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Report identifies major gaps in MPD’s response to domestic violence

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Report identifies major gaps in MPD’s response to domestic violence

Sep 19, 2023 | 6:00 am ET
By Guadalupe Lopez Joe Shannon
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Report identifies major gaps in MPD’s response to domestic violence
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In 2022, 21 people in Minnesota were killed by a current or former intimate partner, according to our analysis at Violence Free Minnesota.

Of the women killed, at least 20% were separated or trying to leave their relationship. 

In Minnesota, at least 16 children were present at the scene of a homicide, or directly witnessed the homicide of one of their parents in 2022.

At Violence Free Minnesota, we produce a report every year documenting these killings and their surrounding circumstances and offering recommendations for prevention.  

Global Rights for Women recently released its own report on the Minneapolis Police Department’s response to domestic violence calls. It was the result of a multi-faceted assessment — interviews, analysis of police reports and 911 records, etc. — of MPD’s response, conducted in collaboration with metro domestic and sexual violence agencies Cornerstone, Tubman, and Domestic Abuse Project, and with input from victims and survivors themselves. 

The report identifies major gaps in MPD’s response, and recommendations to address these gaps, with a focus on survivor safety. The findings dovetail with our own conclusions after years of studying intimate partner homicides. Here’s a few from the report: 

“When abusers fled the scene before police [MPD] arrived, officers and follow-up investigators often did not attempt to locate them, leaving victims vulnerable to future violence.”

The Global Rights for Women report identified only three of 55 gone-on-arrival cases examined during the analysis that resulted in a conviction of any kind. Abusers are getting the message that if they flee, there will not be any consequences for their behavior.

A risk factor for intimate partner homicide is whether the perpetrator has avoided arrest for domestic violence in the past. In July 2022, Emily Roitenberg was confronted by her ex-boyfriend while walking her dog in Minneapolis. He told her he was going to take the only thing that loved her away from her, and shot and killed her dog, according to charges. He fled before police arrived and remained at large until four days later when he shot his current girlfriend, Katie Anne Frederickson, to death in Brooklyn Center.

“Current risk assessment practices [for MPD] do not utilize risk data to prioritize the deployment of criminal justice resources toward the most dangerous offenders.” 

This prioritization of resources toward the most dangerous offenders would save lives. 

For Raven Gant, it’s too late, but her case shows what happens when this prioritization isn’t recognized or coordinated among criminal justice actors. 

On Thanksgiving 2019, Raven Gant went to her ex-boyfriend’s house to retrieve her and her daughter’s belongings. 

After the first of five 911 calls, MPD arrived at the home. When Raven’s ex refused to let her and officers inside, police told Raven it was a “civil matter.” In another call to 911, Raven said her ex had weapons and wasn’t allowing her or their daughter to leave. Police arrived shortly thereafter, did not announce themselves as law enforcement, knocked once, did not attempt to look inside the house, and waited just two minutes before leaving. Dispatchers tried calling Raven’s ex-boyfriend, but did not try calling Raven. 

Following another 911 call, officers were re-dispatched, but first stopped to use the restroom before investigating a stolen car instead. On the final 911 call, a gunshot is heard before Raven’s ex-boyfriend asks for an ambulance. Their daughter was present when Raven was killed. 

Withholding access to property and refusing to let someone leave a residence in other contexts would be viewed as criminal behavior; but domestic violence victim/survivors experiences are often minimized because they know their abusers. 

When responding officers communicate with victims or offenders in ways that exhibit explicit or implicit bias related to gender, class, race/ethnicity, disability, or sexual orientation, victims are discouraged from calling police in the future.”

Days after the Global Rights for Women report was released, the U.S. Department of Justice published its own report following a two-year investigation of MPD, and found that MPD engaged “in a pattern or practice of using excessive force, unlawfully discriminating against Black and Native American people in enforcement activities, violating the rights of people engaged in protected speech, and discriminating against people with behavioral disabilities when responding to them in a crisis.” 

Just 7% of the Minnesota population are Black women; but 40% of domestic violence victims in Minnesota are Black women. From our own research, we know over 16% of domestic violence homicide victims over the past 30 years were Black, while making up less than 7% of Minnesota’s population. Native victims accounted for 6% of homicide victims, while the Native population makes up only 1% of the state.

These issues are not unique to just one police department. Black and Native individuals are victims of intimate partner homicides at far higher rates than white victims in Minnesota relative to their percentage of the population. We’re all responsible for doing more to keep domestic violence survivors safe, especially those from marginalized communities. Our goal is to create a violence-free Minnesota. This cannot be attained when systems intended to protect fail to do so. 

Each victim mentioned here, along with over 700 others killed in Minnesota due to intimate partner violence since 1989, should be alive today. The current legal system is not keeping people safe. It is not addressing officer bias and explicit or implicit policies and practices that impact officer response to diverse victim/survivors; enforcing model policies and statutory requirements related to domestic abuse or holding officers accountable for failing to do so; or using data and best practices to ensure limited resources prioritize the most dangerous offenders. 

Year after year, in compiling intimate partner homicides in Minnesota, we see the gaps that Global Rights for Women identified in their institutional analysis of MPD’s response to domestic violence calls. 

Homicide is the worst-case scenario for domestic violence victims and their families. The recommendations by Global Rights for Women are crucial steps we can take as a state to transform public safety.