How Minneapolis Trains Cops in ‘Procedural Justice’

Minneapolis is one of the first cities to give officers training in the “procedural just way” of treating suspects, even in serious crimes. The training was recommended by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief Art Knight remembers the tongue-lashing he and his grandfather got from a white cop for the “crime” of being black and walking into a general store in 1960s Mississippi. “Boy, what’s your ass doing here?” the officer snarled at his grandfather, before booting them out.  In dealing with police or courts, people tend to remember little things. Was the officer polite to them? Were they treated fairly? Did they feel like they were heard? Knight spoke to 22 cadets about “procedural justice,” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Officer Alice White, one of five instructors in the police procedural justice unit, said cadets can act in a “procedural just way” in dealing with someone accused of a serious crime. “So, I am going to respect someone who I just arrested for raping someone or for shooting someone?” White asked. No, but they can still remain courteous — even when using force to subdue an unruly suspect.

The training is divided among three days. The second day is scenario-based, while on the last day, officers are taught to recognize and work around hidden biases. In 2014, Minneapolis was among the first cities to offer procedural justice training, recommended by former President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing as one way police departments can reform, joining the likes of Pittsburgh, Fort Worth and Stockton, Ca. The idea of procedural justice is based in part on the writings of Yale law Prof. Tom Tyler, who argued in his 1990 book “Why People Obey the Law” that people follow the law only because they see it as fair, not out of fear of punishment. This, he concluded, was based in large part on how they felt they were treated.