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Minnesota police created fake online accounts to monitor black leaders and organizations while ignoring the activities of white supremacist groups

The Minneapolis Police Department is riddled with racism, according to a state civil rights investigation that found officers were monitoring black leaders and organizations and ignoring threats from white supremacists online.

The 72-page report details a law enforcement agency steeped in hatred toward black people portrayed through racist language and disproportionate rates of violence inflicted on African Americans.

Investigators also discovered that agents had created fake social media accounts to spy on and troll the black community.

Civil rights lawyers Ben Crump hold a sign that reads ‘Justice for Amir Locke’ during a press conference with the families of Amir Locke and other families to demand the repeal of no-knock warrants and the justice for loved ones inside the Minnesota State Capitol in St Paul, Minnesota on February 10, 2022. (Photo by Kerem Yucel/AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)

The report, compiled after the police assassination of George Floydsaid the department maintains a culture in which officers “consistently use racist, misogynistic and disrespectful language and are rarely held accountable” and use “higher rates of harsher force” against black people than white people.

The “unlawful pattern or practice of racial discrimination” has prevailed in the Minneapolis Police Department for at least a decade, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights report.

The organization is calling for a complete overhaul of the agency when it has found “repeated, routine or widespread denial of rights” in violation of human rights law.

“Without fundamental organizational culture changes, reforming MDP policies, procedures and training will be meaningless,” the report states.

The human rights agency launched the full review with the help of a police statistics expert on June 1, 2020. Investigators reviewed approximately 700 hours of body-worn camera footage, nearly 480 000 pages of Minneapolis and MPD documents, 87 hours of training at the 2021 police academy, and completed multiple trips to each of MPD’s five precincts.

They also looked at use of force data from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2020 and traffic stops from January 1, 2017 to May 24, 2020. Investigators also interviewed police officers, prosecutors and 2,200 residents.

The agency now plans to develop a court-enforceable agreement with the city to identify and implement a timeline for specific changes.

Specifically, the agency recommends that the MPD immediately implement appropriate oversight of agents’ use of secret social media.

Police departments can create fake social media accounts for investigation in case of criminal activity or public safety issue.

However, investigators found that from January 2010 to December 2020, MPD agents monitored members of black individuals and organizations, including the NAACP and the Urban League, “without a public safety objective”.

They presented themselves as black online and posted messages, posts and comments that perpetuate black stereotypes, especially about black women.

In one case, an MPD agent sent a message from a fake account to a local NAACP branch criticizing the organization. They also used the accounts to troll police critics and local officials, including a city council member and a state elected official.

Protesters march with signs for George Floyd during the 57th Annual March on Washington, Friday, August 28, 2020 in Washington, DC, Maryland.  Also called the Get Off Our Necks march, this year's march focused on the recent Black Lives Matter movement while commemorating the work of former civil rights leaders.  (Photo by Erin Lefevre/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Protesters march with signs for George Floyd during the 57th Annual March on Washington, Friday, August 28, 2020 in Washington, DC, Maryland. Also called the Get Off Our Necks march, this year’s march focused on the recent Black Lives Matter movement while commemorating the work of former civil rights leaders. (Photo by Erin Lefevre/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In contrast, they did not follow white supremacist or white nationalist groups. Yet during the civil unrest following Floyd’s murder, a white Boogaloo Bois member fired 13 rounds from an AK-47 in the MPD’s Third Ward.

The internal culture of the MPD is central to racial discrimination in the report’s findings. Some members of the agency refer to black people as n-words and “monkeys” and black women as “Black b——-s.” A supervisor called the Somali men “orangutans”.

Black officers were not exempt from racial discrimination, often referred to as “layer head” and “cattle”. Instead of complaining, black officers would put up with harassment because they believed the city would not address it.

Investigators also found that from January 2010 to April 2021, the MPD hardly disciplined officers for using racist, misogynistic or inappropriate language, according to the report.

Once the culture spread beyond the gates of the agency and onto the grounds, it created a perilous environment for black residents, who make up 19% of the city’s population but suffered 63% of all use of force incidents reviewed by investigators. Some ended in death.

In addition to Floyd, the department is known for the police killings of jamar clark and Amir Locke.

“MPD officers disproportionately killed members of the community of color and members of the Indigenous community,” the report said.

Investigators found officers used “unnecessary and inappropriate” levels of restraint collars and chemical sprays on black residents.

They were nearly twice as likely to use neck restraints against black residents than white residents, according to the report. Officers failed to report at least 6% of the times they used neck restraints, so investigators believe the racial gap may be wider.

In one instance, an MPD officer used a sledgehammer to disperse a group of black men on a street corner by pushing each other, then pointed the sledgehammer at other black men who were not part of the group but did not treat the whites who were there in the same way.

While officers were likely to use soft tactics on whites, they would often arrest and cite blacks with obstruction or disorderly conduct “for things that might fall into the category, arguably, of pissing off the police.”

About 54% of traffic stops involved black drivers and 78% of black drivers’ vehicles were searched by police, according to the report. Investigators also found that blacks and other minorities were more likely to be stopped by a police officer during the day when officers could see their skin color than at night.

As the Department of Human Rights works to hammer out an agreement, it says city and police officials must carry out ‘thorough and impartial investigations’ into cases of police misconduct . The MPD also needs to improve its training, and city and police officers need to start being transparent with residents.

According to the report, officials “failed to act collectively with the urgency, coordination, and intentionality necessary to create and sustain a robust, non-discriminatory public safety system.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the report’s findings were “disgusting” and “sometimes horrific” and vowed he would lead efforts for change. However, the human rights agency said the mayor and other city leaders had avoided accountability by saying they did not have “the authority or the political will and support to manage the police department”.

“However, the mayor has held this power for decades,” the report said.