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KARE 11 Investigates – MPD discipline up, but questions remain if that will continue

Disciplinary actions against Minneapolis police officers spiked in 2020, then went down the next year. City staff say that trend may continue

MINNEAPOLIS — New data released today by the City of Minneapolis shows a significant spike in disciplinary actions taken against officers in 2020, but the numbers also raise questions about whether that harder approach to problem cops will last.

The city disciplined 63 officers in 2020 – more than the previous five years combined.

“The most positive thing is that we have the process working I think as well as we can right now,” said interim MPD Chief Amelia Huffman. “In terms of trying to get those disciplinary decisions made in a timely fashion so the employee understands what they’re facing and can make changes to their behavior.”

Huffman said the city is releasing the data to show the public that the department is holding problem cops accountable.

Yet the data also show number of disciplined cops dipped back down to 15 in 2021 – on par with previous years. And only four officers have been disciplined so far in 2022, records show.

“I would expect that what we’re seeing is that we will get somewhere back to what we were seeing probably pre-2020,” said Andrew Hawkins, the city’s chief of staff for administration and policy.

Part of the reason for the dip: the records released by the city also show that 68 officers with open complaints against them left the department in the last two years – before disciplinary action was taken. 

“Certainly, the number of officers leaving was very significant and did include some officers who had either complaints that haven’t yet been reviewed, or had been assigned and were open,” Huffman said.

Huffman and other city leaders were also asked whether any current field training officers – FTO’s – have been disciplined.

A KARE 11 Investigation in February revealed that nearly 150 officers with histories of misconduct had served as FTOs.

Neither Huffman nor Troy Schoenberger, the deputy chief of the professional standards bureau, directly answered whether disciplined cops are now serving as trainers.

“We certainly have taken a look to make sure that no current FTO has discipline that’s recent or of a concerning nature,” Schoenberger said.

Actions may be pending

Another issue clouding the data – cases take on average two years before discipline is handed down – and sometimes even longer.

Some high-profile cases from the civil unrest in 2020 following George Floyd’s murder still haven’t been resolved, including MPD officers’ beating of Jaleel Stallings.

Officers driving an unmarked van during the protests and riots fired shots at Stallings.

Stallings, not knowing he was being shot at by cops, returned fire, then immediately surrendered when he realized who had been shooting. Video showed officers beating Stallings.

A jury acquitted Stallings of second-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault charges after he claimed self-defense.

RELATED: Advocates want officers charged in Stallings case

Stallings filed a lawsuit alleging the officers violated his civil rights. None of the officers named in his suit have been disciplined, records show.

During a conference call on Tuesday to discuss the data, Huffman indicated that disciplinary actions against officers accused of misconduct during the protests may still be pending.

“I think reducing the timelines for our disciplinary investigations is a high priority,” Huffman said.

City dealt legal blow on ‘coaching’ records

The MPD’s release of the new discipline data comes after a Hennepin District Court judge issued a blow against the city in its attempts to keep secret actions taken against problem cops.

For years, the city has used a process called “coaching” to handle officers accused of misconduct. But because the city does not consider coaching to be discipline, it says those records are not public.

The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information sued the city to get those records. The city asked a judge to dismiss the suit, but on Friday a judge allowed the case to continue.

Huffman declined to say whether the department would now share those records, but said that coaching is used for officers with minor infractions, such as uniform or seatbelt violations.

RELATED: Minneapolis argues to dismiss lawsuit on MPD 'coaching' data

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