Crime, Law and Justice

Minneapolis puts MPD talks on hold until MN Human Rights provides evidence of covert social media

People raise their hands as they protest at the makeshift memorial in honor of George Floyd in 2020 in Minneapolis. (CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)
Schwappach, Maddie

The Minneapolis City Attorney's Office says it cannot find proof of a damning finding by a state agency that police used covert social media accounts to target Black people and elected officials.

The city has put on hold the process to define the terms of a consent decree to make changes in the Minneapolis Police Department.

Last month, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights released a detailed report listing incidents and policies that it said showed the city and its police department had a “pattern or practice of race discrimination in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.”

In an email Friday, Deputy City Attorney Erik Nilsson told Mayor Jacob Frey and city council members his team reviewed 15,000 pages documenting social media but did not find police targeted people "without a public safety objective."

Nilsson said the team is giving the material another look to see whether improper use of social media by MPD officers occurred.

The Human Rights department’s report said MPD officers used social media accounts to pose as Black community members to criticize city officials and members of the NAACP.  Human Rights commissioner Rebecca Lucero said at the time that the social media work wasn’t part of any criminal investigation.

“The City has asked MDHR 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 told Frey and council members. “The MDHR has repeatedly refused to share this vital information.”

Nilsson said the city is canceling its May 24 meeting with the department and will not meet until they receive more information.

In a statement, the department said the city should reconsider.

“The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) conducted a thorough, comprehensive investigation based on multiple data sources and found a pattern or practice of race discrimination,” said Taylor Putz, a spokesperson for the department. “MPD’s improper use of covert social media is one of multiple significant findings. Any dispute of that one finding is not a reason to halt discussions.”

The report arose from a nearly two-year investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department launched soon after the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd that included many instances where investigators said the MPD and the city failed to properly train or hold police officers to account.

In reviewing body camera video and discipline records, and interviewing community members and officers, investigators reported learning of racist and misogynistic slurs made by officers against suspects, community members and even other colleagues.