Minneapolis as the ‘New South’: Police Data Shows Severe Racial Disparities

‘In Minneapolis, the eyes of the law look at Blacks and Native Americans differently than whites,’ says ACLU

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published May 28, 2015

In Picking Up the Pieces, the ACLU “demonstrates how racial inequalities in the city extend to the way police enforce low-level offenses, which only increases the feelings of alienation many Minneapolis residents of color have towards state and local government more generally.” (Photo: Taber Andrew Bain/flickr/cc)

Black people and Native Americans in Minneapolis face “extreme racial disparities” at the hands of local law enforcement, with black residents nearly 9 times more likely than whites to be arrested for a low-level offense, according to a new analysis released Thursday.

“Minneapolis police show the same patterns of racial bias that we’re seeing across the country and that demand reform,” said Emma Andersson, staff attorney with the ACLU, whose Criminal Law Reform Project worked with the ACLU of Minnesota to examine more than 96,000 arrests made by Minneapolis police officers for low-level offenses—any offense with a fine of $3,000 or less and/or a year or less in jail—from January 2012 through September 2014.

“In Minneapolis,” Andersson continued, “the eyes of the law look at Blacks and Native Americans differently than whites. The resulting injustices—more fees and fines, more time in jail, more criminal records—hurt Minneapolitans and undermine public safety.”

The case study, titled Picking Up the Pieces: Policing in America, found “a startling disparity in the way police enforce low-level offenses,” particularly in the neighborhoods where more low-income and minority communities live.

Blacks and Native Americans, respectively, were 8.7 and 8.6 percent more likely to be arrested for offenses such as trespassing, disorderly conduct, consuming in public, and lurking.

“These disparities become more disconcerting when you take into account the racial makeup of Minneapolis and compare with who was arrested for low-level offenses,” reads the report.

Whereas white people make up 64 percent of the city’s population, they comprise just 23 percent of low-level arrests. Meanwhile, black people make up only 19 percent of the city’s population, but accounted for 59 percent of the low-level arrests, the majority of which are clustered in predominantly Black neighborhoods in North and South Minneapolis that surround the city center.

“This disparity contributes to longstanding mistrust between communities of color and the Minneapolis Police Department,” the report notes.

“We’ve become the new South,” said Anthony Newby, executive director of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change in North Minneapolis. “We’ve become the new premiere example of how to systematically oppress people of color. And again, it’s done through our legal system, and so low-level offenses, as an example, are just one of the many, many ways that Minnesota has perfected the art of suppressing and subjugating people of color.”

What’s more, the Minneapolis data adds to a growing body of ACLU statistical analysis that demonstrates law enforcement across the nation are overcriminalizing and inequitably policing communities of color, a reality that necessitates “sweeping reform.”

Looking beyond statistics, the report also offers stories and perspectives from Minneapolis residents about the police’s racial profiling, including this short video:

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