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Six months after records request, state agency hasn't released them

Posted by: Matt McKinney Updated: June 24, 2014 - 10:42 AM

The Department of Public Safety has yet to release records that could shed light on a high-level miscommunication between the agency and the Minneapolis Police Department, even though the records were requested six months ago. 

A DPS spokesman told the Star Tribune in early March that the records were days away from being ready, but the records still haven't been provided to the newspaper. That spokesman has stopped responding to emails asking about them.

The Star Tribune filed the request Dec. 20, 2013, in the days after Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau announced she planned to ask state investigators to handle criminal investigations of Minneapolis police officers when the officers use force and someone is seriously hurt or killed as a result. An outside review of such cases is common for other police departments. Harteau's plan was immediately batted away by Gov. Mark Dayton, however, who said no one at his level knew it was coming. 

“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 on Dec. 18. “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.”

Harteau's spokesperson at the time, Cyndi Barrington, said the chief was "perplexed" by the development, since Harteau had approached DPS Commissioner Mona Dohman last July about making the change. The MPD thought it had a green light to announce the plan after a meeting with BCA staff, said Barrington.

In order to figure out what had happened, the Star Tribune filed a records request on Dec. 20 with the Department of Public Safety, asking for any email messages mentioning Chief Harteau that were sent to or from DPS Commissioner Mona Dohman or Bureau of Criminal Apprehension chief Wade Setter between July 1, 2013 and Dec. 20. 

The request was sent to DPS Director of Communications Bruce Gordon. An amended request was sent to Gordon on April 4 when the Star Tribune looked at the BCA's investigations of officer involved shootings.

The request asked for any emails between the BCA, the governor’s office, the Minneapolis Police Department and the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis.

Gordon responded on April 9 saying he was hoping to wrap up the Star Tribune's previous request that same day. 

"It has been a challenge technically. That data, combined with data that was compiled for another requestor, should contain the majority, if not all, of the data you have requested," Gordon said.

Similar requests were sent to the Minneapolis Police Department and the governor's office. Both have fulfilled the Star Tribune's request although both agencies withheld some e-mails.

Those that were released showed Dohman providing clarification to Harteau about the BCA’s guidelines for investigating critical incidents. The governor’s records also show that a meeting was scheduled between the three agencies on March 5. No information has been released about that meeting. 

Photo: Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau at a Nov. 14, 2013, press conference in which she released details of an investigation into the fatal crash between a police SUV and a motorcyclist. Such cases could be reviewed by state investigators under a plan she proposed in December. The plan was nixed by Governor Dayton, who said Harteau hadn’t asked him or the state’s commissioner of public safety before making the plan public. Star Tribune staff photo. 

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