MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Department of Justice is officially investigating the Minneapolis Police response to the November Black Lives Matter protests.
The 18 days of protests, which included an occupation, were sparked by the November 15 shooting death of Jamar Clark.
Witnesses say police shot the 24-year-old in the head after handcuffing him, but the police union says Clark tried to grab an officer’s gun.
The justice department’s deputy director Rob Chapman said they’ve decided to conduct an outside assessment, and thanked Mayor Betsy Hodges and Police Chief Janee Harteau for being open to an investigation he says could help this city and many others.
Harteau said the protest has already yielded a number of hard lessons, and one of the changes that’s been made was to alter the color of SWAT officer uniforms to address concerns about their military look.
“It’s important to know what we could have done better so that moving forward as a community, we can move forward stronger than ever,” Hodges said.
Harteau and Hodges said they are open to more feedback on the protests, which became a national story.
“The underlying issues that ultimately affect trust between police departments and the community can begin to be assessed,” Chapman said. They plan to look into “things like use of force, equipment and technology, training policies and procedures, the community stakeholders, community’s perspective, those areas that we’re going to want to thoroughly explore.”
Chapman said there could be widespread benefit.
“We are confident that the lessons learned in the Minneapolis police protest can help how future protests are policed both in Minneapolis and in communities across the country,” he said.
This is also what they did in Ferguson, Missouri, and they say protests since then have been more peaceful.
WCCO talked with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis’ Nekima Levy-Pounds. She says she is glad to hear about this inquiry, but she says the conduct during the protest by some officers was egregious and there needs to be a much more thorough investigation about that.
The goal is that this report will be complete in the fall. After that the focus will be on implementing new polices and new training.