If You're Black in Minneapolis, You're 9 Times More Likely to be Arrested

The ACLU's 33-month report on low-level arrests calls on police officers to be less walking badges, more neighbors.

The ACLU's 33-month report on low-level arrests calls on police officers to be less walking badges, more neighbors.

On March 18, 17-year-old Hamza Jeylani made a U-turn in a south Minneapolis church parking lot. A police officer pulled him over, ordering him out of the car. The officer slapped a pair of handcuffs on, believing Jeylani and his friends were driving a stolen car (they were not).

Jeylani, following the standard response to police stops these days, had his phone set to record. The officer was captured on video threatening, "Plain and simple, if you fuck with me, I'm going to break your legs before you get the chance to run."

See also: Watchdogs Want Minneapolis Police to Document Their Stops

Watch "Being Black in America," the ACLU's video featuring Minneapolis residents who have been racially profiled:

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) highlighted Jeylani's aggressive detainment in its new study on Minneapolis policing Thursday.

Crunching arrest data from January 2012 through September 2014, the ACLU found that the Minneapolis Police Department made 96,975 arrests for low-level crimes over that period. Black people were 8.7 times more likely to be arrested than white people. Native Americans ranked a close second, at 8.6.

Low-level offenses include driver's license violations, trespassing, disorderly conduct, and loitering with intent to prostitute or deal drugs.

Despite these alarming figures, things are actually getting better in Minneapolis.

In 2004, the Council on Crime and Justice found that the racial gap for these low-level offenses was nearly twice as large as it is now. Back then, blacks were 15 times more likely to be arrested than whites.

Still, current data isn't exactly complete. Minneapolis doesn't keep track of so-called suspicious person stops that don't result in arrest, but often come off as harassment to ordinary citizens.

The ACLU couched its criticism in some encouraging words for Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau, who introduced "implicit bias" and has been asking her officers to shoot the breeze more with ordinary citizens. She's also put together a pilot program for body cameras.

"These are important steps, but they are not sufficient to remedy the extreme racial disparities documented in this analysis," the ACLU says in the report, suggesting a beefy list of recommended reforms.

Those include:

-Ensuring that MPD officers are evaluated in a way that does not reward them based on the number of stops and low-level arrests they make, and bringing discipline for unnecessary uses of force.

-Making information public about what methods are used to determine when and if an officer will face punishment.

-Prohibiting officers from asking people if they can search them if they have no legal reason.

-Establishing a civilian review body that has authority to discipline officers when necessary.

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