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Minneapolis police lieutenant disciplined over racist email appointed head of homicide unit

WCCO digital headlines: Afternoon of Nov. 9, 2023
WCCO digital headlines: Afternoon of Nov. 9, 2023 01:32

A Minneapolis police lieutenant who was placed on paid leave for more than a year for forwarding a racist email has been appointed to lead the department's homicide unit, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

The appointment of 25-year veteran Aimee Linson angered police reform advocates who questioned whether department leaders were serious about changing the culture in the city where George Floyd was murdered by former Officer Derek Chauvin in 2020.

"The city — and MPD specifically — is not in fact committed to the change that they claim to be embracing," said Kimberly Milliard, of the Racial Justice Network. "They've got consent decrees hanging over their heads and they're still doing the same stuff that created the need for the consent decrees in the first place."

Department leaders selected Linson to replace Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the department's longtime head of homicide who was a key witness in Chauvin's murder trial. Zimmerman was promoted Sunday to commander. In a newly created role, he will work as a community liaison and mentor younger investigators at crime scenes.

The personnel changes were announced in an internal email this week.

Linson was a sergeant in 2012 when she forwarded an email chain once to colleagues with the subject line, "Only in the Ghetto," investigators found. The Star Tribune reported that seven of the 16 pictures in the message negatively portrayed Black people.

The email wasn't uncovered until a Minnesota Department of Human Rights investigation in 2021. The investigation culminated with a 72-page report outlining a pattern and practice of discriminatory policing in Minneapolis. The report helped lead to a settlement agreement with the state to implement sweeping reforms. A separate consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice is not yet finalized.

Interim Chief Amelia Huffman suspended Linson in March 2022, as an investigation proceeded. She remained on paid leave until Chief Brian O'Hara resolved the case with a written reprimand in April. The discipline followed a unanimous ruling by a police conduct review panel, which found that the allegations against Linson had merit.

O'Hara's reprimand stated that Linson "failed to meet our standards when she sent an email that contained content that was offensive based on race and/or socioeconomic status. The violation in this matter undermines public trust."

Under questioning from Internal Affairs, Linson said she didn't remember sending the email.

O'Hara defended the decision by highlighting Linson's experience leading both the Crisis Negotiations and Shooting Response teams.

"Of the Lieutenants currently available to oversee Homicide, Lt. Aimee Linson is the most qualified," O'Hara said in a statement to the Star Tribune on Wednesday. "In addition to her ability to interact with individuals in the initial moments of grief after a homicide, she understands complex investigative processes and is well suited to provide leadership for those responsible for the crucial role of homicide investigations."

O'Hara said he found no evidence suggesting that Linson ever again engaged in similar behavior, and said she was remorseful for forwarding the racist email.

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