ACLU Finds Severe Racial Disparities in Low-Level Arrests by Minneapolis Police

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Alexandra Ringe, ACLU, aringe@aclu.org, 212-549-2582

Jana Kooren, ACLU of Minnesota, jkooren@aclu-mn.org 651-645-4097 x123 or 651-485-5925 cell

ACLU Finds Severe Racial Disparities in Low-Level Arrests by Minneapolis Police

Patterns of Racial Bias and Overcriminalization Show Urgent Need for Reform; Blacks and Native Americans Disproportionately Affected

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The American Civil Liberties Union’s Criminal Law Reform Project and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota released their analysis of more than 96,000 arrests made by Minneapolis police officers for low-level offenses from January 2012 through September 2014. Picking up the Pieces: Policing in America, a Minneapolis Case Study reveals that Black Minneapolitans were 8.7 times more likely than whites to be arrested for a low-level offense – any offense with a fine of $3,000 or less and/or a year or less in jail. Native Americans were 8.6 times more likely than white people to be arrested for such offenses.

“Minneapolis police show the same patterns of racial bias that we’re seeing across the country and that demand reform,” said Emma Andersson, staff attorney with the ACLU. “In Minneapolis, the eyes of the law look at Blacks and Native Americans differently than whites. The resulting injustices – more fees and fines, more time in jail, more criminal records – hurt Minneapolitans and undermine public safety.”

Picking Up the Pieces explores racial disparities and overcriminalization affecting the city’s homeless population and its young people. For example, among young people ages 17 and under, Black youth were 5.8 times more likely to be arrested for low-level offenses than white youth; for Native Americans, this figure was 7.7. Police arrested Black youth disproportionately for curfew violations; 33 children under age 10 received curfew citations, 20 of whom were Black.

Along with its data analysis, Picking Up the Pieces offers stories and perspectives from Minneapolis residents about the police’s racial profiling, including a short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5I5iRlamTQ.

The case study also presents detailed recommendations for reforms that will move Minneapolis toward more democratic and effective policing, such as

  • Strengthen the Minneapolis Police Department’s current ban on racial profiling
  • Ensure the evaluation system for police officers doesn’t reward them for the numbers of stops and arrests for low-level offenses they make
  • Establish an empowered civilian review body that has authority to discipline officers when necessary
  • Expand pre-arrest diversion programs that give young people and homeless people alternatives to arrest

“The ACLU commends Minneapolis Police Chief Harteau for recent changes, such as adding implicit bias training. However, these changes are only a start. We urge the chief and other policymakers to engage in the sweeping reform necessary to correct the extreme racial disparities documented in this analysis,” said Charles Samuelson, executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota.

Picking Up the Pieces: Policing in America, a Minneapolis Case Study is available here: https://www.aclu.org/feature/picking-pieces

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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