BCA won’t investigate police officers in Minneapolis cases

E-mails show relations strained after chief said BCA to take over officer-involved critical cases.

Plans to have the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension take over investigations of officer-involved cases in Minneapolis have fallen apart amid tensions and miscommunication between the agencies on top of a high-profile dust-up.

In December, Gov. Mark Dayton lashed out at Police Chief Janeé Harteau for going public with the plan without first notifying his office and Mona Dohman, head of the Department of Public Safety.

E-mails obtained by the Star Tribune show the announcement caught state officials off guard and left them scrambling to respond. Later e-mails showed strain between the two agencies, with Dohman telling Harteau she had overstepped her authority and the chief trying to mend fences.

They also show fault with the BCA chain of command: Police and BCA officials met about the plan days before Harteau went public but word she was enacting it never made it to the top of the state agency.

“I think all parties could have done a better job communicating,” Dohman said in an e-mailed response to questions this week in which she also denied a communication breakdown between the agencies.

Word first got out when Harteau sent an internal e-mail to police personnel about the plan on Dec. 16, saying her department had been in communication with investigators, the police union and the BCA. “We are ready to move forward when an incident occurs,” she wrote.

Several hours later, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek forwarded the e-mail to Dohman, saying: “Well — I never heard back from you on this after our coffee but I see the deal is now done and is much broader in scope than you had indicated.”

It appears to be the first time Dohman heard that the plan was being enacted. Within minutes she e-mailed her top lieutenants for clarification. “R u aware …” she begins in an e-mail to Wade Setter, the head of the BCA. “Last I heard no decision was made and we were in discussions with mpd,” she continued.

In an e-mail to her second-in-command, Mark Dunaski, she wrote: “Just amazing. I wish Wade had let you or me know what was going on … I hope you guys are doing ok there …”

The e-mails show that one person admitted to a key miscommunication. Assistant BCA Superintendent Drew Evans e-mailed Setter to tell him that he had met with someone at the Minneapolis department on Dec. 12 or Dec. 13 and that the police considered the new policy effective after that meeting.

“I apologize if I didn’t communicate this well,” Evans wrote to Setter, his boss.

This week, Dohman confirmed that Minneapolis is no longer asking her agency for assistance in such cases. Mayor Betsy Hodges’ office said the police will investigate their own critical incidents, adding the city will ask the BCA for additional help if necessary, just as any other city would.

The police union, which had opposed the proposed switch, said Tuesday it prefers to keep those investigations in house. “As far as I’m concerned the issue’s over,” union President John Delmonico said Tuesday.

The e-mails, provided to the Star Tribune by the Department of Public Safety to fulfill a public records request, mostly cover Dec. 16 and 17. They include the forwarded e-mail Harteau sent to every Minneapolis police officer on Dec. 16 announcing the new investigative protocol.

When word began to leak about the plan, a Star Tribune reporter asked Harteau about it on Dec. 18. She confirmed it, and that story triggered the response from Dayton’s office, which said it was “extremely inappropriate” for Harteau to announce the proposed arrangement without first notifying his office, the BCA and Dohman.

Most police jurisdictions in Minnesota already ask the state to step in and handle “critical incident” investigations. Most often, it’s cases where an officer has killed or injured someone. The BCA has the right to refuse taking those on. Minneapolis has investigated its own such cases for the past 10 years, but Harteau said having the state take them over would build trust in the community.

The wording of Harteau’s memo also raised questions. It said the BCA investigators would also be used when the chief determines there is a need to call in the BCA to “conduct an investigation related to actions of MPD Personnel.”

That prompted Dohman to send a 1½-page, single-spaced e-mail to Harteau that laid out the procedure for the BCA to take over the cases, telling Harteau in the process that Harteau’s plan overstepped its authority by declaring that the MPD would determine which cases the BCA would take. That’s up to the BCA, Dohman wrote.

“I want to be clear that the BCA has agreed to assist in criminal investigations, not internal affairs investigations and not all ‘officer involved incidents’ as referenced in the first paragraph of your memorandum,” Dohman wrote.

But the plan never got off the ground. In January, still seeking to have some agreement reached, Harteau e-mailed Dohman asking for a follow-up meeting.

“I also want to reiterate our discussion and that I am not now or ever have asked for anything from the BCA that you don’t currently provide to other agencies surrounding critical incidents,” Harteau said.

The two met in February, and a few weeks later, Evans and Harteau’s second-in-command, Matthew Clark, made plans to meet for coffee. It doesn’t appear there was much communication between the agencies afterward.

 

mckinney@startribune.com 612-217-1747

Alejandra.Matos@startribune.com 612-673-4028

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