Minneapolis police chief takes on union, promises change

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Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo listens to a question from the media where he discussed police reforms, Wednesday, June 10, 2020 in Minneapolis. The meeting follows the Memorial Day death of George Floyd in police custody after video shared online by a bystander showed former officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck during his arrest as he pleaded that he couldn't breathe. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

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

Faced with calls from activists and a majority of City Council members to dismantle or defund the department, Arradondo also said he would use a new system to identify problem officers early and intervene.

"We will have a police department that our communities view as legitimate, trusting and working with their best interests at heart,” he said at a news conference more than two weeks after Floyd died after a white officer pressed his knee into the handcuffed black man's neck even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.

Activists have pointed to racial inequities and brutality, as well as a system that rarely disciplines problem officers. The officer who had his knee on Floyd's neck, Derek Chauvin, had 17 complaints against him and had been disciplined only once.

Arradondo said “taking a deliberate pause” to review the union contract is the first step toward change. He said it’s debilitating for a chief when an officer does something that calls for termination, but the union works to keep that person on the job.

Advisers will look for ways to restructure the contract to provide more transparency and flexibility, he said. The review will look at critical incident protocols, use of force, and disciplinary protocols, including grievances and arbitration, among other things.

“This work must be transformational, but I must do it right,” Arradondo said.

The union's contract expired on Dec. 31 but remains in effect until there is a new one. Talks began in October and eventually included a state mediator; the last discussion was in early March, when the coronavirus led to talks breaking off.