MINNEAPOLIS – Earlier in his career, the African-American police chief from Minneapolis pursued his own ministry, accusing management of tolerating racism. Once he took charge, he promised to make mending relationships with black residents of the city a priority.
But the department, with its long history of accusations of abuse, finds itself besieged again after a video captured a suffocating black man under the knee of a white officer, three other officers not having intervened.
Medaria Arradondo, the chief, quickly dismissed the four men on Tuesday and called for an F.B.I. investigation after the video showed that the official police account of the man’s arrest, George Floyd, looked little like what actually happened.
But Chief Arradondo, who as a lieutenant joined a lawsuit that described his department as a cauldron of racist behavior, found it difficult to revise the department or quell the rage of the community.
When hundreds of residents took to the streets on Tuesday evening to protest the death of Mr. Floyd, the police used tear gas and fired rubber bullets into the crowd, causing biased police shouts. Community activists call for murder charges against police and a top-down federal review of Mr. Arradondo’s department.
President Trump called the death of Mr. Floyd on Wednesday “a very, very sad event.” Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumed democratic presidential candidate, said that death was “part of a systemic cycle of entrenched injustice that still exists in this country” and that it “cuts to the heart of our sacred belief that all Americans are equal in rights and dignity. “
Complaints of excessive force against Minneapolis officers have become commonplace, particularly by African American residents. One of the agents involved in the death of Mr. Floyd, a 19-year-old department veteran identified as Derek Chauvin, 44, has been the subject of several complaints against him, three of which have led to reprimands for his language and tone.
Mr. Chauvin shot dead a man who attempted to seize an officer’s weapon in 2008, according to The Pioneer Press. He was also present in two other shots, one of which was fatal, but it was unclear whether he had drawn his weapon in these cases, according to Communities United Against Police Brutality, a local organization advocating police reform. .
African Americans make up about 20 percent of the city’s population, but they are more likely to be arrested, arrested and used against them than white residents, according to data from the police department. And blacks accounted for more than 60 percent of victims of Minneapolis police fire from late 2009 to May 2019, according to the data.
Yet there is a deep divide between the city’s police force – which is also predominantly white – and the community, which seems to grow with each murder.
There was Thurman Blevins, a black man who begged two white police to close him, “Please don’t shoot me. Leave me alone ”, in a fatal encounter captured on body camera images. His death two years ago sparked protests across the city.
And there was Chiasher Fong Vue, a Hmong who was killed in December in a shootout with nine officers, who fired over 100 bullets, according to The Star Tribune.
“The truth is that we don’t have a good story,” said Jamar B. Nelson, 41, a long-time community activist. “The biggest complaint is that the community believes that the police department is racist, sectarian and insensitive to the black community. “
Video video of Mr. Floyd’s death made Tiffany Roberson almost 20 years old, she said, when an officer pinned her to the hood of a car, her forearm on her neck as she gasped for breath.
It also reminded him of five years ago when his brother Jamar Clark, the youngest of his nine siblings, was shot dead in an argument with the police on the north side of the city.
“Watching the video, I saw my brother’s face,” said Ms. Roberson, who is black, as she burst into tears. “The Black community’s relationship with the Minneapolis police is just to stay away. There is no confidence. There is no connection. ”
The murder of Mr. Clark was somewhat of an eruption of long-standing tensions between the community and the police. Protesters camped outside an enclosure for 18 days and were dismayed when police in riot gear and pepper spray demolished their camp under the leadership of town leaders. The leaders of the police unions were upset, it had taken the police so long to get the green light to free the demonstrators.
Mr. Nelson pointed out a factor that he believed had helped to create the tension: most police officers do not live within city limits, he said, raising questions about how the police reflect or understand the communities they patrol.
“The current police chief has attempted to re-establish the relationship,” said Mr. Nelson about Mr. Arradondo, who was sworn in three years ago after his predecessor was expelled following the controversial murder of Ms. Ruszczyk. “He is the first to make it a point to hold his officers accountable for inappropriate behavior. The rapid dismissal of the four officers is a big problem. “
Although some residents celebrated the rapid fire, many took to the streets to demand legal consequences. As officers sought to dissolve the protests, some activists noted a disparity in the treatment without intervention of the mostly white armed protesters who protested orders to stay at home across the country during the coronavirus pandemic .
Floyd moved to Minneapolis about five years ago from his hometown of Houston. In his Third Ward neighborhood, he was remembered as a high school football and basketball player, and he had told loved ones that he found the city of Minnesota to be a welcoming place.
“He was happy there,” said Tera Brown, a cousin who was raised with him. “He had made friends and talked about training to become a truck driver.”
These pleasant feelings contrast sharply with what his family saw on the video, filmed by a passer-by, in which Mr. Floyd pleaded with officers, repeatedly telling them that he could not breathe.
Another cousin, Shareeduh Tate, said that she did not recognize Mr. Floyd the first time she saw the video, but that she thought “how horrible it was for a loved one to die.” ‘a family be murdered on the street’.
She then received a phone call saying that the man in the video was her cousin.
“First, I was numb,” she said. “Then shocked, then hurt, then angry. It was painful to watch before I knew the person in the video was related to me. Now that I know that person is my flesh and blood, the pain is magnified a trillion times. “
Tate and many others, including Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis, have called on the authorities to charge the officers involved in the crimes.
According to city records, around 1% of complaints against police officers tried since 2012 have resulted in disciplinary action.
“The fact that these police officers are videotaped by passersby and continue to behave in this way shows you all about the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department,” said Michelle Gross, President of Communities United Against Police Brutality. “They feel immune to any type of responsibility. They feel they can get away with it. “
As Minneapolis politicians and activists adopt the language of racial justice, some critics say they often fail to put these words into practice.
There have been hard-won police reforms, including a modification to the use of force manual requiring officers to intervene when they see co-workers using excessive force.
One of the biggest challenges in reforming the department, analysts say, is the city’s powerful police union. He established his power in local politics in the 1970s, when Charles A. Stenvig, former head of the Minneapolis Federation of Police Officers, served three terms as mayor on a “law and order” platform.
Mr. Floyd was arrested and grounded in front of a building which is a community hub, with a convenience store, a check cashing business, apartments and a mosque in the basement. A memorial appeared on the sidewalk with black balloons and purple flowers.
Thomas Adams, born and raised in northeast Minneapolis, skipped a job interview on Wednesday.
“When someone is cold like that, you stop,” said Mr. Adams, 37. “You are not continuing. It’s so overwhelming. I came here to talk about my play. “
Matt Furber reported from Minneapolis, John Eligon from Kansas City, MO, and Audra D.S. Burch from Hollywood, Florida. Manny Fernandez contributed to Houston and Neil MacFarquhar reports from New York. Susan Beachy contributed to the research.