Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey Failed to Save Amir Locke
He campaigned for reelection claiming he'd banned the type of no-knock warrants Minneapolis Police used to kill Amir Locke.
On January 31, Vogue Magazine ran a glowing profile of recently re-elected Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, citing his "boyishness" and dubbing him an "elder millennial" whose time in office, per the article's framing, was akin to running a marathon. Marathons, coincidentally, are Frey's favorite pastime, and the impetus for moving to Minnesota to begin with (his first time in Minneapolis was for a race, where he noticed "the sun was shining, the music was playing,” and the city's Lake Nokomis “was just sparkling with colors").
Frey's time in office, of course, has been defined by the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis Police Office Derek Chauvin. In the days following Floyd's death, as a protest movement erupted in Minneapolis and spread across the nation, Frey tried and utterly failed to connect with the furious residents of his city, preferring appearances on MSNBC to managing the situation the ground. In last month's profile, he mused to Vogue that running a city is in many ways more difficult than other elected roles. "If this was just takin’ a vote — That ain’t how it works here…you can’t hide as mayor," he said.
But it certainly looks like Frey is hiding again.
Three days after the profile was published, an MPD SWAT team burst through the door of an apartment across the street from Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall, shooting and killing Amir Locke less than ten seconds after entering the unit. Despite initial claims from the department that he'd been a "suspect," MPD Acting Chief Amelia Huffman later admitted that Locke had not been named at all in the warrant that lead to his death. Local outlets soon revealed, the raid had been carried out by Minneapolis officers acting on behalf of their St. Paul counterparts as part of a homicide investigation; crucially, St. Paul police had requested a standard warrant, but MPD officers refused to cooperate unless they were allowed to conduct a "no-knock" raid -- a practice Frey claimed to have banned in 2020 during his reelection campaign in the wake of Floyd's death.
The distinction between what St. Paul's police requested, and what Minneapolis cops demanded is important for two reasons. First, the practical: A typical "knock and announce" raid is just that - officers knock on the door, and announce themselves and their intent to serve a warrant before they enter a home. "No knock" warrants, like the kind MPD insisted on, are a much more violent, risky, hurried operation, in which officers declare themselves and their purpose while they breach an entrance, or, in extreme cases, afterwards. (Breonna Taylor was also killed by police conducting a "no-knock" raid in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2020.) St. Paul hasn't used this type of warrant since 2016; Minneapolis Police officers have used them at least 13 times this year.
The second reason is that it means Frey, the man who claimed he "can't hide" as mayor, is once again full of shit. Frey won a hard-fought reelection campaign this past fall in no small part by claiming that he'd banned "no knock" warrants entirely in 2020. It was even touted on his campaign website, until the language was scrubbed this past October (his team has since insisted the deletion was part of a broader rewrite of the site's content).
And what's more, Frey is trying to pull this stunt all over again: last Friday, Frey announced that he would once again ban no-knock raids, despite already campaigning on banning them in the first place (in the final paragraph of a lengthy press release trumpeting this Groundhog Day policy, Frey notes still doesn't actually ban no knock warrants either, carving out exceptions for instances of "imminent threat of harm to an individual or the public). And this isn't even the first time he's done it: last spring, Frey had to publicly apologize last spring after an officers acting on an MPD-approved no knock warrant held a mother and 12 year old daughter at gunpoint for an hour while conducting a raid on their home (the suspect police had been looking for moved out a year earlier).
Frey's comments at a Monday evening City Council meeting are even more egregious. First he haltingly attempted to delineate between his 2020 ban — in which, he claimed, officers were barred from conducting no knocks — and this past week's "super ban" wherein officers can't even request those types of warrants. That this is essentially meaningless distinction is rendered even more pathetic by the fact that, in both cases, no knock warrants may still be used under certain circumstances.
When pressed by City Council member Jeremiah Ellison — son of state Attorney General Keith Ellison, and one of the leading proponents of the ultimately unsuccessful effort to transition Minneapolis away from a police department and toward a department of public safety — about what his 2020 ban actually did, Frey completely lost — or admitted — the plot.
Insisting at first that his campaign's extended literature had accurately conveyed the substance (such as it was) of his 2020 ban, Frey pivoted, claiming that "as more and more people and outside groups began weighing in, language became more casual, including my own, which did not reflect the necessary precision or nuance."
"I own that," he added, which completely belied everything he'd admitted just seconds earlier. Blaming "casual" language and "outside groups" for misleading voters merely dilutes the severity of what actually occurred: faced with a vocal and urgent grassroots movement to reimagine public safety in Minneapolis during his 2020 re-election campaign, Frey chose to pantomime accomplishing police reform, while simultaneously working to undercut concrete efforts by activists and community members chasing the same goal.
That Frey would blame "outside groups" is even more craven and cowardly, when you consider the very sincere and warranted — fear that people not from the Twin Cities were responsible for the most egregious examples of violence during the George Floyd protests two years ago. Essentially, Frey has placed the national focus on police reform in his city on an equivalent level to the white nationalists and extremists who flocked to Minneapolis to capitalize on the unrest and anxiety of the moment.
Speaking with Vogue for their profile on Frey, Minneapolis activist and chef Tomme Beevas voiced anxiety over Frey's second term in office. "We’re ready for him to step up," and not wallow in “just trying to keep up with what we’re throwing at him," Beevas explained.
After Minneapolis Police killed Locke a few days later, Frey had that opportunity to step up. He chose to hide behind the same old excuses instead.