Minnesota State Patrol leader who oversaw Floyd unrest, hands-free driving law leaves

Minnesota State Patrol highlights a campaign to promote hands-free driving
Col. Matt Langer of the Minnesota State Patrol and other officials at a news conference in 2019.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News

The head of the Minnesota State Patrol announced that he’s leaving to take a job with the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Col. Matt Langer has led the state patrol for the past decade and has been with the agency for a quarter century. 

“Beginning my career with the State Patrol was an easy decision — deciding to leave has been the opposite,” Langer said. “Our greatest asset is the people within our organization and the millions of Minnesotans who support us in our work.”  

Langer’s tenure included a commitment to traffic safety which the state Department of Public Safety said has made Minnesota’s roads the third-safest in the country. In the statement, Langer said that and the passage of a law in 2019 that banned hand-held cell phone use by drivers were among his proudest accomplishments. 

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Following a spike in traffic deaths on Minnesota roads during the pandemic, Langer boosted the agency's efforts to educate the public and more traffic enforcement. 

Gov. Tim Walz said in a statement that Langer’s commitment to the people of Minnesota will leave a lasting impact on the state. 

“He has been my first phone call during incredible challenges, and has been by our side to celebrate major accomplishments, including passage of the hands-free bill and making Minnesota’s roads among the safest in the country,” Walz said.

The state patrol under Langer’s tenure was criticized for what critics called a heavy-handed response to protests, including the arrest of 646 people in 2020 who walked onto Interstate 94 to protest former President Donald Trump’s threats to challenge the results of the last presidential election and other issues. 

Langer also was the top leader of the state patrol as it responded to the the civil unrest sparked by the police murder of George Floyd in 2020. The state patrol co-led law enforcement response to the unrest along with Minneapolis police and other agencies.

The agency settled a lawsuit two years ago from journalists attacked, arrested or injured by troopers during unrest following Floyd’s killing for $825,000 and included apologies from the agency. 

Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner Bob Jacobson said in a statement that Langer has helped lead the state through some of its most challenging moments. 

“Col. Langer embodies what we expect and need from a law enforcement leader,” Jacobson said. “Under Col. Langer’s guidance, the State Patrol has continued to exemplify professionalism, integrity and a dedication to keeping our roads safe.”

Langer’s announced exit comes as the state develops a roadside test for drivers who’ve ingested THC. Last month, the Department of Public Safety unveiled devices to test drivers’ saliva for the presence of the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Langer will work as director of global policing for the International Chiefs of Police Association following his final day of work on April 2. Lt. Col. Christina Bogojevic will serve as interim chief until a new colonel is appointed. 

Correction: (Feb. 14, 2024) In an earlier version of this story Christina Bogojevic’s name was misspelled. The article has been updated.