MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - The Minneapolis City Attorney's office says it has yet to be able to confirm some of the most cutting allegations found in a recent Minnesota Department of Human Rights investigation, which said the city's police used social media to spy on Black leaders and organizations.
In an email sent to Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minneapolis City Council, Deputy City Attorney Erik Nilsson said his team "did not find any material proving that MPD systematically targeted covert social media to target Black leaders, Black organizations, and elected officials without a public safety objective."
Until his team can verify the information outlined in the report and review 15,000 pages of material, Nilsson says they "cannot go forward," and a meeting slated for next week between the two parties has been canceled.
The data was originally presented in a scathing 72-page MDHR report last month, which found that the city and its police force had engaged in race-based discrimination over the last decade.
The probe, launched in the aftermath of George Floyd's death, outlined racial disparities in the way MPD officers used force against Black and white individuals, and highlighted ways officers used racist and misogynistic language.
A portion of the report was dedicated to officers' use of social media to spy on the city's Black leaders. Specifically, officers engaged online with the NAACP, Urban League, a Minneapolis City Council member and state elected official, the report states. In these incidents, officers "posed as like-minded individuals" and used language to "further racial stereotypes associated with Black people, especially Black women."
In the aftermath of the investigation, MDHR said they would work with the city to develop a consent decree - a list of court-enforceable changes to be made to the city and MPD, along with timelines for those to occur. MDHR Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said it was an "unprecedented" step, but would allow for the "structure that is necessary because it provides clear guidelines and accountability."
But talks with the city have now halted until the MDHR can point the the attorney's office to specific instances in the 15,000 pages of documents that detail officers' inappropriate social media use.
"Our team was shocked by the allegations in the report regarding covert social media, and if in fact this occurred it needs to be addressed immediately. To adequately advise you (our clients) and fulfill our professional obligations as your legal counsel, we must have accurate and complete information about this issue," Nilsson writes in his email.
He goes on to say that the city has asked MDHR for the documents, a "reasonable request" for one party's attorneys to make of the others'. "The MDHR has repeatedly refused to share this vital information," he said.
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights said in a statement to WCCO-TV that MPD's use of covert social media is "one of multiple significant findings" in the investigation, and meetings with the attorney's office should not be stopped.
"Any dispute of that one finding is not a reason to halt discussions," the department said. "As we approach the second year anniversary since an MPD police officer murdered George Floyd, the City must take this opportunity to address unlawful discriminatory policing and strengthen public safety."
The Minneapolis Delegation in the House of Representatives said they expect the city and MDHR to continue their efforts to address the reforms within MPD.
"A consent decree should be the goal for city officials, but choosing to halt or delay this process will only prove to damage the trust that desperately needs to be rebuilt within our neighbors and the Minneapolis Police Department," the delegation said in a statement.
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