Following the demotion of a number of Black police officers on the Minneapolis Police force, community members including Police Community Relations Council (PCRC) co-chairs Ron Edwards and Clyde Bellecourt made a public announcement on Monday, December 3, that the Black Police Officers Association had filed a class action lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis.
The plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are Lieutenant Lee Edwards, Lieutenant Donald Harris, Lieutenant Medaria Arradondo, Sergeant Charles Adams and Sergeant Dennis Hamilton. It includes an individual lawsuit against Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan.
The allegations included in the 42-page report detail a consistent pattern of discrimination against African American officers and other officers of color — a pattern that spans the more than 20 years of service of the most senior officer named in report. The lawsuit also alleges obstructive actions of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department.
The report includes statements from each plaintiff corroborating that on September 11, 2007, Civil Rights Director Michael Jordan met with Black police officers who presented detailed information on acts of discrimination taken against them. The officers’ complaints were not followed up with an investigation.
“There is the feeling that the information was taken and some of those officers were identified to the chief [Dolan] and the mayor, and consequently [the meeting with Jordan] was the source of retaliation against…that particular group of officers,” Edwards says. “There is serious reason to believe that the Civil Rights Department participated in active obstruction of the law.”
PCRC Co-chair Clyde Bellecourt says that three years ago, when police/community mediation began, minority retention and recruitment was always at the top of the agenda. “How can we recruit?” he asks. “How can we go out and tell people that this is a good career to pick up when we see this type of stuff happening?”
After working through the PCRC, Bellecourt says, “It just seems like we’re spinning our wheels… We need to start talking about receivership — putting it in the hand of some other agency other than the City of Minneapolis — because they don’t seem to be [receiving] any of the suggestions.”
After 20 years, why are Black officers choosing now to speak out?
“These men belong to a paramilitary organization,” says Edwards, who speaks as the representative of the Black Police Officers Association. He explains that in an atmosphere where discipline and adherence to instruction are par for the course, “For some of them it is difficult for them to reach a point in their life and their career that they [are willing to] make this kind of move.”
In response to allegations against the Minneapolis Police Department, Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council President Barbara Johnson issued a press release Monday saying, “As City leaders we are committed to recruiting and retaining a culturally diverse workforce that reflects the community it serves. We take very seriously any charges of discrimination.
“We are confident in Chief Dolan’s ability to lead the police department and ensure it reflects the diversity of the City. We share his commitment to building and retaining a diverse police force and will continue to support his efforts to accomplish that.”
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