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Minneapolis Agrees To Ban Chokeholds And Neck Restraints By Police

The reforms in Minneapolis follow the widespread and sometimes violent protests after the police killing of George Floyd.
The reforms in Minneapolis follow the widespread and sometimes violent protests after the police killing of George Floyd.

Police in Minneapolis will be forbidden to use chokeholds and neck restraints under reforms negotiated by city and state authorities.

In an emergency vote Friday, the Minneapolis City Council approved an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which opened a civil rights investigation this week into the city's police department in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

The temporary restraining order requires the city to update its procedures to ban the chokeholds and other neck restraints by police.

"Black, Indigenous, and communities of color have suffered generational pain and trauma as a result of systemic and institutional racism and long-standing problems in policing. This continuous harm was once again highlighted by the in-custody death of George Floyd," the agreement says.

The reforms follow the widespread and sometimes violent protests after Floyd was killed when then-officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee planted on Floyd's neck for more than 8 minutes.

An autopsy released by Hennepin County, Minnesota, found that Floyd's heart and lungs stopped functioning "while being restrained" by police. An independent autopsy commissioned by Floyd's family found that he had died of "asphyxiation from sustained pressure."

Officers, regardless of rank or tenure, would also have to intervene and make a report if they witness excessive use of force, according to the agreement. An officer who failed to do so would face disciplinary measures as severe "as if they themselves engaged in the prohibited use of force."

Minneapolis has had a similar policy on the books since 2016.

Use of crowd-control weapons — such as tear gas and rubber bullets — would have to be approved by the city's police chief. Many of those weapons have been used during protests that have roiled Minneapolis and other cities since Floyd's death.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey signed the agreement Friday, saying it would require "elected leadership to [apply] deep, structural reforms."

"This unprecedented energy and momentum for police reform has left Minneapolis poised not just to address our shortcomings, but to become a model for shifting police culture and uprooting systemic racism," Frey tweeted.

The agreement also requires the city attorney to assemble a list of state laws that would impede the reforms.

Some members of the Minneapolis council called these good first steps toward systemic change but have also pushed for dismantling the city's police department, including council President Lisa Bender, who recently tweeted, "We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety."

In addition, Minnesota's local-level prosecutors — the county attorneys — are pushing to give the state's attorney general the authority to investigate all cases of police-involved deaths.

Local prosecutors and police work together closely, and county attorneys are often accused of having a conflict of interest when investigating police-involved deaths. So, the Minnesota County Attorneys Association voted Thursday to support such a change to state law. The organization represents all 87 county attorneys in Minnesota.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: June 4, 2020 at 9:00 PM PDT
An earlier version of this story said that the Minnesota Department of Human Rights had opened an investigation into the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. In fact, the department opened a civil rights investigation into the city police in the wake of Floyd's killing.
David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.