Past

The City of Minneapolis wasn’t formally established until 1867. Its first leader practically begged for a police force to oversee, saying “a mayor without a police force to appoint and regulate would hardly feel that he was Mayor.”1Kristian Williams, Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America (Baltimore: AK Press, 2015), 75-77. The city council agreed, and on March 9th, 1867, the first four officers were appointed to the Minneapolis Police Department. It’s important to note the historical context here: the Minneapolis Police Department was established less than 30 years after Dred Scott and his wife Harriet were held a slaves at Fort Snelling,2“Slavery at Fort Snelling (1820s – 1850s),” Historic Fort Snelling, accessed November 03, 2017, http://www.historicfortsnelling.org/history/slavery-fort-snelling. only five years after the hanging of 38 Dakota men at the hands of the U.S. government following the U.S. Dakota War of 1862, only two years after the end of the Civil War. Perhaps, given the department’s beginnings, the history that was to follow was predictable.

Circa 1852, a Dakota Community located at what is now approximately Hennepin Ave. and S 2nd St. in downtown Minneapolis

In this section of the report, we will examine that history from its beginning, starting with the origins of the concept of policing itself. We’ll look at the first fifty years of the Minneapolis Police Department, and the department’s early history as a corrupt political tool. Then we’ll move into the middle years, 1918 – 1967, and MPD’s increasing violence towards Black and Native communities, immigrants, union members, and other marginalized groups. Finally, we’ll look at the most recent fifty years – a time of disgrace, militarization, and countless failed reforms at the Minneapolis Police Department.

Over the past year and a half, we’ve written a collection of more than twenty short pieces on particularly illustrative stories from MPD’s history. These pieces served as the basis for the incomplete history we’re going to tell here. If you’re interested in learning more about a particular incident in this section, and it has a (!) next to it, that means there’s a longer piece about it, including citations, on the timeline below.

Timeline

1900

A Dollar A Day Keeps The Doctor Away: Turn-of-The-Century Corruption in MPD

Police departments have a long and storied history of corruption. Minneapolis was no exception to this.

1922

A Day To Remember: Police Brutality on June 20th, 1922

In the early hours of that morning, a visibly drunk Minneapolis Police Department officer heard about some Black men inviting white girls to a dance and decided to sweep the streets on the North side.

1934

‘Deputies Run’: The 1934 Teamsters Strike

In 1934, the Minneapolis Police Department mobilizes 700 private citizens to confront thousands of striking truck drivers. In what would come to be called the “Battle of Bloody Friday,” sixty-seven strikers were shot, and two of them were killed.

1963

IAU, CRA, OPCR: Police (Un)accountability in Minneapolis

From the beginning of MPD’s existence in 1887 to the present day, accountability mechanisms have been nearly useless at preventing police misconduct and brutality. Minneapolis’ first Civilian Review Board was created in 1963, but it lacked any official status.

1967

The Fire Last Time: Plymouth Avenue

In response to the shooting of three black men by a bar owner, and in protest of systemic racism more broadly, Black community members, along with poor white and Native community residents, rose up and began setting fire to businesses that had previously discriminated against Black residents.

1968

Community Patrols in Minneapolis

In 1968 multiple community patrols were founded in Minneapolis to fight back against racism and police brutality, including The Soul Force and AIM.

1974

MPD Under Scrutiny

From 1974 to 1976, independent investigators found the Minneapolis Police Department’s treatment of minority groups and its hiring processes unacceptable.

1982

Homophobic Cops: Attacks on Minneapolis’ Queer Community

Rick Hunter and John Hanson were taunted and threatened by two men outside a popular Minneapolis gay bar and a fight began. Police arrived on the scene and in the words of an eyewitness, the police beat John Hanson “over and over and over again."

1989

Raid Gone Wrong: The Deaths of Lillian Weiss and Lloyd Smalley

Two Black elders, Lillian Weiss and Lloyd Smalley were killed by smoke inhalation when the Minneapolis Police Department’s SWAT team executed a dangerous “no-knock” drug raid on their house.

1990

The Murder of Tycel Nelson

The Minneapolis Police Department was called to a party where a fight had broken out, while they were on their way, two people were shot. When they arrived, Officer Dan May hopped out of his car with a shotgun, chased 17 year old Tycel Nelson behind a house. Minutes later, the teenager was dead of a shotgun blast under unclear circumstances, an action that would result in widespread outrage and calls for police accountability.

1993

Rough Rides: Brutality Against Native Men

Minneapolis Police Officers took two intoxicated men, Charles Lone Eagle and John Boney, and threw them into the trunk of their car, slammed the door onto one of the men's legs breaking it, and drove the men around for 45 minutes in a practice known as a "rough ride".

1993

‘Clean’ Records: A Shooting at Little Earth

Minneapolis Police Department officers Anthony DiIoia and David Campbell were working on a case at Little Earth when they came across a group of teenagers. One of the teenagers was carrying a toy gun, and both officers drew their real guns, shooting the 16 year old.

1994

A Kidnapping at Little Earth

Two Minneapolis Police Officers charged with felonies for kidnapping, extortion, and misconduct. Eventually, they were forced to resign from the department, but allowed to keep their police licenses.

1994

Rapist With a Badge

Officer Michael Ray Parent sexually assaults a 26 year old woman while on duty.

1998

The Destruction of the Minnehaha Free State

In 1998, a group of indigenous activists, environmentalists, and community members came together in solidarity to fight proposed rerouting of Highway 55 that would destroy Native sacred sites, centuries-old trees, and a thriving ecosystem in order to widen the highway by a few lanes.

2003

Trust as a Four Letter Word: The PCRC and the PCOC

The Police Community Relations Council was established to build trust between the Minneapolis Police Department and marginalized communities. In the end, it did almost exactly the opposite.

2004

The Murder of Courtney Williams

15 year old Courtney Williams, shot and killed by a Minneapolis Police Officer.

2006

City Heat: The Mistreatment of Juan Vasquez

Witnesses reported seeing officers beat Juan Vasquez after he was already in handcuffs, then toss him into the back of a squad car alone for more than 30 minutes with the windows rolled up and with no air conditioning on a day when temperatures were in the 80's.

2006

The Murder of Fong Lee

19 year old Fong Lee was with a group of friends outside Cityview elementary school in North Minneapolis when they were attacked by two police officers. The officers sped their car across a grassy field, hitting Fong Lee on his bike and then shooting him three times in the back, then five more times where he laid on the ground.

2007

Cops Who Think Cops Are Racist – The Mill City 5

In 2007, five Black police officers sued the Minneapolis Police Department for systemic racism and discrimination.

2007

Knock on Wood: A Botched Raid in North Minneapolis

The Minneapolis Police SWAT team got a tip about a house where gang members were supposedly living. The team secured a “no knock” warrant to break in and search the house for weapons, ignoring clues that they had received a bad tip and in doing so endangered the lives of Yee Moua, Vang Khang and their six children.

2009

The Metro Gang Strike Force: Honor Among Thieves

The Metro Gang Strike Force was a police force created by the Minnesota state legislature to “prevent gang activity” in the Twin Cities. Over the four years of its existence, the Metro Gang Strike Force routinely stole property from and terrorized countless community members. They were finally shut down for widespread corruption and unaccountability after a state audit in 2009.

2010

The Killing Of David Smith

David Smith was killed by Minneapolis Police when they used a "prone restraint” technique to respond to the 28 year old, who was experiencing a mental health crisis.

2010

Jason Yang Dead After Encounter with Police

Though the circumstances of Jason Yang’s death remain a mystery, his story is another reminder that the criminal justice system in Minneapolis is more concerned with protecting police from scrutiny than attending to the needs of grieving family and community.

2011

Blaming (and Criminalizing) the Victim

CeCe McDonald was charged with two accounts of second-degree murder for defending herself from an avowed white supremacist with a swastika tattoo, a situation that in so many other cases has ended in the murder of countless trans women of color.

2013

The Deaths of Terrance Franklin and Ivan Romero

On May 10th, 2013, someone called 911 to report that they’d seen someone who had possibly burglarized their house the week before. Police responded, and began chasing Terrance Franklin. The chase lasted nearly an hour, but around 3 pm, a nearby resident called the police saying that they had found a broken window in their house nearby. The MPD SWAT team responded to the call and entered the house, cornering an unarmed Franklin in the basement. What we know for sure is that Terrance Franklin was shot to death in that basement, and two officers were shot in the legs with bullets from a police submachine gun. Everything else is disputed.

2014

#Pointergate

Mayor Betsy Hodges was photographed with a community activist during a Get Out the Vote drive. As they posed they pointed at each other. Local press and law enforcement claimed that the Mayor had been caught throwing gang signs with a convicted felon, and this was evidence she supported gangs.

2015

Justice for Jamar

In the early hours of November 15th, 2015, Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old Black man was at a party on the north side, a couple blocks away from Minneapolis’ fourth precinct police station. After a fight broke out, a friend of Jamar’s, RayAnn Hayes, tried to intervene, and her ankle was injured in the scuffle. She called 911 and requested paramedics, hoping to be taken to the hospital. She couldn’t have known at the time, but that call would lead to Clark’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department and an eighteen day occupation of the fourth precinct.

2017

The Murder of Justine Damond

Two officers received a call of a possible sexual assault happening in southwest Minneapolis. They responded to the call; and when they arrived at the scene, they heard a loud sound. Justine Damond, who was unarmed, walked up to the driver’s side window to speak to the officers, and Mohamed Noor, presumably afraid, pulled out his pistol and shot her, once in the stomach. She died shortly after.