MSA leaders demand UMPD withdraw from countywide policing task force present at Daunte Wright protests

Student government leaders wrote a letter to University administrators asking them to cease their involvement in the West Command Task Force, a group composed of 35 police departments from across Hennepin County.


Image by J.D. Duggan

Protesters are greeted by a crowd of law enforcement in Brooklyn Center on Monday following the police killing of Daunte Wright.

by Ava Thompson

After officers from the University of Minnesota Police Department were deployed during protests over the police killing of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, student leaders are demanding that UMPD withdraw from agreements to participate in “riot” control.

UMPD is a part of the West Command Task Force, a group composed of 35 police departments from across Hennepin County. The Task Force formed after the police killing of George Floyd to assist member police departments “in the event of an emergency that exceeds their own capacity,” according to a campus-wide email from President Joan Gabel.

Gabel said all 35 police departments responded to the protests in Brooklyn Center Sunday night. All departments pledge 10% of their force to assist one another when needed.
“UMPD participates in and is committed to this collaborative group to assist these other jurisdictions in need of immediate police support and with the understanding that this group will assist the University when needed,” Gabel said.
Undergraduate student body president Amy Ma and vice president Sophronia Cheung, along with incoming president Abdulaziz Mohamed and vice president Samiat Ajibola, authored a letter released Monday and started an email campaign to collect signatures demanding UMPD’s withdrawal from the West Command Task Force.

“In response to Wright’s death, protesters emerged on the streets of Brooklyn Center and were confronted with excessive violence from police forces and the National Guard,” the letter reads. “As members of the University of Minnesota community, our rage is heightened by the fact that twelve University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD) officers were present at the scene in full riot gear. UMPD’s actions are unacceptable.”

The letter was released as protesters gathered in defiance of the 7 p.m. curfew to protest police brutality Monday night. Law enforcement declared an unlawful assembly and attempted to disperse the crowd with tear gas, rubber bullets and flash grenades, according to the Star Tribune.

The task force asked for assistance again Monday night during the multi-county curfew, Gabel said.

In May, UMPD broke off some collaborations with the Minneapolis Police Department in response to the killing of Floyd and a letter from then-undergraduate president Jael Kerandi. Gabel announced that the University would no longer contract with MPD for law enforcement support during large events or for specialized services.

Student groups, such as Students for a Democratic Society, have taken to social media calling for justice and action from the University to establish police accountability.

“It is unacceptable and deeply disturbing that time and time again, we see our campus police in full riot gear, ready to suppress protests across the Twin Cities,” read a statement on the student group’s Instagram page.