ACLU lawsuit accuses Minneapolis of withholding hundreds of police misconduct files

ACLU lawsuit accuses Minneapolis of withholding hundreds of police misconduct files
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A lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) accuses Minneapolis of withholding hundreds of files on police misconduct.

The ACLU of Minnesota filed a lawsuit in state court on Thursday with the Minneapolis Coalition on Government Information alleging that the city and the Minneapolis Police Department are withholding public data about disciplinary action taken against police officers for misconduct.

The suit centers around the police department’s use of coaching, which is intended to be used for lower-level offenses, but which the plaintiffs allege the department is using for more serious violations.

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The city “refuse to release hundreds of records” where coaching was utilized, the complaint says. The plaintiffs say this represents a “misinterpretation of the statue to circumvent laws.”

According to a Minneapolis police Manual of Policy and Procedure, coaching is a “non-disciplinary management tool”  to help employees identify and use proper practices.

The manual plainly states that “coaching is not discipline,” though it could be referenced on performance reviews.

The ACLU’s complaint points out that because coaching is not discipline, it is shielded from data laws requiring it to publicly release those records.

The suit also suggests the police department imposes “coaching” for more serious violations.

For example, the suit notes that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted in the murder of George Floyd, had at least 22 complaints against him. The complaint notes that all but one of them were “closed with no discipline,” which likely means they ended in coaching.

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In addition, the suit points out that former officer Tou Thao, one of three other officers charged with aiding and abetting in Floyd’s murder, was written up eight times in his first year on the force for dishonesty and/or taking shortcuts to avoid work.

Isabella Nascimento, a staff attorney for the ACLU said in a statement “coaching is supposed to serve as an early-warning system to spot problem officers, not make it harder to intervene before violations escalate to brutality and even murder.”

“These actions by the city and MPD further deepen a culture of secrecy and reinforce the mistrust of a public who find it increasingly difficult to believe police will be held responsible,” Nascimento said.

The Hill has reached out to the police department and the city for comment.