University of Minnesota cuts ties with Minneapolis police after George Floyd's death

May 27, 2020, 10:29 PM

MINNEAPOLIS -- Two days after a black Minnesota man died after being pinned by police, the University of Minnesota announced it will sever its relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department.

School president Joan Gabel made the announcement Wednesday night in a letter that was sent to students, faculty and staff members, writing that the university will no longer use local officers to assist at major events, including Golden Gophers football games.

George Floyd, 46, died Monday night while in Minneapolis police custody. A bystander's video showed officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on the handcuffed Floyd's neck, even after he pleaded that he could not breathe and stopped moving. Two other Minneapolis officers held down Floyd, while a fourth officer stood nearby and interacted with bystanders who pleaded with the officers to get off Floyd.

All four officers involved in the incident were fired Tuesday. On Wednesday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey demanded criminal charges for the officers.

Protests were held in the city Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Our hearts are broken after watching the appalling video capturing the actions of Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers against George Floyd leading to his tragic death," Gabel said in her letter. "As a community, we are outraged and grief-stricken. I do not have the words to fully express my pain and anger and I know that many in our community share those feelings, but also fear for their own safety. This will not stand."

Gabel said she has directed school officials to "no longer contract the Minneapolis Police Department" for large on-campus events, including football games. She also said the school will cut ties with the MPD for "specialized services" such as "K-9 explosive detection units."

TCF Bank Stadium is about 5 miles from the site of Floyd's death. At football games, Minneapolis police often had a strong presence accompanying the university's police force.

One day before Gabel's announcement, the university's undergraduate student body president, Jael Kerandi, issued a letter and a petition demanding that the school sever its ties with the Minneapolis police.

"We no longer wish to have a meeting or come to an agreement, there is no middle ground," Kerandi's letter said. "The police are murdering black men with no meaningful repercussions. This is not a problem of some other place or some other time. This is happening right here in Minneapolis."

The Minnesota Vikings said they were deeply saddened by the incident, which happened just blocks from their U.S. Bank Stadium. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was among several professional athletes who spoke out against the actions of Minneapolis police.

Gabel is the University of Minnesota's first female president. She was appointed in 2018 and her term began last year.

"We have a responsibility to uphold our values and a duty to honor them," Gabel wrote. "We will limit our collaboration with the MPD to joint patrols and investigations that directly enhance the safety of our community or that allow us to investigate and apprehend those who put our students, faculty, and staff at risk.

"I write to you to express our overwhelming sadness, and our demands for accountability and justice. Our campuses and facilities are a part of the communities in which they reside. University students, staff, and faculty are day-to-day participants in the life of every community in this state, and we must act when our neighbors are harmed and in pain."