Picking up the Pieces - Recommendations

Document Date: May 27, 2015


The data analyzed in this project show that Black people in Minneapolis are arrested for low level offenses by the Minneapolis Police Department at 8.7 times the rate of white people, and Native Americans are arrested for these offenses at 8.6 times the rate of white people. These racial disparities can only be characterized as extreme and unwarranted and should be eliminated. While there is no single way to pick up the pieces, a combination of policing reforms undertaken simultaneously will move Minneapolis towards more democratic and effective policing. The reforms recommended below are consistent with the ACLU’s intention in this project: to push all stakeholders to acknowledge the urgent problem of racial disparities in policing, to demand change now, and to commit wholeheartedly to creating a police department that the city can be proud of. These reforms are also consistent with Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges’ “vision for Minneapolis,” the very first pillar of which is “a city where every harmful gap in outcomes that are worse for people of color than for white people is eliminated. Every one of them.”1 Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau has subsequently said that “that the mayor and I are in lockstep, frankly, on the direction this department needs to go.”2

Disproportionate policing in communities of color is not unique to the Minneapolis Police Department. On the contrary, racial disparities in police practices exist around the country. As we are in the midst of a national moment of reckoning with these longstanding injustices, attention to these issues on behalf of our police departments and our political institutions is long overdue. We need to ensure that the police protect and serve equally and fairly. Yet just as unwarranted racial disparities in policing are not unique to Minneapolis, these disparities are not unique to policing. As a result, improvements in police practices cannot alone remedy racial disparities in other parts of the criminal justice system like prosecution and sentencing and in other domains like poverty, education, and employment. Still, police are the first point of entry into the criminal justice system and police reform is therefore a necessary but not sufficient part of tearing down systemic forms of racial inequality.

We thank Chief Harteau for her receptiveness to discussing and acknowledging longstanding racial disparities in the Department’s low-level arrest practices.3 We also commend the Chief for introducing implicit bias training to the Department, encouraging officers to spend more time out of their cars interacting with the public, expanding diversion for young people, and creating a pilot project for officer-worn body cameras. These are important steps, but they are not enough to remedy the extreme racial disparities documented in this analysis. We encourage the Chief, the Mayor, the City Council, the County Board of Commissioners, and members of the community to work with the ACLU and other civil rights and civil liberties experts in a good faith effort to implement reforms that will continue to move the Department out of its past and into a more equitable future.

Department Priorities and Culture

It is impossible to eliminate unwarranted racial disparities in policing without addressing culture change. Since officers’ behavior is as likely to conform to culture as it is to formal rules, it is essential that the City of Minneapolis (“City”) and the Minneapolis Police Department (“MPD” or “Department”) take concrete steps to transform the Department’s culture and values.

  1. Under the leadership of Chief Harteau, the Department has already taken a huge step in the right direction by beginning to train MPD about implicit bias.4 In 2014, Chief Harteau sought out Professor Lorie Fridell’s Fair and Impartial Policing training. All MPD command staff, including the Chief and her executive team, have completed the training. This is a significant step because it equips MPD leadership with the tools necessary to effectively evaluate officers’ interactions with communities of color going forward and demonstrates the Department’s desire to change the culture within its ranks from top to bottom. In addition, the Department anticipates that by the end of 2015 all MPD rank and file will have completed the Fair and Impartial Policing training. Going forward, the Department should ensure that implicit bias training is a significant part of academy training and that all officers are required to participate in annual follow up training. In addition, the Department should ensure that its implicit bias training accounts for the various populations of color in the city,5 including but not limited to Black, Native American, Latino, and Somali people. The training should also address the potential for implicit bias against women, people with limited English proficiency, the LGBTQ community, and individuals with physical and mental disabilities and mental illness. Finally, to better equip officers to interact with diverse communities, implicit bias training should be supplemented with a curriculum for training officers on the history of race relations and the police in Minneapolis.6

  2. The Department should develop metrics for performance evaluations that reward positive community engagement and problem-solving.7 Indeed, Chief Harteau has said “[w]e measure arrests, we measure crime numbers. Who’s measuring relationship building? Who’s measuring public trust? . . . I’m looking for ways to do that too.”8 Evaluation metrics should de-prioritize investigatory stops and low-level arrests, and include disincentives for unnecessary uses of force. In March 2015, the Chief took a positive step in this direction by creating a new Computer Aided Dispatch code for Community Engagement Meetings. This effort, called “cops out of cars,” is an attempt to allow for and encourage officers to spend time out of their squad cars and have positive interactions with the community. This is a positive step but more is needed to ensure that the evaluation process incentivizes the right values and behavior. In addition, the Department should make the precinct-specific evaluation metrics and goals publicly available. In all officer evaluations, the Department should consider including assessments of:
    • Community engagement9 and communication with the public;
    • Use of community policing, problem-solving strategies, and diversion programs;
    • Civilian commendations and complaints;
    • Disciplinary actions;
    • Policy compliance, with particular attention paid to the policy against biased policing and a minimum use of force policy;
    • Training;
    • Report writing; and
    • Decision-making.
  3. In addition to improving its early-warning systems to identify and help officers address problems before they turn into officer misconduct, the Department should make its disciplinary matrix publicly available.10 Discipline for sustained allegations of misconduct should be based on the nature of the allegation, in addition to defined and consistent mitigating and aggravating factors. The department should have procedures to ensure that discipline is fair, consistent, and transparent. The disciplinary matrix should:
    • Establish a presumptive range of discipline for each type of rule violation;
    • Increase the presumptive range of discipline based on an officer’s prior violations of the same or other rules;
    • Set out defined mitigating and aggravating factors;
    • Require that any departure from the presumptive range of discipline be justified in writing;
    • Provide that when the matrix calls for the imposition of discipline, the department shall not take only non-disciplinary corrective action;
    • Provide reasonable time limits within which disciplinary decisions must be reached; and
    • Provide a detailed explanation of the process by which officers may appeal any disciplinary decision, as well as the scope of any such appeal.

Implicit bias training materials, performance evaluation metrics, and the disciplinary matrix should all be publicly available on the Department’s website.

Department Policies

  1. The Department should adopt procedural justice as the guiding principle for internal and external policies and practices to guide its interactions with the people it serves.11 Chief Harteau has moved in this direction by telling “officers that she expects officers to operate by a single guiding principle: ‘Did my actions reflect how I would expect a family member to be treated?'”12 Procedural justice prioritizes:
    1. Treating people with dignity and respect;
    2. Giving individuals ‘voice’ during encounters;
    3. Being neutral and transparent in decision making;
    4. Conveying trustworthy motives.13

    In March 2015, Attorney General Holder announced that the Minneapolis Police Department had been chosen to be one of the first six pilot sites for the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice.14 One of the Initiative’s goals is to “enhance procedural justice.”15 Chief Harteau will begin working with the Initiative’s team in June 2015.

  2. The Department should adopt a strict and enforceable ban against bias-based policing. Its current Impartial Policing policy16 has been in place for the last fourteen years. The right principles are at the core of the existing policy, but the data analyzed in this project demonstrates that it is not doing enough to prevent the behavior that it was designed to prevent. MPD should begin by looking to Seattle’s new Bias-Free Policing policy17 and should craft its own new policy that includes:
    • A statement of commitment to providing services and enforcing laws in a professional, nondiscriminatory, fair, and equitable manner, and a Department-wide objective to provide equitable police services based upon the needs of the people encountered;
    • A statement of intent to increase the Department’s effectiveness as a law enforcement agency and to build mutual trust and respect with Minneapolis’ diverse groups and communities;
    • A definition of bias-based policing as the “different treatment of any person by officers motivated by any characteristic of protected classes under state, federal, and local laws as well as other discernible personal characteristics of an individual.” Such “discernible personal characteristics” should include, but are not limited to, the following:
      • Race, ethnicity, or color;
      • National origin;
      • Physical or mental disability;
      • Mental illness;
      • Age;
      • Homelessness;
      • Sexual orientation;
      • Gender identity;
      • Gender;
      • Political ideology;
      • Religion; and
      • English language proficiency;
    • A requirement that every employee be responsible for knowing and complying with the policy;
    • A commitment that the Chief of Police will reinforce the Department’s efforts to eradicate bias-based policing within the MPD through specific yearly training, regular updates, and such other means as may be appropriate;
    • A requirement that employees not make decisions or take actions that are influenced by bias, prejudice, or discriminatory intent, and thatlaw enforcement and investigative decisions must be based upon observable behavior or specific intelligence;
    • A prohibition on officers’ use of discernible personal characteristics to establish reasonable suspicion or probable cause, except as part of a specific suspect description;
    • A prohibition against employees expressing—verbally, in writing, or by other gesture—any derogatory comments or prejudice concerning discernible personal characteristics, whether in reference to particular suspects, members of the general public, other employees, or anyone else;
    • A clear and unqualified commitment to discipline employees who engage in, ignore, or condone bias-based policing, as well as any supervisors and/or commanders who fail to respond to, document, and review allegations of bias-based policing;
    • A system in which officers document, and supervisors review and investigate, allegations of bias-based policing. If the complainant is willing, such documentation would include the complainant’s name and contact information, and any contact information for witnesses who may have observed the events; and
    • An annual report, prepared for the Chief and available to the public, describing and analyzing the year’s bias-based policing allegations and the Department’s responses to those allegations, in addition to the status of the Department’s efforts to prevent bias-based policing.
  3. The Department should prohibit consensual searches and pretextual stops. At a minimum, the Department should adopt a policy that requires officers to have reasonable suspicion before asking a subject for consent to search and requires officers to document a subject’s consent on a written form, in a language the subject understands, that explains the right to refuse or revoke consent at any time before the search happens.18 In addition, police should be prohibited from approaching people in the absence of reasonable suspicion or probable cause and asking for their names or identification in order to check whether they have outstanding warrants.
  4. The Department should adopt a new use of force policy guided by recommendations articulated in the Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. These recommendations include “emphasiz[ing] de-escalation and alternatives to arrest or summons in situations where appropriate,”19 and making “[l]aw enforcement officers’ goal [] to avoid use of force if at all possible, even when it is allowed by law and by policy.”20 In addition, the Department’s use of force policy should:21
    • Prohibit the use of physical force against civilians who only verbally confront police officers, unless a legitimate law enforcement function is impeded or there is a specific threat to harm officers or others;
    • Ensure that officers use non-force techniques to effect compliance with police orders whenever feasible;
    • Allow the use of force only when necessary and in a manner that avoids unnecessary injury to officers and civilians;
    • Require de-escalation of the use of force at the earliest possible moment;22
    • Explicitly prohibit all neck and carotid restraints, except where lethal force is authorized, require officers to summon first aid immediately following the application of neck and carotid restraints, and require officers to monitor all subjects who have been subjected to neck and carotid restraints while theyare in police custody;23
    • Require that reviews of the use of deadly force include consideration of not only the use of deadly force itself, but also an officer’s tactical conduct and decisions leading up to the use of force when determining its reasonableness;
    • Provide tailored guidance for even more conservative use of force against children, the elderly, pregnant women, people with mental and physical disabilities and mental illness, and people with limited English proficiency;24 and
    • Incorporate training to help officers quickly recognize people who have limited English proficiency, mental or physical disabilities, and/or mental illness, as well as best practices training for interacting with these communities.25

Data Collection and Transparency

To reduce inequities in policing, data must be kept, regularly analyzed, and constantly made public, because what gets measured can get done.

  1. The Department should keep data in a format that allows for summarizations and searches about all investigative stops (including officer-initiated suspicious persons stops),26 frisks, searches,27 citations, and arrests.28 For every incident, the data should include:
    • Officer’s name and badge number;
    • Date and time of the incident;
    • Location of the incident (actual or nearest exact address, intersection, or nearest exit on highway);
    • Whether the incident was in or adjacent to a school;
    • Duration of the incident;
    • Subject’s apparent race, ethnicity (including Latino), gender, age, apparent disability, and English proficiency;
    • If the incident is a vehicle stop, the presence and number of any passengers and the apparent race, ethnicity (including Latino), gender, age, disability, and English proficiency of each passenger; if the incident is a non-vehicle stop, the number of individuals stopped and the apparent race, ethnicity (including Latino), gender, age, disability, and English proficiency of each individual;
    • The reason for the incident, including a specific description of the facts creating reasonable suspicion for an investigative stop and/or probable cause for a search or arrest, including whether the incident was in response to a call for service or officer-initiated;
    • If the incident is a vehicle stop, whether the driver or any passenger was directed to exit the vehicle and if so, the rationale for such direction;
    • Whether any individual was asked to consent to a search and whether such consent was given;
    • Whether a pat down, frisk, or other search was performed on any individual, and a description of the facts justifying the pat-and-frisk or other search;
    • Whether any contraband or evidence was seized from any individual and if so, the nature of the contraband or evidence;
    • Disposition of the stop, including whether a citation or summons was issued or an arrest was made;
    • Officer use of force statements, written before the end of a shift, to include a specific description of acts that led to the officer’s use of force, the level of resistance encountered, if any, and a description of every type of force used during the encounter. Boilerplate and conclusory statements like “furtive movement” or “fighting stance” should not be permitted.
  2. Low-level warrants are the third most common reason for low-level arrests in the data set. 84.7% of those warrants were for misdemeanors, 14.7% were for gross misdemeanors, 0.4% were for petty misdemeanors, and 0.2% were for status offenses. The Department was unable to provide any more information about the specific low-level offenses for which these warrants were issued. Since 62% of the people in the data set arrested for a low-level offense pursuant to a warrant were Black—while only 18.6% of the city’s population is Black—more information is needed to understand the causes of this extreme racial disparity and to prevent its continuation. The Department therefore needs to improve its data collection as to warrants and any actions taken pursuant to the warrants.
  3. The Department should track and analyze the number of its SWAT team deployments.29 This data should include:
    • The reasons for each activation of the SWAT team, including legal authority, and the type of warrant (if applicable);
    • Authorizing officer;
    • Whether, prior to SWAT deployment, children are believed to be present at the location;
    • The result of each deployment, including the location; time of day; the number of arrests; the apparent race, ethnicity (including Latino), gender, age, apparent disability, and English proficiency of civilians both arrested and present; the type of evidence or property seized; whether a forcible entry was required; how such entry was gained; whether a weapon was discharged by SWAT; and injuries sustained by both civilians and law enforcement.
  4. The Department should develop protocols for making its raw data, including but not limited to low-level arrest data like that analyzed in this project, publicly available on a quarterly basis.30 Indeed, Mayor Hodges has written that quarterly reporting “is a good idea,” and has “commit[ted] to regular reporting” of data on issues like low-level arrests.31 In addition, the Department, in partnership with the City Council, should ensure that raw data is analyzed by an independent party on a regular basis to identify unwarranted disparate impacts on certain protected classes, including but not limited to apparent race, ethnicity (including Latino), gender, age, apparent disability, and English proficiency. These analyses should be made publicly available annually if not every quarter.
  5. The Department should commit to eliminating policies and practices that have an unwarranted disparate impact on certain protected classes such as those mentioned above.32 The long-term impacts of historical inequality and institutional bias can result in disproportionate enforcement, even in the absence of intentional bias. Therefore, the Department should be constantly reviewing its data internally so that it can identify disparities as soon as possible and craft ways to protect public safety and public order without engaging in racial profiling or other kinds of bias-based policing. When disparate impacts are identified, the Department should consult as appropriate with neighborhood, business, and community groups to explore effective alternative practices that would result in less disproportionate impact. Alternative enforcement practices may include addressing the targeted behavior in a different way, de‐emphasizing and/or de-criminalizing the practice in question, or other measures. These efforts should be documented and made public.


  1. The City should re-establish a civilian review authority33 and create a body that is significantly more empowered than the current Police Conduct Oversight Commission. This body should have:
    • All necessary investigatory powers, including the ability to subpoena witnesses, testimony, and documents;
    • Independent disciplinary authority to hold police officers accountable for their actions, while respecting the due process rights of police officers and all parties;
    • Funding necessary for thorough and timely investigations (tied to a percentage of the police department’s non-capital budget);
    • Membership that reflects diversity, expertise, and connection to the community;
    • Public access that allows residents to file complaints by phone, online, and in person, including during non-business hours and on weekends;
    • Jurisdiction to investigate broader MPD policies and practices (for example, in the form of an Inspector General); and
    • Transparency, including quarterly reporting to the public of basic data on complaints and dispositions, without personally identifiable information.
  2. Body-worn and dashboard cameras make everyone—the public and police officers—accountable for their actions. The Department has begun a pilot project, which is an important first step. During the pilot project, the Department should establish a formal working group that includes the ACLU and other civil rights, civil liberties, and community groups to develop the Department’s body camera policy. The policy should require civilian notification and rigorous standards regarding the retention, use, access, and disclosure of data captured by such systems.34 The ACLU is working around the country to establish body camera policies that appropriately balance privacy concerns and the need for increased police accountability.
  3. The City should improve its Results Minneapolis community surveys. The surveys should be reliable, comprehensive, and representative of all aspects of the community, and should measure community experiences with and perceptions of the Department and public safety.35 The most recent community survey about MPD was published in April 2014,36 and does not include breakdowns by race, ethnicity, and age for the measurements of “Resident Satisfaction with Police Professionalism” and “Resident Contact with the Police Department.”37 Given that low-level arrests are so racially disproportionate and have such a large impact on young people, it is critically important that measurements of public trust in the police are broken down by race, ethnicity, and age. These surveys should examine the experience of all communities, including those that are a numerical minority in the city.

Diversion Programs and Creative Solutions

The Department should create pre-arrest diversion programs to keep people out of the criminal justice system for low-level and nonviolent offenses. Pre-arrest diversion is especially appropriate for young people and people experiencing homelessness. These vulnerable populations are far more likely to succeed and contribute positively to public safety if they stay out of the criminal justice system.

  1. Pre-Arrest Diversion Program for Young People

    “[R]esearch demonstrates clearly that involvement in the juvenile justice system, holding all other factors constant, is associated with an increased likelihood of offending behavior,”38 even when controlling for criminal history and other variables. Accordingly, the City and the Department should create a pre-arrest diversion program39 based on the principle that outcomes for young people are better when they have less interaction with law enforcement. In addition, diversion programs should not be so onerous that they are significantly harder for youth of limited means to participate in.

    The Department has recently taken positive steps in the direction of diversion. On May 4, 2015, MPD issued an Administrative Announcement titled “Home First Curfew Process.” This Announcement encourages officers in most cases to bring a young person home and leave them with a responsible adult who is willing to take custody and not issue a curfew citation to the young person. In addition, on September 26, 2014, MPD issued an Administrative Announcement titled “MPD Juvenile Diversion.” This Announcement directs officers not to issue citations or electronic citations for many misdemeanors and directs the cases to the Juvenile Diversion Sergeant to determine whether the young person is eligible for diversion. Again, these are positive steps. However, the diversion is too limited in scope insofar as only first time youth arrestees are eligible, and it does not apply to status offenses, petty misdemeanor offenses, or traffic, parking, or pedestrian violations. Thus, the ACLU encourages the Department to explore broader diversion options.

    When young people are suspected of committing victimless low-level offenses like truancy, curfew, or disorderly conduct, a pre-arrest diversion program should carry the presumption that less interaction with law enforcement is most likely to result in better outcomes; they should be warned in lieu of arrest and offered information about services such as after school programs and counseling that may be helpful. When young people are suspected of committing low-level offenses that involve a victim like theft, attempt to cause bodily harm, or assault, a pre-arrest diversion program should carry the presumption that the young person should participate in restorative justice resolution in lieu of arrest. The tenets of restorative justice require participants to attend to the victims’ needs and concerns, repair harm to the degree possible to the victims and the community, engage broad-based stakeholder and community involvement, and employ participatory dialogue and decision making. The City and the Department should work together to increase funding for and expand existing restorative justice projects like Seward Neighborhood Group and Restorative Justice Community Action.

    An expanded diversion program for young people in Minneapolis could also take inspiration from the Civil Citation Initiative in Florida.40 First time youth offenders who commit “common,” “nonviolent” misdemeanors are eligible for civil citation in place of arrest and formal charges. Upon citation, caseworkers at a “Juvenile Assessment Center” administer an assessment in order to recommend sanctions such as community service, counseling, substance abuse services, or restitution. If an offender fails to complete the prescribed sanctions, he or she is referred to the formal juvenile justice system.

  2. Pre-Arrest Diversion Program for the Homeless

    The most common low-level charges against people experiencing homelessness are nonviolent41 and the homeless are at increased risk of being arrested repeatedly for these types of offenses. The underlying problems that have left these members of the community without a stable home cannot be solved by repeated contacts with the criminal justice system. Indeed, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek recently wrote in the Star Tribune that “[a]ll too often, police resources are spent responding to and arresting folks whose ‘offenses’ are just symptoms of more fundamental issues: homelessness, mental illness, alcohol or chemical dependency, unemployment, or low levels of education. Calling on law enforcement to solve these societal problems, with only one solution (arrest and booking), often has a negative impact on police-community relations—especially when the arrests have a disparate impact on minority or immigrant communities.”42 To address these limitations, the Department should partner with other governmental agencies and service providers to create a pre-arrest diversion program for low-level homeless offenders. Instead of cycling in and out of the criminal justice system for low-level offenses that are largely symptomatic of homelessness—not dangerousness—these individuals, and public safety at large, would be better served by increasing access to needed services including housing, drug treatment, mental health treatment, job training, and health care.

    Currently, the Department works with St. Stephen’s Street Outreach, which provides services and, at times, intervenes when livability crimes would be better addressed by a social services response than an arrest. This is good and important work, but the data analyzed in this report shows that during the study period just under 40 percent of the low-level charges against people experiencing homelessness were for consuming in public, open bottle, begging/panhandling, and public urination. Accordingly, efforts to divert people experiencing homelessness from the criminal justice system need to be expanded and increased.

    A pre-arrest diversion program for the homeless in Minneapolis could be modeled after the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program in Seattle,43 which diverts low-level drug and prostitution offenders to relevant social services. An evaluation of the LEAD Program published in April 2015 found that “[p]eople in LEAD were 60% less likely than people in the control group to be arrested within the first 6 months of the evaluation,” and “[o]ver the entire course of the evaluation [October 2009 through July 2014], people in LEAD were 58% less likely than people in the control group to be arrested.”44 Additional inspiration may be found in the pilot diversion program in the 3rd District of Los Angeles County, which provides housing, physical and mental health care, and employment services to homeless and mentally ill people charged with certain nonviolent crimes.45

  3. Low-Level Warrant Arrests

    As noted above, many of the Department’s low-level arrests are made pursuant to warrants. Of those arrested on a warrant for a low-level offense, 94.6% were booked. In addition, 62% of the people in the data set arrested on a low-level warrant were Black. Warrants often are issued because people have failed in some way to follow up on a previous citation or arrest for a low-level offense. For example, they may have missed a court appearance or a deadline to either challenge the citation or pay the fine. Given that warrants are such a common reason for low-level arrests, and that those arrests are so likely to result in booking, which costs time, money, and jail space, the City and the Department should investigate why so many low-level warrants are issued in the first instance. With more information, the City and the Department should be able to craft creative solutions and reduce the perceived need to issue so many low-level warrants. For example, it may be that most people for whom a low-level warrant is issued were unable to show up in court at the designated time because they could not get time off work or they could not find childcare help. Some people might be failing to pay fines because they are unable to afford them. Or perhaps people are simply not keeping track of their deadlines effectively, or do not understand the forms they are given and what they are supposed to do. In short, the high number of arrests for low-level warrants, the racial disparities in those arrests, and the high societal costs of booking people in jail for low-level offenses merit investigation and creative problem solving efforts.

    Recently announced reforms in New York City can provide a starting point. To “ensure that people who received a summons appear in court,” the city has developed a “redesigned summons form that makes the date of appearance easier to understand;” created a test to experiment with a “number of different reminder [systems] citywide in Summer of 2015, using both robocalls and text messages;” and started a pilot program in which courts will remain open until 8 p.m. one night per week and “individuals who have received summonses will be permitted to appear any time a week in advance of their court appearance.”46

  4. Doesnt Fit Any Crim” Arrests

    In 33 months, the MPD made 906 low-level arrests that it categorized under an offense called “doesnt fit any crim.” Seventy two percent of the people arrested under this category were Black. According to the Department, this categorization is the result of limitations in its computer system and not an indication that these 906 arrests were made without legal justification. Given the information made available to the ACLU, the ACLU has no way to verify the Department’s explanation. The ACLU therefore remains concerned about the legality of these arrests, particularly in light of their racially disparate impact. The Department should immediately open an investigation into these arrests.

Re-evaluate the System
Criminal laws should be reserved for criminal behavior

“Police represent the ‘face’ of the criminal justice system to the public. Yet police are obviously not responsible for laws or incarceration policies that many citizens find unfair.”47 Overcriminalization has spread rampantly throughout the country and it is time to reevaluate whether it really serves society’s best interests to criminalize so much non-dangerous behavior that often lacks what we collectively understand as “criminal intent.” We therefore call on city, county, and state policymakers to create task forces to review their criminal codes and seek decriminalization of appropriate offenses.

By way of example, we strongly encourage Hennepin County to repeal its Juvenile Curfew Ordinance 16, and the State to repeal its enabling curfew statute, Minnesota Statute 145A.05(7a). The stated purpose of the County’s Ordinance is to “reduce juvenile victimization and crime and [] advance public safety, health, and general welfare.”48 In contrast to this well-meaning purpose, the data analyzed in this project shows that at least one of the actual effects of the ordinance is to criminalize young people. Bringing young people into the criminal justice system does not protect them from victimization; instead, it makes them more likely to stay in the criminal justice system throughout their childhood and into adulthood. In the data analyzed, curfew was by far the most common charge against young people—4,901 curfew charges accounted for 40% of all low-level charges against young people. The second most common charge accounted for only 6.3% of all low-level youth charges. In addition, Black youth were 4.6 and Native American youth were 8.7 times more likely to be arrested for a juvenile curfew violation than white youth. This ordinance is exacerbating racial disparities among young people within the criminal justice system. Juvenile Curfew Ordinance 16 should be repealed immediately and young people previously convicted of this offense should have their convictions vacated.

Also by way of example, the ACLU categorized 70 percent of the low-level charges as “administrative/non-active driving,” “quality of life,” “drug,” and “status” offenses. These include offenses like expired boat registration, no proof of car insurance, selling liquor without a license, littering, disorderly conduct, consuming in public, interfering with pedestrian traffic, loitering with intent to commit a narcotics offense, possession of drug paraphernalia, truancy, and curfew violation.49 The public and policymakers should consider whether all of these offenses actually merit the stigmatization, collateral consequences, and public resources that go into their enforcement when they are criminalized.


The ACLU appreciates the attention paid thus far to unwarranted racial disparities in low-level policing by the Minneapolis Police Department, the Mayor’s Office, and the City Council. But more work lies ahead. In addition, the ACLU reiterates that improvements in police practices are just one aspect of building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. The lack of trust that currently exists is a complex and multifaceted problem that can only be fully addressed through complementary systemic improvements for people of color in other parts of the criminal justice system, like prosecution and sentencing, and in their access to quality education, employment, public health, housing, and social services. In order to build a truly civil and equal society all segments of the community and all government bodies must work together towards this shared goal.