Picking Up The Pieces

A Minneapolis Case Study

 Picking up the Pieces

North Minneapolis

maps Arrests
Sources: Minneapolis Police Department and U.S. Census




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The racial disparities documented in this analysis are staggering and demonstrate that "we need to do something radically different," as Judge Burke asserts.56

Under the leadership of Chief Harteau, the department has already taken some important steps in the right direction. The ACLU commends 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 sufficient to remedy the extreme racial disparities documented in this analysis. The ACLU encourages the Chief, Mayor Hodges, the Minneapolis City Council, the Hennepin 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 police department out of its past and into a more equitable future. As Professor Levy-Pounds urges, “These problems are 100 percent solvable if we're willing to do the heavy lifting that it'll take.”57

The ACLU’s recommended reforms include:

  • Ensuring that MPD officers are evaluated in a way that does not reward them based on the number of stops and low-level arrests they make; and that they face discipline for unnecessary uses of force;
  • Making information public about what methods are used to determine when and if an officer will face punishment;
  • Improving MPD’s current policy that explicitly bans racial profiling and other discriminatory behaviors;
  • Prohibiting officers from asking people if they can search them if they have no legal reason;
  • Keeping data, and making it publicly available on a regular basis, in a format that makes it more accessible and includes information from all interactions with the police including ones that do not result in an arrest, but were merely suspicious person stops, frisks, or searches;
  • Ensuring that raw data is analyzed by an independent party on a regular basis to identify disparities that negatively affect communities of color or other marginalized communities;
  • Establishing an empowered civilian review body that has authority to discipline officers when necessary;
  • Establishing a formal working group that includes the ACLU and other civil rights, civil liberties, and community groups to develop a body camera policy;
  • Conducting thorough surveys of community members that are broken down by race, age, and location regarding their thoughts on police and police interactions;
  • Expanding pre-arrest diversion programs, particularly for young people and people experiencing homelessness, that ensure that they are given access to alternatives other than arrest or entrance into the criminal justice system;
  • Decreasing the number of low-level warrants issued by finding other ways to effectively deal with the problem of failure to pay fines or appear in court;
  • Adopting a new use of force policy that emphasizes de-escalation and encourages officers to avoid use of force if at all possible;
  • Investigating the legality of arrests categorized as “doesnt fit any crim” (doesn’t fit any crime); and
  • Creating task forces to review criminal codes and seek decriminalization of offenses that do not merit the stigmatization, collateral consequences, and public resources that go into their enforcement when they are criminalized.  Offenses that should be repealed include juvenile curfew, lurking, spitting, and loitering with intent to commit a narcotics offense.

To send Minneapolis officials a clear message that police reforms are needed, click here.

The ACLU’s full set of recommendations is available here.


Finally, the ACLU encourages stakeholders to recognize that racial 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. To fully tear down systemic forms of racial inequality, stakeholders must work towards fixing unwarranted racial disparities across the board.

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