Police use of force data in decline in UMN neighborhoods

Citywide numbers of use of force have also hit a ten-year low.


Taylor Schroeder

Police use of force is down citywide and in campus neighborhoods, Minneapolis Police Department data show. 

MPD includes chemical irritant, taser, gun point display, police K9 bite, baton, improvised weapon, firearm and maximal restraint techniques in its definition of use of force. 

The reported use of force citywide is at a ten-year low. Reports decreased by 47 percent from 2008 to 2018, from 1,488 instances to 778 instances, according to MPD data. As of Oct. 28, the police department has reported 254 instances of use of force this year. 

Despite the dropping numbers of reports, some community leaders are skeptical about the accuracy of these trends. 

“The problem is, how would we know if [the data] is accurate or not? It’s probably the raw data that’s inaccurate as opposed to the manipulation of [public data]. The use of force occurs and never gets reported on,” said Dave Becking, a board member of Communities United Against Police Brutality. 

Marcy-Holmes and Cedar-Riverside have also seen drops in reported police use of force. 

In 2008, Cedar-Riverside had a high of 23 reports of use of force, while in 2018 six incidents were reported by MPD. This year has seen four reports of use of force as of Oct. 28. 

Russom Soloman, chair of the West Bank Business Association’s safety committee, said the presence of new beat officers and Somali officers who can relate to the community has helped keep crime down, which could help limit the need for use of force. 

“There hasn’t been any significant change in crime to warrant [increased police] visibility,” Soloman said.

Although the number of reports of use of force have remained consistent over the last ten years, Marcy-Holmes has seen a relatively low number of reports in comparison to previous years as of Oct. 28.

In each year from 2008 to 2018, use of force numbers in Marcy-Holmes did not deviate by more than five instances. From 2018 to 2019, reports have dropped from 17 instances to four instances between Jan.1 and Oct. 28. 

Ward 3 City Council member Steve Fletcher said the citywide decrease in police use of force can likely be attributed to MPD’s installment of body cameras and improved training procedures. 

CUAPB requests data on complaints against MPD every three months from the Office of Police Conduct Review, Becking said. 

“What we’re seeing is that sometimes people will complain about excessive force, then they’ll notice that the officer never wrote up the use of force and so they’ll file a new complaint against the officer,” said Becking, a former member of the Civilian Police Review Authority, which is now the OPCR.

In the third quarter of 2019, the city saw 181 in complaints filed against the police department, the most since 2015, according to OPCR’s annual report.

“One year wasn’t enough to say that it is going to stay at this level. After two years, this appears that this is a steady trend in complaint filing,” said Imani Jaafar, director of the OPCR in a city Public Safety and Emergency Management committee meeting on Oct. 16.

Citywide, the matter of any complaint is only public in 14 of the 477 complaints as of the third quarter of 2019.

The public data center only makes this data available once allegations are processed, said Casper Hill, a public information officer for Minneapolis. 

Fletcher said these complaints help identify areas of needed improvement within the department. 

“When a high number of complaints are filed and pending, it tells us where to turn our attention and where to direct coaching.”