A coalition of police reform groups on Monday unveiled a series of sweeping recommendations for the city's ongoing labor negotiations with the Minneapolis police union, meant to enhance accountability and officer wellness within the department's dwindling ranks.
One of the most significant proposals would bar licensed police officers from responding to certain non-emergency calls, freeing up MPD's 585 current officers to focus on addressing violent crimes. The proposal builds on one recently instituted by the Los Angeles Police Department's union, which assigns many low-level traffic, mental health and public nuisance calls to trained civilians rather than sworn personnel.
"It is time," Stacey Gurian-Sherman told members of the City Council's Policy and Government Oversight Committee on Monday. "We can use this stubborn low staffing to start realizing the promises and the reforms that were made — not only after George Floyd's death, but before — and have been solidified by two state and federal investigations."
"We must look at community safety beyond policing."
Organized under the name "MPLS for a Better Police Contract," the volunteer coalition penned 22 total recommendations, including limiting the number of hours an officer can work per week, mandating annual mental health screening and required testing for anabolic steroids.
Sgt. Sherral Schmidt, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, could not be reached for comment Monday.
The city's current police labor agreement was adopted in March 2022 during a split 8-5 City Council vote and expired Dec. 31. That contract included raises and $7,000 retention bonuses for officers, but lacked many of the disciplinary changes activists demanded in the wake of Floyd's murder. At the time, many council members expressed frustration that the contract increased wages without adding any additional measures of accountability to rein in misconduct.
Elected leaders have repeatedly pegged the union contract as an obstacle to enacting much-needed reforms, while community advocates insist that City Council votes on contract renewals present a chance to fix it. However, some city officials have said they believe disciplinary changes are better made through policies that don't have to be negotiated with the union.
On Monday, five outspoken police reformers urged council members to get involved in the process early and scrutinize the final language ultimately sent to them for approval.
"If you don't like what's in the contract and don't feel like it includes enough reforms, vote it down!" said Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality. "Your vote is meaningless if you can't vote no."
In a 25-minute presentation, Gross and her colleagues laid out their suggested tweaks to the contract, many of which are aimed at combating officer fatigue and reducing harmful interactions within the community.
One measure would require officers to be interviewed within six hours of a critical incident in which a person was seriously harmed or killed rather than after 48 hours, when recollections aren't as fresh. Another proposal creates a definition of "good standing" for those wishing to become field training officers, barring cops with open or unresolved complaints resulting in discipline higher than a letter of reprimand from serving in supervisory roles.
"Becoming a field training officer is an honor that is earned," said Chara Blanch, whose own grandfather led MPD trainings in the 1970s. "Had this been in place at the time of George Floyd's murder, Derek Chauvin — with his 32 misconduct allegations … would never have been a training officer."
Council Members Jeremiah Ellison and Robin Wonsley lauded the group's effort to put forward thoughtful reforms, promising to take those recommendations seriously.
"We have seen generations of city leaders use the police contract as something to hide behind, instead of exercising political will to advance reforms — or even, you know, minimal changes," said Wonsley, who characterized many of their suggestions as "common-sense" proposals that other American law enforcement agencies already employ.
"These really are helpful for making sure that we're not rubber stamping a contract that continues a culture of misconduct, racism and excessive force from our police department."
Last year, MPLS for a Better Police Contract — whose members stem from Communities United Against Police Brutality, the Racial Justice Network and Our Revolution Twin Cities — successfully fought to open MPD labor negotiations to the public for the first time in the city's history. The coalition's 2021 lawsuit pressured the city into agreeing to publish the time and location of bargaining sessions with the Federation and ensure that citizens can observe.
The terms of the agreement will last through three contracts, or until Dec. 31, 2028, whichever comes first.
The first public bargaining session with the police union occurred earlier this month, where staffing emerged as among the highest priorities for both parties. The next meeting is slated for 9 a.m. Sept. 27, in Room 100 of the Public Service Building in downtown Minneapolis.
A "contract negotiations" page was added to the city's website last summer, so residents could track the ongoing labor schedule and review proposals issued by each side.