A veteran police officer' murdering George Floyd, a Black man, on a busy street in broad daylight and setting off racial justice protests around the globe was a searing example of a police department hitting rock bottom. Minneapolis promised to set a good example. “Changing the world starts here,” Mayor Jacob Frey wrote in an opinion essay. In the two years since, the mayor has ordered a host of policy changes to rein in the police, including banning chokeholds, restricting no-knock warrants and traffic stops and stepping up discipline for misconduct. Still, the department has repeatedly been caught violating the mayor’s edicts — killing a man in a no-knock raid, using “warrior-style” training for recruits and escalating encounters with the public to the point that the use of force is required, reports the New York Times. Even as it tries to remake its police force, the city is grappling with the same crime spike as the rest of the U.S. Violent crime in Minneapolis is up 36 percent this year over the same period in 2019 — and is combating it with an officer corps depleted by the coronavirus pandemic and low morale.
A mass exodus has brought the force from 881 officers before Floyd’s death down to 580, with the number of applicants drying up. Scores of retiring officers have filed disability claims for post-traumatic stress disorder, receiving payouts averaging about $170,000, suggesting that the department’s PTSD rate rivals that of Iraq war veterans. Promises to increase accountability for officers who engage in misconduct have yet to produce visible results. In March — after officials had repeatedly vowed to dismantle police union protections for accused officers — the city approved a contract that raised officer pay but scarcely altered the disciplinary process. In 2020 and 2021, 68 officers left the force while disciplinary action was pending against them, effectively closing those cases before they became public and leaving the city open to charges that it was doing little to punish officers who seemed to be targeting journalists and peaceful demonstrators in the protests after Floyd’s death. For nearly a year after Floyd's killing, despite pledges to end race-based policing, the department used covert social media accounts to surveil Black leaders. At the police academy last year, trainers used racist tropes in training exercises and eliminated existing lessons about dealing with communities of color.