Gov. Mark Dayton objected Thursday to Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau's announcement that state law enforcement officials would investigate future incidents of violence involving her department.
On Wednesday, Harteau had announced that the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) would step in when Minneapolis police killed or injured someone. Dayton said the announcement had caught him and other state officials off guard.
The governor said he'd known of conversations between Harteau and Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman about such a policy. But he said the arrangement wasn't finalized.
"There was nothing signed ... or any formal agreement at all," Dayton said. "But we'll just go to the drawing board and see. And I'll have a chance to ask some of these questions and get different points of view on what they think is advisable."
Dayton pointed out that Harteau already has the option of asking the BCA to investigate internal matters. According to data from the BCA, since 2004, the agency has investigated anywhere from five to 14 officer-involved shootings each year.
The governor said he was concerned that a policy such as the one announced by Harteau might change the primary role of the BCA. Dayton said the bureau's main mission is to help state law enforcement agencies, especially small departments, investigate criminal cases. The BCA accepts about 10-15 requests from police departments a year to help them with criminal investigations, he said.
"I've really got to question why it was handled the way it was, versus, 'Let's get this done in a way that better serves the citizens of Minneapolis and also preserves the integrity of the relationship that law enforcement agencies have, all over this state, with the BCA,'" he said.
Harteau said she was perplexed by the reaction from the governor. She said she started talking with Commissioner Dohman in July about the new policy, which is meant to respond to concerns voiced by community members about the department's internal investigations.
One such community member is attorney Mike Padden, who is representing the parents of a man shot and killed by Minneapolis police last May. He said there had been "significant flaws in investigations that have been conducted internally by the department."
"I've been saying for years that an independent agency should be investigating the department," Padden said. "It's strange when you're bringing your claim against an entity and they control the investigation."
Padden intends to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the department next month in connection with the shooting of Terrance Franklin, who died in a Minneapolis home after fleeing police. During the confrontation, two officers were wounded and Franklin was shot 10 times. A Hennepin County grand jury cleared the officers of criminal charges in the Franklin shooting.
On the same day Franklin died, an officer was involved in a traffic accident that killed motorcyclist Ivan Romero-Olivares. No charges were brought against the officer.
Padden also sued the department over the shooting death of 19-year-old Fong Lee in 2006. Padden and Lee's family accused police of planting a gun found next to Lee's body.
Neil Melton, executive director of the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, said the department certainly has the resources and the expertise to conduct its own investigations. But he added there's nothing wrong with a police department asking for an outside investigation to make sure there's no appearance of bias or unfairness.
"The reality is there's some politics in Minneapolis," he said. "At this point, Chief Harteau believed it was prudent to look at another avenue: having a state agency investigate."
MPR News reporters Tim Pugmire and Curtis Gilbert also contributed to this story.