A damning ACLU report finds “severe,” “pervasive” and “systematic” racial disparities in arrests by Minneapolis police. The investigation reveals that blacks in that city are 8.7 times more likely to be arrested for low-level offenses than whites are. Native Americans fared little better, at 8.6 times more likely.

Although whites make up 40% of Minneapolis’ youth population, they account for only 14% of youth arrests.

Low-level offenses, defined as any carrying a fine of $3,000 or less and/or a year or less in jail, most often include trespassing, disorderly conduct, consuming in public and lurking.

According to the report:

An arrest, even if it doesn’t end in a conviction, is a restriction on liberty, and its consequences often snowball, especially for poor people of color. A low-level arrest, according to District Court Judge Kevin Burke of Hennepin County, which contains Minneapolis, “can end up taking somebody who just got a job at Taco Bell and have him fired because they missed work because they were in jail for driving after a suspension case.”

Once ensnared, the criminal justice system continues to squeeze poor people of color. “Because they missed [work], they’re now behind in their child support,” he says. “Because they’re behind in their child support, the county attorney’s office will try to hold them in contempt, to hassle them to get them to pay child support. And so it’s really a very ineffective way of dealing with human behavior.”

The Minneapolis data adds to a growing body of ACLU data analysis that demonstrates law enforcement across the nation are over and inequitably policing communities of color and that police practices are in need of sweeping reform. Reports from New York, Chicago (both this year andlast), Newark, Philadelphia, Boston, metropolitan Detroit, and Nebraska all describe police departments that reserve their most aggressive enforcement for people of color.

The study, “Picking Up the Pieces: Policing in America, a Minneapolis Case Study,” can be read here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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