth is, to make some change within the Minneapolis Police Department, you have to work with the Minneapolis Police Department," he said.
Palmisano said she is concerned that the department's remaining training officers don't burn out.
Deputy Police Chief Amelia Huffman said the department will look for trainers who "exemplify MPD values" to ensure "that we're building the department that Minneapolis needs for tomorrow."
The Minneapolis police union contract, which is being renegotiated, says that the administration should attempt to staff its FTO program with volunteers, but it gives it the authority to "reject a volunteer who it determines is not appropriate to serve" and to assign officers to fill any vacancies.
"The Department will use its best efforts to reasonably limit the number of consecutive months during which it will involuntarily assign an employee to FTO duties," the contract reads.
Libor Jany • 612-673-4064