The killing of George Floyd isn’t the first time the Minneapolis Police Department has faced scrutiny over its treatment of people of color.
In 2007, five black Minneapolis police officers alleged that city leadership tolerated discriminatory conduct against people of color, including African American police officers within the department, according to a complaint.
Medaria Arradondo – now the city’s police chief – was among the plaintiffs.
The officers filed the civil lawsuit based on “their own experiences on the force from when they were recruits training through their present statuses at the time in ’07,” attorney John Klassen, who represented the officers, told CNN.
The officers experienced their own individual “employment discrimination” while also “watching the every day, every week, every year actions of white officers against citizens of color. Which they had to stand and watch and read about and hear about and see no action, effective action, taken against those officers for what they firmly believed were constitutional violations and discrimination in the police of Minneapolis to citizens,” Klassen said.
African American officers were disciplined “more harshly and frequently than…white officers for comparable or more serious misconduct,” the complaint stated.
Black officers were disciplined more harshly, complaint says
“African American officers have been regularly disciplined and lost command positions and other assignments for alcohol offenses,” the complaint states. “In contrast, the complaint says a white sergeant with two alcohol offenses was recently promoted to the rank of lieutenant.”
There were several white officers engaged in what was described as “serious misconduct,” including “supplying narcotics and alcohol to minor-age strippers….to DUIs, to discriminatory comments about citizens of color and other misconduct meriting internal affairs investigations,” the complaint alleged.
But the complaint said those officers weren’t subject to the same harsh disciplinary measures as their black colleagues.
The case was dismissed in 2009
The case was dismissed in May 2009 after it was settled out of court for over $800,000, Klassen said. He did not have the exact amount of the settlement available and was away from his office due to the unrest in Minneapolis.
“The police departments in Minneapolis … are very hard institutions to change overnight,” he said, citing police union influence. “Small steps are not to be looked down upon if they keep going forward over the course of many years.”
There was no corrective action or admission of liability with the settlement, but Klassen said transitions to the new leadership in the department including Chief Arradondo, and the “change in the mayoral leadership of the city has led to what appears to be an increase in recruiting of minority officers.”
A city of Minneapolis spokesperson told CNN the “city’s efforts this weekend are focused on public safety and cleanup,” and a statement could not be made available at the time of this alert.
Minneapolis PD is once again under scrutiny
The Minneapolis Police Department is again facing questions about its treatment of people of color after Floyd’s death at the hands of law enforcement.
Last week, 46-year-old Floyd begged for his life while ex-Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin remained kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Three other officers who were at the scene did not intervene.
Floyd’s death has sparked protests across the country, with thousands echoing some of the man’s final words, “I can’t breathe.” Some of those demonstrations were peaceful, while others ended in flames, widespread looting, damages and hundreds of arrests as well as injuries.
In an emotional response to Floyd’s family Sunday night, the Minneapolis police chief said in his mind, all four officers involved in the black man’s killing bear the same responsibility.
“Mr. Floyd died in our hands and so I see that as being complicit,” Chief Arradondo told CNN’s Sara Sidner. “Silence and inaction, you’re complicit. If there was one solitary voice that would have intervened … that’s what I would have hoped for.”
The four police officers involved in his Floyd’s death were fired from the department Tuesday. Chauvin was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
CNN’s Christina Maxouris contributed to this report.