Minneapolis Police-Community Conflict

Prospective Resolutions



JPST 470: Conflict Resolution

Dr. Cris Toffolo

May 2004



Elyse Rau

Liz Stone

Maggie Sweeney (Email: socialists_us AT yahoo.com)


 Key Issues………………………………………….…..…..…..…..3

 Theories Involved..………………………………………………5


Options for Resolution……………………………………...9

 Current approaches

Federal Mediation……………………………………….9

Civil Suit against the City of Minneapolis…….………..11

Community – Police Partnerships.……………………..14


 Further Recommendations

Community – Police Partnerships/Education…………..16

Administrative Reform…………………………………..19

Use of the Media……………………………….………..22







Key Issues

The Minneapolis police-community conflict is one that involves and impacts an extensive number of individuals, organizations, and institutions.  It is a conflict that demands a comprehensive and multifaceted approach to its resolution or transformation.  In order to best identify the key components and efforts in such a resolution, it is important to recognize the main aspects and problems at the heart of the conflict. While police misconduct is often and necessarily closely associated with the conflict, and is what has brought much attention to Minneapolis, there is much more that needs to be addressed.  Police brutality is a component of the conflict that functions to highlight the systematic and long standing problems that must be addressed in any resolution.  It is an area of great concern that must be addressed, both in the immediate present as well as in a long-term perspective that will identify and address the underlying issues at play and perpetuating the pattern and culture of violence that persists.  We have identified a few main categories that exemplify and encompass the problems that need to be addressed and included in any comprehensive conflict resolution.

The lack of trust and understanding between members of the community and members of the police force is central to the roots and perpetuation of the conflict.  If police officers do not trust or understand some of the basic challenges and mentalities of the members of the communities they patrol, there is more of a chance of them feeling threatened or defensive and using excessive force or taking inappropriate and unnecessary measures.  Furthermore, the community will not feel that the officers really have the best interest of the community in mind as they have not expressed or acted with any understanding of the true concerns or fears the community has.  If the community members do not trust or understand the challenges and responsibilities of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), the officers will not have the respect needed to carryout their job.  If the community members have a clear understanding of how to behave in an encounter with a police officer and what limitations and powers the officers have, it is possible to minimize the likelihood that excessive force will be used or that they have the information needed to take the most effective action.

The building of trust and understanding leads to new and beneficial relationships allowing people to identify shared interests and work towards a resolution of mutual gain.  It helps to move away from the mentality of “us vs. them” and a zero-sum game where only one party can win, and where success comes with the defeat or loss of the other. Growing in understanding of the other side and the resulting relationship helps to recognize the humanity of all involved and to thus bring some balance to an asymmetrical power situation.  Building a level of trust between the community and the MPD is not an easy task to accomplish.  The history of this relationship, involving violence, abuse, and mistrust, is very much still present and has never been alleviated by an apology or recognition of fault.  According to Gleason Glover of the Urban League, “The whole issue of police brutality is nothing new to the city of Minneapolis. It almost gives the impression that if you are black and poor, it doesn't really matter if you lose your life. The police did not say 'we are sorry.'  There was no remorse at all!”[1]

This lack of understanding and trust is exacerbated by the lack of accountability and the fact that if, as some argue, there are only a “few bad apples,” they often remain or return to the force with little to no punitive actions.   There are currently many loopholes in the existing systems that are intended to hold police officers accountable to both department policy and human rights standards.  If and when officers are disciplined, the decisions are often reversed in an appeal and arbitration process.  In a 1998 Human Rights Watch Interview with former Chief Olson, he stated that the arbitration process was perhaps the greatest barrier he faces in his efforts to hold police officers accountable for misconduct.[2]   The institutions for receiving complaints of police brutality, such as the Civilian Review Authority and the Internal Affairs Unit of the MPD, are neither very effective nor well trusted.  There is also a lack of MPD leadership holding the officers accountable.  Human Rights Watch states in their report on police brutality in Minneapolis that, “There is no substitute for police leadership to make clear to new as well as veteran officers that human rights violations are not acceptable.  The highest-ranking commanders must also hold to account superior officers who are found to have ignored or tolerated abuses committed by officers under their command.”[3]  Altering structural obstacles to peace, such as accountability and official policies, as well as personal obstacles generated by lack of trust and understanding are important to keep in mind when looking to develop a conflict resolution proposal.

Applying a theoretical perspective of conflict resolution to the particular characteristics of this conflict is also important as it provides a framework with which to analyze and lay out a proposal towards building peace.  A theoretical understanding of this conflict's dynamics also helps to define the challenges and strengths of the current situation and allows us to place it in the context of the range of conflicts that have drawn attention and analysis as the field of Conflict Resolution develops.


Theory Involved

Recognizing the strengths and benefits of a multi-track approach to diplomacy and conflict resolution, we find this a critical and necessary approach to the Minneapolis police-community conflict.  A resolution, or even the process of conflict transformation, must encompass actors and actions on all levels, as it is a conflict that comes from and is influenced by all levels of society.

Our multi-pronged approach is compatible with the multi-track diplomacy theory, except rather than global, regional, or local organizations, we are dealing with formal state and city institutions and neighborhood groups. We can liken federal or state policy with first track diplomacy, as it entails formal political processes and has the ability to create legal, binding arbitration. This might also include regular government services such as the Citizen Review Authority or the department of Internal Affairs, as these are both legitimate institutions within the existing organizations of City and Police. The federal mediation may also be considered first track diplomacy as the mediator was originally from the federal government, but could also be considered second-track since any agreement settled upon has not been officially considered binding.

Second track diplomacy could be considered the court system that is currently being used in the federal mediation case and perhaps will continue to be used in other cases. The courts are a good example of this, as they are not bound by some of the political or economic pressures that hamper the city or police action. They are also considered a non-affiliate, unbiased (theoretically) third party.

Third-track diplomacy is evident in the community organizations that have sprung up around this issue including the most prominent group working on the issue, Communities United Against Police Brutality, though there are also numerous other groups are involved at a variety of levels. These grassroots groups all sprang out of neighborhood activists seeking to improve police conduct or the general livability of Minneapolis.  They are composed, for the most part, of people who have either been directly involved in the conflict, i.e. a victim of police brutality, or those who have witnessed misconduct or experienced it secondhand. These people have direct knowledge of the community and are more in tune with general neighborhood sentiment.

Understanding the power structures at play in this conflict is another key to being able to formulate the most efficient and fitting resolution.  Specifically, it is important to recognize the significant asymmetry of power that exists between the community and the police force.  This asymmetry is also found in the relationships between individual members of the community and individual officers when there is an encounter in the streets or neighborhood.  The MPD not only has the power of being an organized and official city department, but it also has the power of intimidation, force, and political clout.  The power of the community, organized greatly around issues of police brutality, is dominantly grassroots and though it is highly motivated, it is still lacking the formal organization and recognition that the MPD holds.  The community is working against established regulations, processes, and practices greatly upheld by the system and parties in power.  It is important to acknowledge this power structure and we will address methods of balancing and redistributing power in order to make significant steps in transforming or resolving the conflict.   

The “Interdependence Gap” outlined by John Paul Lederach in the book, People Building Peace, is another relevant theory to apply to enhance an understanding of the relevance of fostering different types of relationships.  Lederach looks at the power structures that exist and identifies the importance for building relationships in both a vertical capacity (across divisions that exist between groups with different levels of power), and in a horizontal capacity (across divisions within groups and with similar levels of or access to power).  Lederach argues that there is a greater lack of vertical capacity in most peace building efforts.  However, we would pose that there is both a need for improvement in vertical capacity as well as horizontal.  The vertical capacity can be seen in police officers attending a variety of meetings and gatherings in different communities and partaking in community activities on occasion.  Emphasizing a continuation of building and improving these relationships and partnerships across levels of power is beneficial, as “no one activity and no one level will be able to deliver and sustain peace on its own”[4]

Equally significant to the peace building efforts in Minneapolis is the gap of horizontal capacity.  Critical to numerous aspects of the conflict is a lack of “constructive understanding and dialogue across the lines of division in a society.”[5]  As we learned, this division is one of the greater challenges that faced the community in the process of the Federal Mediation.  There are great divides within the community, as well as within the MPD and the city officials, regarding which demands need to be met, how the conflict is seen, and what is the best way of accomplishing or achieving an end - a resolution.  Furthermore, the lack of horizontal capacity can be seen in the gap between practices and official policies of the MPD.  By increasing the horizontal capacity of the groups involved in this conflict, many obstacles could be challenged that are challenging the peace building efforts being made.

Lederach identifies and lays out another insufficiency in the typical peacebuilding framework that he calls the “Process-Structure Gap”.  This gap points out the tendency to see peace agreements and settlements as ends, rather than a means.  Lederach argues that we need “to conceptualize peace as process-structure,” so that we can move away from “a myopic focus on agreements and events and toward a commitment of embracing the permanency of relationship building…when relationship becomes the center what remains permanent is not a given form but the capacity to encounter and adapt.”[6]  After the signing of the Federal Mediation Agreement early this year, it is important that it not be forgotten and that people recognize the agreement is only a beginning step in a long process towards transforming the conflict and building peace, not the end goal or success. “Peacebuilding requires us to work at constructing an infrastructure to support a process of desired change, and change is permanent.”[7]  The mediation agreement is a means to help encourage, facilitate, and demand the systematic and infrastructure changes that are necessary.

There are many obstacles to be faced by the parties and individuals involved in this conflict.  However, despite all of the tension, conflict, and opposition that may exist, there is an underlying similar interest held by most anybody involved: the improvement of life, increased safety, and respect between Minneapolis communities.  Police officers, city council members, and community members of racial minorities or majorities all would benefit from decreased crime, more livable neighborhoods, increased understanding, and improved relationships and services.  The theory of principled negotiation, with a focus on interests and mutual gain is a key to the settlement of this conflict.  There is much to be said for facing the problem and not each other, because when you look at the problem, the common ground that is shared among the different parties is more apparent and can be used to everyone’s advantage.  Though the party lines are strictly defined in the view of many, there is a gray area as police officers and city officials are often also members of the community.  The greater this overlap is - increased, for example, through proposed new recruiting methods and diversification of the MPD - the easier it will be to overcome the lines of division and to recognize and work for mutual gain.

Finally, as was pointed out in discussing the process-structure gap, building peace in this conflict situation is a process, and may be best identified by conflict transformation rather than conflict resolution.  Before any final settlement takes place, there needs to be a transformation of the conflict: context, structures, institutions, actors, issues, and personal and group opinions need to be changed if we are able to work cooperatively and constructively on resolving the conflict.  As it currently stands, there are many underlying issues that need to be addressed before we can meet at the table to discuss a resolution.



Options for Resolution

To begin to resolve the Minneapolis Police-Community conflict, it is necessary to understand what steps have already been taken.  We will first consider three approaches that are currently being undertaken in the conflict: federal mediation, pursuit of a civil suit against the City of Minneapolis, and community partnership initiatives in existence.  We will examine how these efforts are working, and will analyze them in light of some theories entailed in conflict resolution as outlined earlier.  After examining these three current efforts, we will then outline some proposals for further action and discuss how these strategies might be implemented to help resolve this conflict.


Current approaches


Federal Mediation

As discussed earlier in our paper, a federal mediator was invited into the community to help arbitrate an agreement between the police department and the community.  The local team involved in the mediation included members of the community representing a range of organizations, police administrators and officers, and a city council member.  The idea behind this gathering was to allow all parties involved to have an equal say in the creation of a document outlining changes within the police department, creating an equal partnership and allowing for a more symmetrical power between the police and the community.  This symmetry of power is important in resolving conflict as it allows for all parties to take part on an equal basis.  The federal mediation to some extent also exemplified the idea of multitrack diplomacy, as elected officials sat alongside citizens, and police officers communicated directly with chiefs. 

This gathering was controversial, however, in that it could not include all interested parties.  Allegations of city influence in the choice of community participants meant that not all who wanted to be involved were, essentially continuing the sense of powerlessness that some community members have felt in the conflict.  Although this mediation was attempted to bring both parties to an agreement, its effect was less than hoped for by some members in the community due to exclusion.

Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) is one group that felt particularly left out from the agreement.  Their work to combat police brutality is extensive, and it is not unexpected that they would have a major role in the federal mediation agreement, since they are currently the only community organization that is dedicated specifically to the issue of police misconduct.  Through “community meetings and canvassing”[8] they developed a list of community members’ concerns that should be address and resolved in the mediation.  To their disappointment, “people on the community team were either unaware of the extensive list of demands from the community or chose not to include those demands in the final agreement.”[9]

Aside from omission of community groups and some specific demands, another challenge to the implementation of the agreement is funding.  At the time of writing, there were no particular means of financing the agreement, so any extra trainings or attempts to “institute an active recruitment and retention program”[10] targeting minorities are currently not funded by the regular budget.  To counteract this, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and the Police Community Relations Council will “seek funds from the City Council, grants, or other sources.” [11]  These efforts, however, are not guaranteed to provide sufficient finances to fulfill the agreement, effectively allowing the MPD not to fulfill this agreement due to lack of funding.  Another issue with the final agreement is the fact that compliance is voluntary in that there are no direct, immediate consequences for failing to implement the agreement:  “If the parties are unable to resolve the dispute on their own, any party may contact the Community Relations Service (CRS) of the United States Department of Justice and request that the CRS convene mediation facilitate a resolution of the dispute.”

This failure to include any means of reinforcement for the mediation has the potential to transform the federal mediation from a binding document into a community relations agreement with no real power other than personal interest on the part of the police chief.  This lack of formality to the final agreement means that the symmetry being sought is not found in the document – communities are not allowed much more power as they lack sufficient avenues to enforce the agreement.

This does not mean that the federal mediation is necessarily a failure; only that it will require continued oversight and advocacy if it is to be an effective tool.  It is also acknowledged that this agreement is only one step of the process.  As one participant in the process said, “I believe that the mediation agreement is a positive step in the right direction…the mediation agreement is not perfect, but it is certainly better than nothing. I say let's give it a chance to work before criticizing it.”[12]


The Federal Class Action Lawsuit

            Feeling that the federal mediation agreement fell short of community expectations, activists and members of Communities United Against Police Brutality are working to create a class action lawsuit against the Minneapolis Police Department.  Led by Minneapolis attorneys Jill Waite and Jill Clarke, community activists hope to reach the goals that were not obtained through federal mediation.  Some of the many problems the Communities United Against Police Brutality found missing from the federal mediation resolution include the lack of neutral investigations of police brutality, police accountability for time and activities, independent investigations of situations in which deadly force was used, adequate training for making stops based on actions rather than general characteristics, and the failure of police to take cross complaints[13].

            Leaders of the federal class action lawsuit against the Minneapolis Police Department hope to bring accountability to Minneapolis Police and reduce the amount of abuse police officers get away with.  They are not after monetary compensation; instead their focus is to bring about social change.  Michelle Gross, a leader in Communities United Against Police Brutality, is very hopeful in the success of the federal class action lawsuit, believing that it may be more effective because, unlike the federal mediation agreement, it is in “an arena that the city cannot control.”[14]  The city cannot influence who is able to participate as they did in the federal mediation.  They also have less power in the consequences or ruling of the lawsuit.

            There are people working on many levels of the community to resolve the conflict between the Minneapolis community and the Minneapolis Police Department.  The federal class action lawsuit attempts to find justice through legal terms.  This is an example of how multi-track diplomacy is used to try to combat conflict.  Communities United Against Police Brutality is trying to bridge the gap between the people and the government through the federal court system.  With similar goals, different people of the community attempt to find resolution to this painful and enduring conflict. 

            The federal class action lawsuit will have many consequences regardless of its success or failure.  Jill Waite and Jill Clarke argue that there are positive implications whether or not the lawsuit is successful.[15]  The lawsuit, which hopes to collect more than five hundred affidavits, is an effective tool for empowering the people of Minneapolis.  Victims of police brutality seldom have the chance to tell their story.  Through the affidavits, victims are listened to and play a vital role in the future of Minneapolis communities in regard to the way they are treated by Minneapolis police.  The lawsuit also brings further attention of the police brutality problem in Minneapolis to the federal government, the public, and the media.  Whether or not the lawsuit is successful, the spotlight will be on Minneapolis and the people will be heard.

            The federal class action lawsuit is one way Minneapolis communities are attempting to bridge what John Paul Lederach defines as the “interdependence gap.”  The problem with the federal mediation agreement was that the community felt they were inadequately represented in the communication between both sides.  Although some communication occurred between grassroots leaders and higher level leaders, these discussions did not necessarily turn into lasting relationships.  CUAPB argues that the city chose which groups would be allowed to play a role, and as a result the agreement lacks vertical capacity.

In order to maximize the amount of understanding between the community and the Minneapolis Police Department, there should be an effort to build relationships on multiple levels.  The federal class action lawsuit attempts to bridge this gap.  It allows grassroots leaders to play a role, and it also includes leaders from a federal level, surpassing what the mediation agreement did on both ends of the spectrum.  Although it does provide for more vertical capacity, the act of suing the City of Minneapolis in order to force reform on the MPD may actually inhibit understanding between the two sides.  This is where Lederach’s “process-structure gap” plays a role.  All those involved in the conflict must understand that peace is both a process and a structure.  The federal class action lawsuit attempts to change the structure of the Minneapolis Police Department, but changing the mental aspects of the conflict will be a process based on relationship building and understanding.[16]

There is some new information and definite signs of hope in the conflict between the Minneapolis community and the Minneapolis Police Department.  Leaders of Communities United Against Police Brutality met with Minneapolis Police Chief McManus about three weeks ago.  Although they did not agree upon any specific compromises, the McManus agreed to meet with them quarterly.  This is a very large step in the communication process between the Minneapolis Police Department and the community.  Although communication is increasing, Communities United Against Police Brutality has seen little or no improvement in the issue of police brutality in Minneapolis.  They still receive several new police brutality cases every week and are continuing to work hard at supporting these victims.[17]

There are also some new breakthroughs in the federal class action lawsuit.  The federal judge recently granted the community’s request to add four more named plaintiffs, bringing the total amount of named plaintiffs to nine.  According to Jill Clarke, this is very good news because it allows her to expose a wide variety of police malpractices that go far beyond the use of excessive force.  In the federal class action lawsuit, the community will be able to uncover the following corrupt practices in the Minneapolis Police Department: the overall practice of excessive force, the attempt by police to file false charges against victims of police brutality as a way of avoiding accountability, inadequate system of reviewing police brutality complaints, the lack of punishment for officers who perpetrate the use of excessive force, and the practice of intimidation as well as retaliation in victims’ efforts to file police brutality complaints.[18] 

In addition to this new ability to expose the police, there has been good progress on neighborhood canvassing and writing affidavits.  These are intricate but important parts of the federal class action lawsuit.  The lawyers and leaders of Communities United Against Police Brutality are now more hopeful than ever in regards to the federal class action lawsuit.  They hope the federal courts will force accountability on the Minneapolis Police Department and pave the way for structural adjustment within the department.


Community Efforts and Organizing

            While there are efforts being made and actions being taken on federal and state levels, the conflict between the Minneapolis Police Department and the civilian community is also being addressed on a local, grassroots level.  These efforts address the problem from a more preventative and proactive angle that focuses on the building of relationships and ownership within the community as well as the improvement of relationships, communication and trust with the MPD.  These relationships, in turn, center their efforts greatly on the common interest of improving the safety and livability of their neighborhoods.

While in attendance at a community meeting in Minneapolis, the Hawthorn Huddle, a member of the community took the opportunity to introduce himself and his perspective on the root of the problems facing their community.  In rhetoric and a voice more powerful than can be reproduced or captured here he stated that, though improving, there was a great lack of ownership and belonging in the community:  Do you ever wonder why people walk out of a store or along the street and drop litter or vandalize in other ways?  Why are kids shooting at each other on the streets?  He challenged everyone to acknowledge that even with all the work being done and services being offered in the community, there are people who it is not reaching.

Addressing these basic needs and improving the livability of the neighborhoods in Minneapolis is the focus of a number of already existing organizations and institutions. Whether directly or indirectly, in a large or small way, these organizations have had and continue to play a role in the Minneapolis police-community conflict and in building of relationships among those involved. 

Examples of such organizations include the Neighborhood Revitalization Project (NRP), which empowers and enables local community members to make decisions and design a neighborhood action plan to address issues and concerns in their community.  These plans are used for things such as meeting their community’s “housing, safety, economic development, recreation, health, social service, environment and transportation needs. They build a foundation for their future by organizing residents, gathering information, prioritizing needs, brainstorming solutions and implementing the Neighborhood Action Plan that they develop.”[19]  Another example of such an organization is one of the city’s community outreach programs, Community Crime Prevention/Safety for Everyone (CCP/SAFE).  This organization is based on teams of MPD officers and crime prevention specialists who “provide educational materials and programs, develop working relationships with the community and assist residents in reducing the opportunity for crime and in solving problems in the community.”[20] 

Meetings also take place in different neighborhoods or precincts that involve both police officers as well as community leaders and residents. The Police-Advisory Council meetings that take place monthly in each precinct offer a place and way for community members to voice concerns as well as to hear updates and concerns of the MPD.  These meetings not only create working relationships between members of the community and the police force, but they also help to create space for each side to gain a better understanding of the challenges and main agendas of the other. 

Finally, there are dozens of neighborhood groups that gather and organize community events of all sizes and scales as well as share concerns and information among neighbors.  These community groups, though not reaching all of the members of the community, are a good start to creating the sense of ownership and belonging that is argued to be necessary in making crime levels go down and livability increase.  The Hawthorn Huddle is one of these community groups for the Hawthorn neighborhood in Minneapolis.  It is an impressive example of the potential that community groups and organizing can have as it networks and connects concerned neighborhood professionals and community leaders together to build a coalition working on numerous different levels and initiatives to make their community a better place to live.


Further Recommendations

Education and Relationship Building

            While there are currently a good number of organizations and efforts that intentionally or unintentionally foster positive relationships and trust among the communities, police department, and city, there is more that could be done.  Keeping in mind the restrictions and limitations of funding and people’s time commitments, it is most logical to expand these efforts using already existing organizations or initiatives.

            One means that could be utilized is the recently established Police Community Relations Council (PCRC) that according many is the core of the Federal Mediation Agreement.  “At the heart of the agreement is the creation of a 30-member Police Community Relations Council, which will include 18 members selected by the citizen's group, plus 12 members appointed by the police chief.  The committee will work directly with the department and will become its major link to the 'diverse communities' in the city, leaders said.”[21]  As outlined in section 14 of the Mediation Agreement, the PCRC is made up of members of both the community and police force and is assigned with functions that will provide “a forum for ongoing communication between MPD and the community regarding matters of public safety and the public’s faith and confidence in the MPD.”  These forums and dialogues resulting from the activity of the PCRC would be a place at which both the MPD and Unity Community Mediation Team may present information covering topics such as race, ethnicity and other forms of diversity, the use of deadly force, and questions or concerns of the public regarding specific incidents.[22]

These forums would follow the model and example presented in the mediation process: the sharing of personal or group feelings, fears, perceptions, perspectives and challenges that helped to build understanding and relationships that resulted in an unexpected and surprising camaraderie, and eventually agreement.  “At one point that afternoon, while the City Council's Public Safety and Regulatory Services committee was considering approval of the 24-page document, street activist Spike Moss and MPD union leader John Delmonico stood arm in arm in the council chambers.”[23]

            Information regarding the forums could be spread through the existing neighborhood groups and organizations concerned with related issues.  The more the community is aware of the existence and function of the PCRC, the more involvement will increase and the function and effectiveness of the PCRC can improve.  Additionally, information regarding the Mediation Agreement, the PCRC and its forums can be provided through the existing complaint processes, as this will reach an audience of people that will have direct insight and input on the situation and conflict.  Information, particularly regarding rights and responsibilities in situations of arrest and in the use of force, should also be distributed and shared through other means. Doing this will reach the greater population and members of the community that may not be aware of these rights or responsibilities (of both the MPD and themselves) or those who would not be likely or able to attend PCRC meetings or forums. Use of churches, community centers, and bus stops are options to place available literature and summaries. 

Another strong way to improve and build community-police relations and to focus together on the problem and mutual interests is through community policing.  This could involve empowering community members to police their own neighborhoods.  This has already taken form in activities such as the “Watch Force” in existence.  In the past, this effort has mainly relied on neighborhood observation and reporting of suspicious activities directly, but now efforts with new technology are revolutionizing this tactic.  Use of the internet and email has allowed citizens to receive and report on recent crimes and is more likely to be used since it allows for anonymity for tipsters.

Citizen Observer, a Minnesota-based firm, is leading this technological innovation to integrate police and community members in about 130 communities around the Midwest and in Florida.  Fairmount, MN Sergeant Corey Klanderud is supportive of this new initiative, reporting “This technology is going to help us have more eyes and ears in the community."[24]  Aside from website reports, direct email is also being used and has shown to be effective in Medina, WA. Two years ago there chief of police Michael Knapp “acted on an idea from a resident to start up a Community E-Lert program which send e-mails to 1,200 subscribers.  ‘It changes policing because we involve the community in a partnership - in addressing the criminal problems of our city… When you do that you're going to become more efficient.’"[25]  What’s more, this approach of building police-community cooperation and collaboration has the potential to be free!  Often, the service costs local police little or nothing, because a community business will routinely cover the costs in exchange for promotional considerations and links on Web pages.”[26]

Aside from informal relationships, moves have been made in some departments to “civilianize” the police force.  This entails “hiring civilians to do the jobs cops formerly did so as to free patrol officers to work the streets.”[27]  By empowering the citizens, you make the conflict more symmetrical – the police force is made to share the power and responsibility of policing the community by assisting the community in its self-policing tactics.  This would require cooperation between the force and the citizenry, where citizens could receive training and officers could build relationships with citizens.  This best represents a combination of track two and track three diplomacy, due to the formal nature of the police department and their relationship with local nonprofit or established community organizations, but also these efforts may include the grassroots movement of citizens to increase their own personal level of involvement.  This also helps close the process-structure gap as community policing efforts highlight the matter of the communities' interdependence and encourages collaboration across party lines.  These efforts would likely have to originate from the department itself, simply because it may require formal training of community members, but allowing the police department to hold responsibility in this effort will allow them to work more effectively, as they know best their resources, strengths, and abilities.  This type of operative may require what could be considered track one diplomacy, meaning city officials may have to earmark funding or support for the effort, but it is still more local efforts which will make it work.


Administrative Reform

Administrative reform is another method available for changing police behavior.  Rather than working from within the community or lower ranks of the police department, this approach focuses on top-down influence to reshape the department.  Transformation of the conflict is often necessary to be able to formulate a resolution:

"In the view of the committee, the road to police reform is largely an internal one, featuring training, supervision, internal inspections, performance measures, and policy making. At this level, controlling police behavior is a management problem…We have emphasized internal management efforts because ultimately processes have to be put into motion inside the organization to make those changes.  In the end, these processes make up the “transmission belt” by which external pressures translate into internal change, and in our judgment, they should be the central focus of reform efforts. Without engaging these, most externally imposed solutions to lawfulness problems will not be very effective."[28]

This reform could be a vital part of changing the department in the way it can affect both written and unwritten policies.  An effective change in the department has the potential to transform the culture and institution of the police force.  This administrative reform can come through elected leaders or through administrators within the police department.

One drawback that elected officials have in their efforts to reform the department is the fact that these officials have limited power, and their reforms are only as lasting as their tenure; following administrations can easily undo any advancements accomplished.  At the turn of the 20th century the United States was struggling with a number of police departments whose legitimacy suffered from outstanding records of misconduct.  In some instances, elected officials strived to enact change, but “attempts to straighten out the police lasted only as long as the municipal administrations,” which in many cases was only one term – certainly not long enough to enact lasting reforms.[29]  Political officials’ distance from the department also means that they may be unable to “institutionalize [their] ideals,” and as a result are unable to significantly affect the police culture that allows for and accepts police misconduct.[30]

Those within the administration of the police department or force are really the people who have an impressive amount of power.  They hold a lot of influence in the department and can decide whether or not to set new guidelines, change trainings, enforce regulations, or tolerate corruption.  In the 1960’s New York City plainclothes officer Frank Serpico began to report on police misconduct.  Receiving no response from city officials, he took his story to a reporter for the New York Times.  The ensuing publicity pressured the city and ultimately resulted in the replacement of the Police Commissioner with NYPD veteran Patrick Murphy.  “He rewarded cops who turned in corrupt or brutal colleagues and punished those who, although personally honest, looked the other way when they learned of misconduct…Murphy used his three and a half years in office to create an environment that loudly and clearly condemned abusive police conduct, those who engage in it, and – equally important – those who tolerate it.”[31]

This new ideology in the department lasted much longer than Murphy’s term, evident when one of his successors, Commissioner Benjamin Ward, responded to a 1985 episode in which police had injured a suspected drug dealer:  “Ward summoned 327 senior officers to police headquarters in lower Manhattan.  He read them the riot act, then fired the entire chain of command involved in the incident…”[32]  These two examples show how having a reformer working at the top level in the department increases the likelihood that the department will be able to change as they redraw the boundaries of acceptable behavior and influence the culture through this behavior.  Their actions last longer than their personal presence as successful reform of ideology persists even without their presence.  These administrative reformers cannot act alone, however; they are dependent on the support and influence of outside actors to strengthen their voice, most notably public officials or even the public itself.


“A recent study of two precincts in the Bronx shows that tough policing and increased complaints don't have to go hand in hand. Rob Davis and a colleague at the Vera Institute of Justice, a criminal- justice think tank, studied the 42nd and 44th precincts. Both experienced the same dramatic drop in crime as the rest of the city did, but saw a drop, instead of an increase, in citizen complaints. Researchers concluded the key reason was the two precinct commanders, who put a premium on respecting the community and took complaints seriously enough to discipline officers.”[33]


Probably one of the strengths about administrative reform is the financial aspect.  Most of the components or techniques necessary to institute reform are already in place and just need to be enacted or applied – internal review, for example, or training and hiring standards.  These just need to be strengthened in many cases, although other times a restructuring of the department is called for, and this may take a significant budget increase, but overall this strategy is one of the more cost-effective.  This reform will likely result in a transformation of the police department – perhaps its official policies but eventually will create a shift in the officers’ attitudes themselves.  This attitude shift will lead to a behavioral change as well, and tensions between the community and the police force will almost certainly decline.  The Minneapolis Police Department has recently undergone a change in administration, with new police Chief McManus replacing Olson.  While it may be possible that McManus will be able to reform some of the departmental policies, such as the internal review process, further observation is needed to see how effective this current change is.


The Media

“Media power is political power.” [34]

            The media has an extremely large amount of power over the people in the United States.  They present people with stories about what is going on in the world.  Like in any other country, the stories they show are affected by their own perceptions and biases in each situation.  This is inevitable as anyone who tells a story will always present it based upon their own perceptions.  It only becomes a problem when the spectrum of perceptions and opinions is limited.  In 1983, fifty companies controlled ninety percent of the mass media in the United States.  The mass media includes newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations, books, records, movies, videos, wire services, and photo agencies.  The situation was much different in the year 2000, in which only six corporations owned and operated ninety percent of the media in the United States.1

            In his book The Media Monopoly, Bagdikian argues that media power is political power because it has control over the minds of the public.  Because the media is such an effective tool to get a point across to a large number of people, it would work to the Minneapolis communities’ benefit to target this as an important means of promoting police accountability and peace.  Although the mainstream media is controlled by corporate giants, the way to get coverage would be to first target other sources of media and then persistently force the community’s perspective on the mainstream media.  Other sources of media may include local newspapers such as The City Pages and radio stations not owned by large corporations.  An increase of protests, lobbying, and public events would help attract attention to the problems of the Minneapolis Police Department via the media.

            More coverage in the media would affect the conflict greatly.  Although many in the police department feel that the media is too critical of the police, little is shown in mainstream media about situations of police brutality that do not result in death.  An increase in coverage would put pressure on Minneapolis police officers to treat people with respect and refrain from using excessive force.  Through the use of negative publicity, the police officers would be coerced into acting respectful.  Although the ultimate goal is conversion, coercion is still a large step in resolving the conflict.[35]

            In addition to the media being used as a scare tactic to brutal police officers, it would also serve as a tool to help balance power between the Minneapolis Police Department and Minneapolis communities.  Currently, the Minneapolis Police Department has complete power over the communities, and a more objective and revealing media would provide some power to the people.  A change in power structures may result in the Minneapolis Police Department being more willing to negotiate goals that the community feels are important to the resolution of this conflict. 



            In conclusion, we found that although a number of efforts to resolve this conflict are currently being undertaken, these efforts fail to address all of the issues surrounding successful conflict resolution, and do not address the transformation of the conflict, one of the issues we identified as crucial to resolving this particular conflict.  Without including further strategies that consciously address these underlying theories it is likely that the Minneapolis Police-Community conflict will continue.  It is our suggestion that further action is taken in a multitude of areas - not only do behaviors need to be addressed, but structures and institutions themselves need to be reshaped.  In our opinion this cannot be done with punitive measures, but only with proactive cooperation and collaboration involving all parties involved.







CUAPB. “Community Demands to be raised in Federal Mediation” - Draft 3, 10/12/02, <http://www.charityadvantage.com/CUAPB/images/Federal%20Mediation%20Community%20Demands.pdf>


CUAPB.  “An Analysis of the Minneapolis Federal Mediation Agreement.”



Human Rights Watch: “Shielded from Justice, Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States.” June, 1998.  <http://www.hrw.org/reports98/police/index.htm>


Neighborhood Revitalization Project <www.nrp.org>


City of Minneapolis: http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/police/outreach/


“Federal Mediation Aggreement” <http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/council/2003-meetings/20031215/docs/01_Mediation_Memorandum_Agreement.pdf >





Anderson, Jr., G.R. “Agreement at last,” City Pages. (12-10-03).  <http://www.citypages.com/databank/24/1201/article11724.asp>


Hawley, David.  “Police, public agree to pact” Pioneer Press.  (12-05-03).  <http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/news/local/7417349.htm>


Hodges, Booker T.. “What happened in federal mediation?” Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. 1/21/2004



Marks, Alexandra.  “NYPD as lab for reducing police brutality.” The Christian Science Monitor May 13, 1999.


Paton, Dean.  “New police tool: neighborhood watch by Web.” The Christian Science Monitor May 05, 2003.  May 14, 2004 <http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0505/p01s03-ussc.html>.


Skogan, Wesley G., and Meares, Tracey L..  "Lawful Policing."  The Annals for the American Academy. May 2004


Skolnick, Jerome H., and Fyfe, James J..  Above the Law: Police and the Excessive Use of Force.  New York: The Free Press, 1993.




Bagdikian, Ben H..  The Media Monopoly, Sixth Edition.  Beacon Press, 2000.


Lederach, John Paul.  People Building Peace.  “Justpeace - The Challenge of the 21st Century.” The Netherlands: European Centre for Conflict Resolution, 1999.


Sharp, Gene.  The Dynamics of Nonviolent Action.  Gene Sharp, 1973.



Return to the Table of Contents for this Project


[1] Human Rights Watch: “Shielded from Justice, Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States.” June, 1998.  <http://www.hrw.org/reports98/police/index.htm>

[2] HRW: Shielded from Justice

[3] Ibid


[4] Lederach, John Paul.  People Building Peace.  “Justpeace - The Challenge of the 21st Century.” The Netherlands:   European Centre for Conflict Resolution, 1999. (p 30)

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid, (p 35)

[7] Ibid, (p 34)

[8] CUAPB. “Community Demands to be raised in Federal Mediation” - Draft 3, October 12, 2002, http://www.charityadvantage.com/CUAPB/images/Federal%20Mediation%20Community%20Demands.pdf  5/10/04

[9] CUAPB.  “An Analysis of the Minneapolis Federal Mediation Agreement.”

http://www.charityadvantage.com/CUAPB/AnalysisofFedMedAgree.asp  5/10/04

[10] Unity Community Mediation Team and the Minneapolis Police Department. “MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT.”  December, 2003.  http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/council/2003-meetings/20031215/docs/01_Mediation_Memorandum_Agreement.pdf  5/10/04

[11] ibid

[12] Hodges, Booker T.. “What happened in federal mediation?” Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.

1/21/2004 <http://spokesman-recorder.com/news/Article/Article.asp?NewsID=37548&sID=13> 5/10/2004

[13] Communities United Against Police Brutality, “An Analysis of the Minneapolis Federal Mediation Agreement,” <http://www.charityadvantage.com/CUAPB/AnalysisofFedMedAgree.asp> 5/2/2004.

[14] Hawley, David, Pioneer Press.  “Group Takes a New Tack in Dispute With Police,” <http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/5668613.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp&ERIGHTS=426231053097034405twincities::elyse_333@hotmail.com&KRD_RM=0nlllojpkmkgggggggghngmjgg|Elyse|N> 5/2/2004.

[15] Interview: Jill Clarke and Jill Waite (March 2004).

[16] People Building Peace

[17] Interview: Michelle Gross (May 2004).

[18] Interview:  Jill Clarke (May 2004).

[19] Neighborhood Revitalization Project <www.nrp.org>

[20] City of Minneapolis: http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/police/outreach/

[21] Hawley, David.  “Police, public agree to pact” Pioneer Press.  12-05-03.  <http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/news/local/7417349.htm>

[22] Section 14 of the “Federal Mediation Aggreement” <http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/council/2003-meetings/20031215/docs/01_Mediation_Memorandum_Agreement.pdf >

[23] Anderson, Jr., G.R. “Agreement at last,” City Pages. (12-10-03).  <http://www.citypages.com/databank/24/1201/article11724.asp>


[24] Paton, Dean.  “New police tool: neighborhood watch by Web.” The Christian Science Monitor May 05, 2003.  May 14, 2004 <http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0505/p01s03-ussc.html>.

[25] ibid.

[26] ibid.

[27] 255, Skolnick, Jerome H., and Fyfe, James J..  Above the Law: Police and the Excessive Use of Force.  New York: The Free Press, 1993.

[28] Skogan, Wesley G., and Meares, Tracey L..  "Lawful Policing."  The Annals for the American Academy. May 2004

[29] 173, Skolnick, Jerome H., and Fyfe, James J..  Above the Law: Police and the Excessive Use of Force.  New York: The Free Press, 1993.

[30] 176, ibid.

[31] 180, ibid.

[32] 181, ibid.

[33] Marks, Alexandra.  “NYPD as lab for reducing police brutality.” The Christian Science Monitor May 13, 1999.

[34] Ben H. Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly, Sixth Edition, Beacon Press, 2000.


[35] Sharp, Gene.  The Dynamics of Nonviolent Action, Porter Sargent Publishers, 2000.