Policing and Racial Covenants in Minneapolis

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Students at St. Kate’s are engaging with the WTDN in a variety of classes. Here’s how our students are thinking about the issues related to housing inequality and housing segregation. Their work demonstrates “thinking in progress”. 

Policing and Racial Covenants in Minneapolis

By Victoria Delgado Palma and Madelyn Boie | Fall 2020 | Class: DSCI 2994 Data Visualization Class

The visuals above compare the redlining map (left) and Neighbor Scouts’ map (right) of safest places to live in Minneapolis today. In the redling map the areas that are colored yellow or red were considered more dangerous places to live. In the graph on the right,  shows as the color blue gets darker the area is considered more dangerous.

George Floyd, David Smith, Terrance Franklin, Jamar Clark, Justine Ruszczyk Damond,Thurman Belvis and many others are included in the history of fatal Police encounters in Minneapolis according to the news source, Kare 11. One common characteristic amongst the victims featured in the story is that they are Black . This should not be considered a coincidence as pointed out by Tufts sociologist Daankia Gordon who believes that the history of systematic segregation in the United States was in fact built through acts of violence, use of zoning laws, racially restrictive covenants and redlining.


We began to explore the lasting effects that racial covenants have on policing in the Minneapolis area using data from OpenMinneapolis which contains records of police use of force between 2007 and 2020. Each case in the data is one incident in which police used force (such as bodily force, chemical irritants, tasers, and gun point display) against a civilian. (Data on the website are updated live, but for this project, we downloaded data up to November 2020.) The images above depict the mapping of locations of the amount of Police force used with the colors corresponding with each race listed (top). Racial covenants are mapped on the visual on the bottom. The properties with covenants are shown in red.

This fits into our overall story about the lasting effects of racial covenants on Policing because it is visually noticeable that in predominantly Black neighborhoods there is a higher concentration of Police force used and also when compared to the racial covenants map there are little to no covenants in areas that experience less use of police force.

Police Use of Force

It should not be a surprise to point out that there is racial inequality in police force use. The visual on the right graphs the number of times that each type of police force was used on people of each race. The left graph presents the same data broken down by percentage so that it’s easier to see what percentage of each type of force was used on people of each race. We are able to see the disproportionate racial inequality when looking at the type and amount of police force used against the Black community specifically. Although only about 19% of Minneapolis residents are Black (according to the American Community Survey),  over 60% of police force incidents of each type involve Black individuals. This comparison truly demonstrates the unfortunate disproportionate increased mistreatment towards them. 

We wondered if the disproportionate use of force among Black individuals would appear differently when comparing across gender. The figure above shows police use of force for each race, broken down by gender. Although police force is used more against males than females, for both genders we see that Black people are more than twice as likely as any other racial group to have force used against them. This may be because racial covenants have created systematically segregated neighborhoods, which as a result have made them targets to high rates of police force against them.

Police Calls

In addition to looking at police use of force, we looked at additional data from OpenMinneapolis about calls made to the police. The left pie chart above shows the total number of police calls. This data examines the race of the individual involved in the police call. The colors represent a different race. By examining this graph we can see that almost 65% of police calls are for Black Individuals. Above, the pie chart on the right side represents the percentage of the Minneapolis population of each race according to the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS). Although the racial groups were defined a bit differently in the two data sources (as seen by comparing the legends in the pie charts above), we see that the percentage of police calls involving a Black or Native American individual is 3-4 times the percentage of Black or Native American people in the general population of Minneapolis. This adds to the story of racism because this visualization shows us that Black and Native American people are more likely to get the police called on them due to perceived prejudices.

Police Stops

We also examined the Police stop data from OpenMinneapolis to see examine the amount of stops in each individual neighborhood, as shown in the above graph. The different colors on each bar represent different races. The picture above also shows the neighborhoods with higher police stop rates. This visualization and the Police Calls pie charts show that people of color are stopped by police or have the police called on them disproportionately more often than other races. Making these observations is crucial to realizing the effects racial covenants and redlining have had in the Minneapolis neighborhoods.

Tying it all together

When looking at why racial covenants continue to matter today, it is important to look at several issues surrounding the impacts people of color are subjected to. Policing is especially important because there have been countless cases where Black lives have been lost due to racial prejudice. There is enough evidence to argue racial covenants are the root structure of a continued racially segregated society. Our data visualizations show that although Black and Native American people together make up about 20% of the Minneapolis population, a great majority of police calls, police stops, and police uses of force involve individuals of these races. Whether it is relined neighborhoods, police force use, or police stops, there is not a doubt that racial prejudice continues to make itself present in our communities. Working together to dismantle this deeply ingrained system is a decision we must take in order to create a just and equitable world where specific individuals are not targeted due to the color of their skin or they neighborhoods they were pushed to live in.