Missing Gang Strike Force vehicles found

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher says investigators from his department have tracked down some of the property thought lost by a Twin Cities gang unit.

Last week, the state Legislative Auditor issued a report that was critical of the Metro Gang Strike Force. The audit said the unit didn't have paperwork accounting for thousands of dollars in seized cash and more than a dozen vehicles.

But Fletcher said his own investigators have established what happened to the cars after police towed and seized them. Some were scrapped, others sold off and some actually returned to their owners.

"Clearly the cars were all handled in an appropriate fashion," Fletcher said. "It's just that the investigators had not filed the paperwork in the appropriate place, or in some cases they may not have known that the towing contractor didn't return it to the owner and it had in fact been scrapped or resold."

He said he doesn't know why the strike force didn't track down the cars when the auditor raised questions about them in an early draft of its report.

"There should have been an aggressive effort to track down the vehicles and answer any other questions that were raised," Fletcher said. "I think the two (strike force) investigators that approached us were disappointed that there hadn't been a full court press to find those cars, and that frankly it didn't take that much work to locate them."

Fletcher and representatives of the other agencies in the strike force, including St. Paul police chief John Harrington, are meeting in St. Paul to respond to that issue and others raised by the Legislative Auditor's report.

Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan has already indicated that his department will be leaving the joint gang fighting effort. The Metro Transit police department is also reportedly pulling out of the strike force.

The strike force board's chairman, Manila "Bud" Shaver, the police chief in West St. Paul, told MPR News that there may be some discussion of potential disciplinary action today, in the wake of the report. But he said personnel issues will be addressed behind closed doors, because they aren't immediately subject to public disclosure.

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