Some communications were redacted, and some language in the agreements suggested that the cities were concerned that activities captured by surveillance technology by the military would be turned over to the local police.
“Licensor grants consent to the licensee to collect overhead imagery and remote sensing data,” the contract read. “This collection will not be utilized to support local, state or federal law enforcement investigations.”
In other words, if choppers were over your house in 2012, you may be on candid camera. The military pinkie promises not to turn it over to local authorities, however.
The St. Paul attorney’s office also expressed concerns about use of private property and “invasion of privacy of third parties.”
Ehling said Minneapolis’ stipulation appears directed at the Posse Comitatus Act, a federal law that prohibits the military from direct local law enforcement activities.
The act discouraged President George Bush from sending the military in to capture suspected terrorists in Buffalo, N.Y. He sent the FBI instead.
“There’s a place for the military and a place for practicing these kinds of tactics,” said Ehling. “But we have to be really careful of blurring these kinds of lines.”
The issue of the military training in a civilian environment poses one set of questions, those about proper notice, transparency, safety and input from elected officials, Ehling said.
The issue of civilian police acquiring military gear, and participating in military training to bring those techniques home for domestic deployment, raises another set of questions, such as use of force protocols, he said.
John Elder, Minneapolis police spokesman, said the local officers were there for “logistical support” and to keep citizens from training scenes.
I asked him if there was any discussion to perhaps postpone the exercises because of the tensions caused by Ferguson.
Elder said there is almost always some incident happening in the country that might cause concern, and “at what point are you losing a lot of money by pulling the pin?”
Elder said the exercises had been planned for two years.
That doesn’t comfort Hans and Barb Gasterland, who were in their house in Bryn Mawr when they heard a loud explosion coming from the Fruen Mill near Bassett Creek. “This explosion was much bigger than the fireworks you see downtown,” said Hans. “It was a bigger explosion than you should have to worry about without being warned.”
So big it knocked a clock from an easel onto the floor.
“Our threshold of fear is probably lower here because of the Accent Signage shootings,” said Gasterland.
In 2012, a disgruntled employee killed several co-workers in the state’s deadliest workplace shooting.
The Gasterlands are close enough to the company that a worker fleeing the gunman ran through their yard.