Minneapolis police chief takes on powerful police union, vows reform

File photo taken June 4, 2020 of Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo (R) kneeling as the remains of George Floyd are taken to a memorial service in Minneapolis, USA.
File photo taken June 4, 2020 of Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo (R) kneeling as the remains of George Floyd are taken to a memorial service in Minneapolis, USA. AFP - KEREM YUCEL

The Minneapolis Police Department will withdraw from police union contract negotiations, Chief Medaria Arradondo said Wednesday as he announced the first steps in what he claimed would be transformational reforms to the agency in the wake of George Floyd's death.  

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Arradondo said a thorough review of the contract is planned since it needs to be restructured to provide more transparency and flexibility for true reform. 

The decision to cut off negotiations with the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis came days after a majority of the city council pledged to dismantle the police force, raising pressure on the chief to take action.

Arradondo said it was debilitating for a chief when there are grounds to terminate an officer's services and a third-party mechanism works to keep that person on the job. 

“This work must be transformational, but I must do it right,” Arradondo said of changes to the department.

He also promised new research and strategies to spot and intervene with problem officers. 

 

“We will have a police department that our communities view as legitimate, trusting and working with their best interests at heart,” he said, adding that the department has to address issues of racism head-on.

Arradondo sidestepped a question about whether he thought union head Bob Kroll, often seen as an obstacle to reform, should step down.

Unions resistant to reform

Police unions in the US are widely viewed as resistant to reform efforts. Critics say their mandate to protect the interests of their members often overrides the interests of democratic norms and the integrity of police departments.

A review in the journal Police Practice and Research noted that, “Virtually all of the published items that express an opinion on the impact of police unions regard them as having a negative effect, particularly on innovation, accountability, and police — community relations.” 

Floyd died on May 25 after Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, ignoring the handcuffed black man’s “I can’t breathe” cries and staying there even after Floyd stopped moving.

Chauvin — a white officer who had 17 complaints against him and was only disciplined once — is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers at the scene are charged with aiding and abetting the second-degree murder and manslaughter counts.

'Stop the pain,' Floyd's brother tells Congress

Arradondo's announcement came as Philonise Floyd challenged Congress on Wednesday to “stop the pain" so that his brother George wouldn't be just "another name” on a growing list of those killed during interactions with police.

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Floyd's appearance before a House hearing came a day after funeral services for his bother, whose death has become a worldwide symbol in demonstrations over calls for changes to police practices and an end to racial prejudices.

“I’m here today to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain,” Philonise Floyd told the silenced hearing room.

Choking back tears, he said he wants to make sure that his brother, whom he called “Perry” is “more than another face on a T-shirt. More than another name on a list that won’t stop growing”.

Floyd directly challenged lawmakers to step up. "The people marching in the streets are telling you enough is enough. Be the leaders that this country, this world, needs. Do the right thing.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler gaveled in the session as Democrats review the Justice in Policing Act, a far-ranging package of proposals amid a national debate on policing and racial inequity in the US.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

 

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