A review from the Justice Department praised the Minneapolis Police Department for its restraint during an 18-day protest outside of a police station following the 2015 shooting of Jamar Clark, a Black man who was killed in a confrontation with two White officers.
The report, released Monday noted problems with the department’s method of communication to officers at the scene, but said that it brought a peaceful end to the demonstrations.
The Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services conducted the review at the request of Mayor Betsy Hodges and police chief Janeé Harteau, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported. The review found that some officers felt unable to handle the crowd of demonstrators, but that was because of a breakdown in communications between police leadership and the precinct dealing with the protest.
No protesters were taken into police custody at the station during the protest, but five alleged White supremacists wounded five people in the crowd when they opened fire. Alan Scarsella, 24, was convicted in that incident. Three other people with him at the time await trial.
The Justice Department review found a lack of a coordinated response among city and police officials and said law enforcement didn’t have a plan for managing the civil disturbance as it became a long-term event.
Clark was shot and killed Nov. 15, 2015 and the incident sparked an occupation outside the station on the city’s north side and other protests that were largely peaceful, though one on Nov. 18 included skirmishes between officers and demonstrators.
Some witnesses told police that Clark was handcuffed at the time, but an investigation by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension found the officers were unsuccessful in handcuffing Clark, and he was shot after one of the officers shouted that Clark had his hand on the officer’s gun. The officers, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, were cleared of any wrongdoing by separate state and federal investigations.
The report noted that elected officials decided to resolve the impasse through negotiations — a strategy it said was consistent with best practices — without including the police leadership in the discussion. That and poor internal communications contributed to frustrations for officers at the station who were left with no clear orders and inconsistent direction.
“Significant challenges were associated with managing the demonstrators; the media; and the impacts of the occupation on the surrounding neighborhood, MPD employees, and their families,” the review summary read. “These issues were compounded by a police department that struggled with the command and control structure and fully implementing the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command System (ICS), inconsistent communication, and training and equipment deficiencies.”
But the report said the officers demonstrated significant restraint despite verbal abuse, physical threats and objects being thrown at them.
“The commitment of the city, the police department and individual officers to a peaceful, measured response played a large role in keeping the occupation from escalating into violent riots,” the report said.
But not everyone was satisfied with the report and some are still frustrated with the death of Clark. Jason Sole, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, asked the mayor and police chief how Clark and his family were ever going to get justice, and he said police violence against black men continues.
“Jamar should still be alive. … Does that report show that we’re dying out here?” Sole said.
With reporting by AP