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Poor communication hindered city’s response to Jamar Clark protests, review finds

Communication was a major problem in how the City of Minneapolis handled the 18-day occupation outside the Fourth Precinct after Jamar Clark was fatally shot by police.

That’s according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), which on Monday released a 108-page report that reviewed how the city handled the “complex” and “unprecedented” situation. The hope is that officials can improve how they respond to incidents like this in the future.

From Nov. 15-Dec. 3, 2015, demonstrators occupied the Fourth Precinct in north Minneapolis, demanding officers involved in the shooting of Clark be held accountable, and video of the incident be released. The protests cost the city roughly $1.15 million, with the majority of expenses related to police overtime, the report says, while no serious injuries between officers and demonstrators were reported.

The report says the city, police department and elected officials had a “peaceful, measured response” to the protests, which “played a large role in keeping the occupation from escalating,” a news release says.

“The Minneapolis Police Department displayed commendable restraint and resilience in these extremely difficult circumstances,” Acting COPS Office Director Russell Washington said in a statement. And he applauded Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges for requesting this after-action review.

But the report says there are some things that need to be worked on. It includes 36 findings and 71 recommendations, noting the city lacked a coordinated political, tactical and operational response to the demonstrations, which led to “inconsistent messaging, confusion and ineffective communication that negatively affected the response.”

The review found there was a breakdown in communication between city officials, police leadership, and officers working at the precinct, which hindered the police response and “inhibited effective crowd management.”

The Justice Department also says the city didn’t have a coordinated response plan for the occupation, or a plan to manage a civil disturbance that turned into a long-term event. You can read the entire report, which has a detailed timeline of the 18-day occupation, here.

Hodges apologizes for lack of communication

“We take this report seriously, both in its praise and in its criticism. The conclusions we can draw from it hew to what we already know: if we are to build trust between the MPD and our communities, we have to address our challenges head on,” Hodges said at a news conference Monday. She also noted she’s proud they “came through this experience well,” but added they “certainly made mistakes.”

One of those mistakes highlighted in the report was the mayor’s lack of communication with Chief Harteau and others. The report saying Hodges’ “apparent strained” relationship with Harteau and her “unfamiliarity with the implications of the terminology she used” likely added to the “inconsistent direction” given to officers during the occupation of the Fourth Precinct.

Hodges apologized for that Monday, saying:

“The people of Minneapolis — all of us — needed to hear from me more clearly, more frequently, and more consistently. My communication fell short. Regardless of whether it because I lacked the bandwidth, I was constrained for legal reasons, or I simply lacked the skill, I did not communicate in a way that would have helped the situation go better, and I am sorry.”

Hodges and Harteau, who also spoke at the news conference, plan to use these recommendations and work with city officials and the community to better their response to situations like this in the future.

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