Long before former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck, the Third Precinct in south Minneapolis had a reputation for being home to police officers who played by their own rules.
One officer kicked a handcuffed suspect in the face, leaving his jaw in pieces. Officers beat and pistol-whipped a suspect in a parking lot on suspicion of low-level drug charges. Others harassed residents of a south Minneapolis housing project as they headed to work, and allowed prostitution suspects to touch their genitals for several minutes before arresting them in vice stings.
These and more substantiated incidents, detailed in court records and police reports, help explain a saying often used by fellow cops to describe the style of policing practiced in the Third: There’s the way that the Minneapolis Police Department does things, and then there’s the way they do it “in Threes.”
Between 2007 and 2017, the city paid out $2.1 million to settle misconduct lawsuits involving Third Precinct officers. Judges have thrown out cases for “outrageous” conduct of the officers, and prosecutors have been forced to drop charges for searches found to be illegal, according to court records.
The brand of aggressive policing on display in the Floyd video has long been standard practice for some Third Precinct officers when dealing with suspects of nonviolent, low-level crimes, often involving people of color, said Abigail Cerra, a commissioner for Minneapolis’ Police Conduct Oversight Commission.
“My clients were constantly getting anal searches,” said Cerra, who also has been a public defender. “Not at the hospital. At the Third Precinct.” [Continue reading…]