Just months ago, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was campaigning on a claim that he'd banned the use of "no-knock" search warrants by city police. Then last week, SWAT officers stormed into an apartment and fatally shot Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man.
Activists and even Frey's colleagues on the city council were left confused. Hadn't no-knock warrants already been banned in Minneapolis?
On Monday, Frey was forced to address the discrepancy, acknowledging that his language had at times been too "casual" in explaining what had actually changed in the city's policy. In the wake of the police killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, in March 2020, several jurisdictions moved to ban the practice of allowing law enforcement to gain entry before announcing they would be searching the property. In Minneapolis, officials didn't ban the use of no-knock warrants but instead required officers to announce their presence while executing them.
When it comes to policing reform, even in Minneapolis where Frey and other leaders have made attempts at change following the murder of George Floyd, the devil is in the details.
"Why just not a ban?" City Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw asked Frey on Monday at a meeting of the city's Government Oversight Committee. "Back in 2020, why didn't you just, like, do a full-on ban?"
Locke wasn't named in the search warrant that led to his death on Feb. 2. Police body-worn camera footage shows that officers yelled as they barged into the apartment, "Police! Search warrant!" Within seconds of their entry, police shot Locke, who was lying on a couch and holding a handgun.
His mother described his death as an "execution," city leaders expressed their disgust at the killing of yet another Black man by police, and protesters gathered to call for justice. The shooting is under investigation.
Hours after the release of the body camera footage, Frey temporarily banned the use of no-knock warrants for city police, with some exception for when police claim the possibility of "imminent harm." But during Monday's meeting, it was clear even city officials were looking for clarity as to what had been changed in 2020, and why police were able to serve the no-knock warrant that would lead to Locke's death.
Frey said he took responsibility for confusion about the policy and acknowledged that the city could have done more.
"These are instances where, you know, we could always go further," he said.
When asked to account for the discrepancy in what the 2020 policy did and what was communicated to the public, Frey said the city consistently put out correct information.
He had as well, he said, during "the longer-form interviews that [he] was able to do where you can dig into the details."
But, he added, after time, some of the messaging was incorrect.
"Now, throughout a campaign and certainly as more and more outside groups begin weighing in, language got more casual, including my own, which did not reflect the complexity and nuance, and I own that," Frey said.
An archived version of Frey's campaign website shows that as of Oct. 23, 2021, banning the use of no-knock warrants was listed as one of his accomplishments in office. Just a little over a week later, Frey was reelected with 49% of the vote.
At Monday's meeting, Frey did not address the false statement on the campaign website. The mayor's office and Frey's campaign did not immediately respond to inquiries from BuzzFeed News, but his campaign told WCCO that the line was deleted as part of a rewrite of the website. The campaign also said it should have been more specific.
The mayor has now moved to create a group to put together yet another new policy on no-knock warrants for the city.