A Minneapolis police plan to involve state investigators in some high-profile cases was swatted down Wednesday evening by Gov. Mark Dayton’s office, which said Police Chief Janeé Harteau didn’t first tell state officials of her plans.
The apparent miscommunication put an immediate hold on Harteau’s plan to ask the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to handle criminal investigations of Minneapolis police officers when they use force and someone is seriously hurt or killed as a result, which is the practice of other police departments.
“The Minneapolis Chief of Police unilaterally announced this proposed arrangement without first notifying the Commissioner of Public Safety, Governor Dayton, or the Governor’s Chief of Staff — a course of action that the Governor considers extremely inappropriate,” Dayton spokesman Matt Swenson said in an e-mail to the Star Tribune.
“Given this turn of events, and until all parties reach agreement on this matter, the arrangement announced by the Minneapolis Chief of Police is inoperative.”
Reached after Swenson’s comments, Minneapolis police spokeswoman Cyndi Barrington was perplexed by the governor’s statement. “The MPD and the BCA have been working together since this summer discussing their involvement in investigating certain critical incidents involving the MPD,” she said.
She added that the BCA and MPD met last Friday and at the end of the meeting agreed that the new policy would be effective Monday.
Harteau had said earlier Wednesday that her department will no longer investigate its own such cases, which are known as critical incidents. Asking the BCA to investigate those cases would put her department in line with some others around the state and help rebuild public trust, she said.
Harteau said she approached Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman in July to talk about the change.
Before Dayton’s announcement, several people on Wednesday afternoon generally praised Harteau’s move, including outgoing City Council Member Don Samuels, who also leads the council’s Public Safety Committee.
“I think it’s consistent with the chief’s commitment to accountability and transparency,” he said. “She realizes that part of her challenge is to rebuild trust. It shows that she’s taking that seriously.”
Kenneth Brown, the former head of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission, said it doesn’t work for the Police Department to investigate itself in these high-profile cases. “It’s just like doctors saying they can discipline doctors. That’s not going to happen. It’s the same old systemic garbage that’s been going on forever.”
Harteau said that she has confidence in her department’s investigators but that she felt that the public and the Police Department needed the outside review.
“I think we need to show neutrality,” she said. “We need people to know with certainty that the outcome of an investigation was truth finding and they will accept that truth. I need the public to accept that truth.”
She said she was considering the move even before she took office a year ago, before the high-profile shooting of Terrance Franklin on May 10. Two officers shot and killed Franklin, a robbery suspect with a long rap sheet. Two officers were also shot in the legs in the incident; they both recovered. The Police Department came under fire for conducting its own investigation of the case.
A Hennepin County grand jury found insufficient evidence to warrant criminal charges against the officers.
Before 2004, the Minneapolis Police Department sent officer-involved fatality cases to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office for investigation. Former Chief Bill McManus ended the practice and brought the investigations into the department, prompting a warning from then-Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, who said she preferred outside review.
Harteau made her comments to the Star Tribune on Wednesday morning, following a news conference at which she announced details from a citizens council that’s working with the department on hiring, training and accountability.