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When the Minnesota Department of Human Rights filed its 72-page charge of discrimination against the beleaguered and undermanned Minneapolis Police Department, I submitted a Data Practices Act request with the department for public inspection of the 480,000 pages of documents underlying the charge. I do not take the department’s charge at face value for reasons I suggested in “Who will speak for the MPD?”
On May 10 I heard back from department communications director/external relations Taylor Putz. I posted the response verbatim here. Responding to my request, Mr. Putz wrote: “There is no public data available beyond what’s available in the 72-page findings and posted on our website.”
The department’s 72-page charge is nothing more than that. It is merely a charge. References to the contrary notwithstanding, it is not a “report.” We have yet to see the evidence supporting the charge.
A funny thing happened on the way to the evidence. The department is playing hide and seek with the charged party. Falsely referring to the charge as a “report,” the Star Tribune’s Andy Mannix updates the story:
The Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office says it’s been unable to independently verify some of the most damning findings in a recent Minnesota Department of Human Rights investigation into Minneapolis police, prompting city leaders to halt negotiations with state officials on the next steps toward a potential legal agreement.
In an e-mail to Mayor Jacob Frey and City Council members Friday afternoon, Deputy City Attorney Erik Nilsson said his office has reviewed “approximately 15,000 pages” of documents related to the Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD) use of covert social media accounts and “did not find any material proving that MPD systematically targeted … Black leaders, Black organizations, and elected officials without a public safety objective,” as stated in the April 27 human rights report.
“The City has asked MDHR (Minnesota Department of Human Rights) repeatedly for the specific documents it is relying upon — a reasonable request for one party’s attorneys to make of another’s to support its conclusions relating to covert social media,” Nilsson wrote. “The MDHR has repeatedly refused to share this vital information.
“Right now, our team is re-reviewing 15,000 pages of material to see whether improper use occurred within the covert social media accounts.”
The Star Tribune hasn’t done any better with Mr. Putz than I did. The Star Tribune also requested records of allegations of social media spying, but Putz said the data were “nonpublic” and his office would not provide them.
I asked to see all 480,000 pages of documents underlying the department’s charge against the department. The City is focusing on the spying charge and has been unable to verify it on its own.
Perhaps the City should widen the focus to look at the evidence underlying the discrimination charge in its entirety. Minneapolis City Attorney Jim Rowader represented the MPD in the investigation that resulted in the charge. Rowader joined the city in the summer of 2020 saying, among other things, that he hoped to help improve the Police Department that had “unfortunately practiced inequitable policing based on the color of one’s skin for too long.” Rowader further confessed to the sins of the MPD in the 2021 Star Tribune op-ed column “Why I’m one of many seeking justice in Minneapolis.”
This coming Monday will be Rowader’s last day on the job. The timing of his departure is curious, to say the least, although it doesn’t seem to have aroused Mannix’s interest.
In any event, one has reason to doubt how seriously the discrimination proceeding was contested by the City on behalf of the MPD. Indeed, my view is that the City can’t wait to sell out the department. However, the lack of evidence supporting the hottest of the charges is throwing a spanner in the works at the moment.