Study: Blacks Way More Likely to be Arrested for Minor Offenses in Minneapolis Than Whites

A new report put together by the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union finds that black people are way more likely to be arrested for low-level, non-violent offenses in Minneapolis than whites.

Using the Minneapolis Police Department's own data, the report finds that from 2004 to 2012, blacks in Minneapolis were 11.5 more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites; 8.86 times more likely to be arrested for disorderly conduct; 7.54 times more likely to be arrested for vagrancy; and 16.39 times more likely to be arrested for curfew/loitering.

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Black Minnesotans way more likely to get arrested for marijuana than whites, report says

Though the data covers a period of time before Betsy Hodges became mayor and Janee Harteau became police chief, the findings prompted ACLU officials to write a letter to the two urging them "to pay particular attention to the department's alarming racial disparities as you assess its current practices and plan for its future."

Here's the full text:

ACLU Letter to Hodges and Harteau

In a press release, Emma Andersson, staff attorney for the ACLU, says, "The department is not meeting its constitutional duty to protect and serve everyone equally and fairly."

"An arrest -- even without a conviction -- makes it harder for anyone to get a job and rent an apartment, and it can significantly limit educational opportunities," she adds.

That sentiment was echoed by ACLU-MN Executive Director Chuck Samuelson.

"The Minneapolis Police Department has the ability to change its policing practices for enforcing these non-violent low-level arrests," Samuelson says in the statement. "These arrests are largely subjective and therefore prone to the abusive exercise of officer discretion. The mayor and police chief need to reassess its current arrest practices and take into account these alarming disparities when working on a plan for the department's future."

In recent weeks, Hodges and Harteau announced a community engagement plan including three "community conversations," the last of which is scheduled for this Thursday in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. (An MPD release publicizing the event doesn't disclose a specific location, and MPD spokesperson John Elder didn't immediately return a message seeking that information.)

In a statement released late last month, Hodges said, "I support Chief Harteau and share her commitment to community policing."

"This work is hard, and through it all, I remain who I am: the mayor committed to closing our gaps, building relationships, and making Minneapolis a great city for everyone," Hodges added. "I will not waver from this commitment."

Send your story tips to the author, Aaron Rupar. Follow him on Twitter @atrupar.