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Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief: '3-6 percent of cops... shouldn’t be cops'

Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson John Elder says Deputy Chief Art Knight misspoke.

Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson John Elder says Deputy Chief Art Knight misspoke. YouTube

The ambitious goal of the procedural justice movement is to bridge a deep void of trust and goodwill between police and minority communities, particularly people of color.

That includes bias training, reviewing policies and procedures, and reaching out to residents.

On Wednesday, after Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief Art Knight gave a report on the city's procedural justice progress at a Minneapolis City Council subcommittee on public safety, council member Phillipe Cunningham made a comment about bodycam footage.

“I watch a lot of bodycam footage in this role,” said Cunningham, whose Ward 4 includes much of north Minneapolis. “And I can say I do not see de-escalation frequently.” He wanted to know how officers reviewed bodycam footage to look for missed opportunities to make a situation calmer and safer, rather than ramping it up to something more traumatic and potentially violent.

Knight said cops debrief after every major incident, such as officer-involved shootings, and tried representing the vastness of the department's mission. The Minneapolis Police Department gets up to 500,000 calls for service each year, Knight said, and reports two million "contacts" with civilians.

Knight thinks the vast majority of police officers in those many situations are acting professionally. But:

“We have 3 to 6 percent of cops who shouldn’t be cops,” he said. “I’ll be the first one to say that. We have some members on this department that shouldn’t be here. But the vast majority of them should be here.”

Cunningham seized Knight's point to make another of his own.

“I agree, but I think where the challenge is around that nuanced perspective is that 3 to 6 percent of folks are the ones that perpetuate that historical trauma, right?” he responded. The bad actions of a few, he said, still presented a “learning opportunity” for the whole.

You can see the entire exchange here, in a clip provided by the Wedge LIVE! Twitter account.

When asked for comment, Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson John Elder says Knight misspoke on Wednesday. What the deputy chief meant to say, according to Elder, is that the police department deals with "3 to 6 percent of the population."

Elder did say Knight believes some people aren't cut out to be police officers.

"There are plumbers who shouldn't be plumbers, and dentists that shouldn't be dentists," Elder adds. 

In attempting to correct what Knight meant, Elder didn't provide a new number on how many of the city's cops shouldn't have a badge and gun.

Even when that's the case, it's extremely hard to get an officer off the force. Consider the case of Blayne Leher, fired in early 2016 by then-Police Chief Janee Harteau after video of Lehner "roughing up a woman in a south Minneapolis apartment building" became public, as reported by the Star Tribune.

Lehner hadn't reported his use of force on the woman, whom he'd also called a "derogatory name." He challenged his termination, and in fall 2016 was reinstated by an arbitrator who determined cops who'd done worse had suffered lighter punishments. His penalty was cut to a 40-hour suspension.

In fact, Lehner never served another hour on the beat. He spent the next 28 months on paid administrative leave before he was fired in February 2019 for "unspecified misconduct."