In the News: Yohuru Williams on Policing in Minnesota

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Dr. Yohuru Williams, professor of history and founding director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas, spoke with KSTP-TV about policing in Minnesota.

From the story:

“Since August 2020, Minnesota has expanded its data collection of use-of-force incidents involving members of law enforcement, but questions remain for many about the integrity of the reporting process.

About three years of data exist so far: Minnesota police agencies reported 45 use-of-force incidents in 2020, 30 in 2021, and 21 in 2022. So far in 2023, agencies have reported at least 6 incidents, and 5 of those involved guns.

“Those numbers are very low,” said Yohuru Williams, history professor, and founding director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas.

“I think if you talk to community activists and you were engaged with people in community, they would tell you that, anecdotally, it’s probably much higher,” Williams added.

He argued the statistics are likely reflective of a lack of reporting rather than a decrease in incidents.

“Going back to 1997, the police looked at the data and said, ‘Look, numbers are going down. This is a reflection of better training, more accountability.’ But in reality, what you heard the community saying is that those things weren’t there at all, people just lost confidence,” Williams said.

“People always argue they don’t report because they find that reporting doesn’t result in the discipline of those officers, and the testament to those failures is that many of those officers go on to commit other acts of brutality.”

However, in most cases, what’s not reported doesn’t get attention, making accountability in part the charge of the injured party.

“Absolutely,” Williams echoed, adding, “And incumbent on the police to follow up.”