Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak defended Police Chief Janeé Harteau and her plan to use state investigators in some high-profile police cases, which got a rocky reception this week from the police union and state officials who said she made it public without their approval.
“The chief has been in ongoing conversations with the state and obviously somehow wires got crossed on one end or the other,” the mayor said, stepping into the fray Thursday afternoon.
Rybak said that once the “miscommunication” is cleared up, he’d like to see state officials take up the city’s plan to use state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension staff members to conduct investigations of police officers who seriously hurt or kill people while on duty.
The plan was rejected by Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday when his spokesman sent out a statement saying that neither Dayton nor Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman had been informed that the state was now supposed to take over some Minneapolis investigations.
Dayton called the chief’s announcement “extremely inappropriate,” adding Thursday morning that Dohman had called Harteau on Monday to express reservations about the way the plan was being handled.
To Dayton’s surprise, Harteau went public with the plan on Wednesday when she told a Star Tribune reporter about it after a news conference about a different matter.
“The fact that this very public announcement was made without any forewarning to myself or Commissioner Dohman or consultation and just a heads up that they’re going to do this, announce it, is very inappropriate,” Dayton said.
The head of the police union, Lt. John Delmonico, said Thursday that he had opposed the measure several times during earlier conversations with Harteau.
He said he contacted Dayton on Monday once Harteau went ahead with the plan.
Delmonico said there’s no reason to bring in the BCA because there’s no question about the quality of the work done by Minneapolis detectives. “I believe we have the best crime scene investigators in the state,” he said, speaking of Minneapolis police.
Ron Edwards, a longtime civil rights activist and member of the former Police Community Relations Council, said Harteau likely misjudged the union’s political power.
“What happened was Delmonico went in as the union’s head, and she just kind of brushed him off,” said Edwards, who learned of the details from police sources. “I would have thought she would have had a better understanding of Delmonico’s political clout because he just went straight over to the governor.”
Talking since summer
Harteau said earlier that Minneapolis police officials and the BCA had discussed collaborating since the summer and that they had met as recently as last Friday. She maintained that at the end of that meeting, they had agreed that the new policy would be effective Monday.
A spokesman for the BCA said Thursday that the agency would have no comment.
The policy, which was e-mailed to all police officers Monday evening, says that the BCA would be called in when: a Minneapolis officer uses a firearm and someone is injured; an officer uses physical force and someone suffers great bodily harm or is killed, or in special circumstances when Harteau or her designee determines there’s a need for BCA oversight.
The department has had 54 officer-involved shootings since 2003, according to FBI statistics, with from one to nine cases a year.
Before 2004, the department sent officer-involved fatality cases to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office for investigation. Former Chief Bill McManus ended that practice and brought the investigations into the department, prompting a warning from then-Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, who said she preferred an outside review.
‘Exception to the norm’
Dayton said he was not criticizing the plan but the way it was handled. He did note that when the BCA is called upon to handle criminal investigations for other departments, “It’s the exception to the norm.”
That, he said, “is a lot different from automatically referring every critical incident at the [Minneapolis] chief’s discretion to the BCA, with the assumption that the BCA’s just going to automatically take it.”
BCA protocol calls for the agency to assist in investigations of homicides or other serious crimes, terrorism and some felonies if there are special circumstances.
Internal affairs cases are investigated only with the signoff of the BCA superintendent or assistant superintendent.