The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota said Tuesday that it has settled a lawsuit against the city of St. Paul now that it is receiving data on arrests, use of force and other actions by police.
The suit, filed in Ramsey County District Court in December 2019, alleged that the city had "unlawfully refused" to provide public information regarding traffic stops, citations, arrests and use of force dating back to at least June 2018.
ACLU staff attorney David McKinney said at the time the suit was filed that the availability of the data being sought "was crucial to ensure adequate oversight, accountability and transparency, and to understand the scope of racial disparities that are already apparent in the limited amount of data that the Police Department has released."
The ACLU said that under Monday's settlement, the city provided some of the data requested, including four years of recent information about arrests and citations, traffic stops and uses of force.
The city did not provide data on investigative stops. According to the civil rights group, city officials said they either don't track and monitor that data or maintain it in a useful format, even though the Police Department manual requires officers to record these stops.
However, the ACLU said that its lawsuit led to the city forming the Investigative Stop Working Group late last year, which is moving toward collecting, tracking and sharing investigative stop data.
"We were immediately interested in resolving the matter from the beginning and interested in working with them and addressing their concerns," City Attorney Lyndsey Olson said Tuesday. "It really came down to some miscommunication about the way we store data. … We want to be part of the solution. We want to be transparent."
McKinney said while announcing the settlement that "while we are disappointed it was necessary to file a lawsuit to get data that is clearly public, we are pleased the city of St. Paul has taken steps to rectify the situation. If the city doesn't collect and analyze data on investigative stops, how can officials know what police are doing in the field?"
"Collecting this data and making it public is crucial for adequate oversight, accountability and transparency by police, and to understand the true scope of racial disparities."
The Minnesota Data Practices Act requires governments to keep records "in such an arrangement and condition as to make them easily accessible for convenient use."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482