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Minneapolis releases officer misconduct data, nearly 4 years after Floyd killing, protests

Person with raised arms stand in front of line of state patrol.
A man confronts a line of State Patrol in riot gear a block from the Minneapolis 3rd Precinct building. The city released documents showing at least a dozen officers were disciplined for misconduct during the time of unrest following George Floyd's death.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News 2020

It's been nearly four years since George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

Right now, the city is figuring out a rebuilding plan for the 3rd Precinct building that burned down during the riots and protests that followed Floyd's murder. And just recently, the city released documents showing at least a dozen officers were disciplined for misconduct during that time.

MPR News Host Cathy Wurzer talks to the Minnesota Reformer’s Deena Winter, who took a deep dive into that data.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and style. Click on the audio player for the full interview.

It's been almost four years and now the city is releasing documents. What's going on?

Winter: It's a long process in these cases where an officer gets accused of misconduct. This is one of the things we've been kind of hammering away on in the media in Minneapolis. It's just such a long process to get to the end. You have to wait until the union gets a chance to appeal these disciplinary decisions. And then all the information can't be released until that process plays out. So it often takes years and I just don't know if we're ever going to see that change.

This all took much too long to become public. Is that right?

Winter: It's sort of astounding that it's been almost four years now since a lot of this happened. Four years to find out what happened. We know that there has to be an investigation… And then the chief has to decide if they agree with recommended discipline and everything, and then the appeal process. I think even for the officers, it's probably really vexing to wait that long. And then of course, for the public… by the time we get to this point, everybody's kind of forgotten half of the these cases, I think.

Many officers left the force, which in turn allowed some of them to avoid major punishment?

Winter: If you leave in the middle of while you're being investigated for for misconduct and the whole process, you're not an officer anymore so how are they going to punish you? As we know, a lot of officers did leave and retired early due to disability, often PTSD. And so in some of these cases they left. They call them duty disability retirements. Some of these officers accused did that or just took a regular retirement. So it's just over then.

What was the misconduct that officers were accused of?

Winter: It was a lot of how they were treating protesters and people in the days after George Floyd's police killing. Everybody knows what happened. And as they were trying to regain control, it seems like it became us-versus-them. If you watch these body cam videos of the officers just out there trying to get control of everything, shooting their rubber bullets at people out after curfew — often without warning — and they're just walking down the street. It just became just a really bad situation, and so a lot of those kinds of actions.

And, of course, the more high-profile incident with Jaleel Stallings that we've written so many stories about. He didn't know when they came around a corner and shot at him with one of those rubber bullets and he got hit. He didn't know those were cops, he testified. He fired back right away with his real gun and then the cops jumped out of the van and beat him and a friend of his pretty badly.

And so about a half a dozen of those officers got disciplined for now, four years later. Usually like a week or two weeks, three weeks in one case, of suspension. But one of them got fired. We know that was Justin Stetson. And of course he ended up getting charged criminally, too.

Interim Chief Amelia Huffman carried out much of the discipline in 2022?

A lot of these were signed by Hoffman, and it’s been a couple years ago. I thought that it was interesting that it seemed like she was, you know, taking action in these cases and, especially with the Stallings case, I think a lot of officers, I'm sure, weren't real happy about how that really turned and these officers got discipline for what they did. But she did agree to a lot of discipline for those officers.

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