The U.S. Justice Department announced Tuesday that it is pouring $3 million into a national center to support reforms and increased training for law enforcement officers and urged the Minneapolis Police Department-- which has been at the center of heightened scrutiny over cases of police brutality-- to be one of the first cities to tap into resources.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo urged city leaders to take advantage of the center's help, which promises to provide more resources and training, including mental health resources for officers, as part of an ongoing effort to prevent the use of excessive force by police.
“In creating a new MPD, I want to utilize all available tools and resources to support the hardworking and professional men and women of the MPD," Arradondo said at a press conference announcing the DOJ's new initiative. “We have an obligation and duty to be guardians of our communities and enhance our level of service and this program seeks to do just that.”
The city has been rocked by months of protest following the death of George Floyd in late May. Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in police custody after an officer kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes.
His death sparked a national movement against police brutality and racial inequality along with a push to reform policing in America to de-escalate crimes without the use of force or an armed officer.
A majority of city council members in Minneapolis pledged to dismantle the department after Floyd's death, though a city commission ultimately blocked the council’s effort to put the issue before voters this November. Arradondo and Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat who opposed abolishing the department, have continued to make incremental changes to the department’s culture, including banning chokeholds and changing the department’s use of force policy.
“I have heard, loud and clear, from Minneapolis faith, community, and business leaders the call for safety and protection in our community,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Erica MacDonald said in a statement. “Today we announce a new initiative between the Department of Justice and MPD, offering federal resources to assist MPD in their reform efforts to better serve the City of Minneapolis.”
The announcement for the new center comes two weeks before the presidential election and reinforces President Trump's message of law and order. The DOJ has not issued a consent decree in Minneapolis to force departmental changes within police ranks, and Attorney General William Barr has suggested such investigations may have been previously overused in the past.
The national response center will be run by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and will be a resource for all state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies, said Katharine Sullivan, principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Justice Programs.
She said justice officials envision the center would have a coordinator, who is an expert in policing and who will help agencies with training, issues of officer safety, officer recruitment or retention, and other issues.
“The idea is that we are here to meet your needs. Not to descend,” Sullivan said
The Associated Press contributed to this report.