Using The George Floyd Protests As An Excuse, Minneapolis Police Destroyed Evidence And Case Files

from the protests-are-now-free-passes-for-record-destruction-I-guess dept

Immediately following the murder of George Floyd by former-officer and current-convict Derek Chauvin, Minneapolis burned. Literally. Unchecked violence by cops provoked violence by some city residents, who looted businesses and, most provocatively, set the Minneapolis PD's Third Precinct building on fire.

While this happened, another precinct -- located nearly five miles away from the most intense protests -- decided now was the time to pursue some opacity.

As an unruly crowd besieged Minneapolis' Third Precinct headquarters last summer, officers on the other side of the city destroyed a cache of documents, including inactive case files, search warrants and records of confidential informants.

In a private police report, Minneapolis officer Logan Johansson disclosed that he and other investigators in the Second Precinct to the northeast decided to destroy the documents shortly after May 28 "in direct response to the abandonment of the Third Police Precinct in Minneapolis by city leadership."

If the Second Precinct fell, this sensitive information could wind up in the wrong hands, Johansson wrote. "The data contained in these files could put the lives of CIs or various other cooperating defendants at risk."

You know, files are portable. I mean, it's not as easy as feeding them to a shredder or burning them, but files can be moved because, at worst, they're on paper. At best, they're digital, meaning they can be moved almost anywhere without anyone having to lift more than a finger.

Ignoring this reality, the Second Precinct decided to use unrest in the city as an excuse to destroy a whole bunch of records that might have eventually "fallen into the wrong hands" as the result of, say, public records requests or court orders demanding the relinquishment of exculpatory evidence.

And the cops might have gotten away with it (at least for a bit longer) if it wasn't for those meddling… um… arrestees. Apparently, county courtrooms are also considered to be part of the "wrong hands" group.

Public defender Elizabeth Karp says the officers acted without oversight and against policy when they destroyed critical evidence in the charges against her client, 36-year-old Walter Power. Power is charged with a felony for allegedly selling drugs. Police collected evidence against him based on search warrants that were destroyed by the officers and through cellphone data that has since been lost, according to Karp's motions that ask the judge to throw out the case.

Hey, if you don't want someone to avoid doing the time, maybe don't do the crime. This has resulted in Power's lawyer asking the court to issue an order it shouldn't really have to issue: one that requires the Minneapolis PD to stop destroying evidence. It seems like an entity involved in law enforcement would want to keep as much evidence preserved at all times, since that's the pretty much the only thing it can use to get dangerous criminals off the street.

Or maybe the destruction of evidence just happened to be an unfortunate side effect of (possibly) destroying other, less-useful records.

Only about 1.5% of complaints filed against Minneapolis police have resulted in suspensions, terminations or demotions between 2013 and 2019, according to a CNN analysis of data from the city's Office of Police Conduct Review, which investigates complaints. That office, which is separate from the police department but works with officers to resolve complaints, received about 2,013 complaints against police within its jurisdiction in that time.

If complaints that garnered letters of reprimand are included, that rate of discipline rises to about 2.6%.

That's a whole lot of misconduct that appears to have been given a minimal amount of attention by the MPD's internal oversight. It would be kind of terrible if these underlying documents made their way into the public domain, so why not toss these records into the bonfire that theoretically might have been the end result of protests if the demonstrators made their way five miles northeast and duplicated their Third Precinct efforts.

Not to worry, Minneapolis residents. The Second Precinct is hard at work clearing itself of any wrongdoing!

Asked for comment Wednesday, Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder said the department is investigating. "We are conducting an internal investigation to understand what happened at the Second Precinct, how the decisions were made and whether there were broader issues with documents, records or files stored in our facilities during the riots," said Elder.

Doesn't seem like there's much to understand. Some cops saw one precinct building on fire and decided the best way to preserve records was to destroy them. The statement continues:

"Any disciplinary decisions would be made through the normal process after an investigation."

LOL OK. [Taps CNN report quoted above.] The "normal process" appears to be 2.6% wrist slap and 97.4% "officers did nothing wrong." Perhaps this time it will be different because this time there are more eyes watching the Minneapolis PD than ever before. But an internal investigation can be allowed to consume as many news cycles as needed to sweep it under the press-release-late-Friday-afternoon rug.

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Filed Under: case files, destruction of evidence, evidence, george floyd, minneapolis, minneapolis police


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  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 19 Jul 2021 @ 2:14pm

    A simple rule for the future:

    No police department should ever be allowed to investigate itself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 19 Jul 2021 @ 2:18pm

    Nary a 'good apple' to be found...

    Yeah, police seeing what can happen when there's evidence available to the public of how corrupt and/or murderous cops are deciding that the proper response is to destroy that evidence to keep it out of the public's hands is exactly what I'd expect from US police these days.

    Faced with open corruption and a public that's increasingly no longer willing to trust that police are honest and will police themselves they've made their choice, and at least in that area the choice has been to double-down and confirm all the public's fears of just how much rot has filled the local departments and how openly they are willing to flaunt it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    bhull242 (profile), 19 Jul 2021 @ 2:21pm

    Minor point of correction

    Your math on the rate of wrist-slaps is flawed, unless you consider even termination a “wrist-slap”. The 2.6% figure includes the 1.5% of complaints that resulted in suspension, termination, or demotion. So, depending on what you define as a wrist-slap and how the 1.5% divides among suspension, termination, and demotion, the actual number of wrist-slaps would be somewhere between 1.1% and 2.6%.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2021 @ 2:21pm

    You know, files are portable. I mean, it's not as easy as feeding them to a shredder or burning them,

    It is much easier and quicker to throw the files into a van and move them somewhere safe, and that way you do not have to sort through them to find the ones you want to keep.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 19 Jul 2021 @ 2:25pm

    Or as applied in the past tense...

    No police department should ever have been allowed to investigate itself.

    The idea that police departments(or any other agency) could or should be trusted to investigate internal wrongdoing is beyond absurd and should have been laughed out of the room the first time it was ever brought up due to the overwhelming conflict of interest baked in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2021 @ 2:41pm

    I thought (willful) destruction of evidence was an actual crime. Especially for on going cases (as appeared to be the case here). If it only applies to non-police, then it just another "gotcha!" farce.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Jul 2021 @ 2:50pm

    Something something another day more Brady violations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2021 @ 3:42pm

    Re: Or as applied in the past tense...

    We have investigated ourselves and found that everything's on the up and up!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 19 Jul 2021 @ 3:52pm

    As Justinian has rightly said,

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2021 @ 6:20pm

    Re: Minor point of correction

    Realistically, a terminated cop doesn't usually have it bad. Plenty of transferred or re-hired cops simply get shuttled to another department or location and have little incentive to stop being an asshole. Or they become a mouthpiece for the status quo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2021 @ 8:08pm

    Re: A simple rule for the future:

    They probably shouldn't be allowed to keep their own records. They should have to sign them out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2021 @ 8:14pm

    Re:

    You know, except when you don't. So many times records have been moved... to insecure and possibly later abandoned facilities, except when they were abandoned along with a police department building.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    anon, 19 Jul 2021 @ 9:16pm

    that's one dumb defense attorney

    Why in hell would a defense attorney request that police evidence be protected from deletion? Surely the police evidence shows that her client is guilty and should face the death penalty. With the chain of evidence broken, all she has to do is make a motion of discovery for said chain of evidence, and shazam, her client is now innocent because there's no evidence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2021 @ 10:38pm

    Re: Minor point of correction

    Well the thing is, what was the offense to garner such a punishment? Grand theft? Murder? Beating up a spouse? Thinking of the children?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 19 Jul 2021 @ 11:01pm

    Re: As Justinian has rightly said,

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    As Napoleon III famously answered, ``worse bandits''.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 19 Jul 2021 @ 11:08pm

    Re: that's one dumb defense attorney

    Why in hell would a defense attorney request that police evidence be protected from deletion?

    Probably to set up a spoliation argument. Sounds like a smart atty to me, though of course I am not licensed in Minnesota.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    PaulT (profile), 19 Jul 2021 @ 11:21pm

    Re: Minor point of correction

    "Your math on the rate of wrist-slaps is flawed, unless you consider even termination a “wrist-slap”"

    Depends on what the issue was. If it was something that would have resulted in jail time for people who aren't cops, as often seems to be the case, then termination is indeed a wrist slap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    DeathOfRats (profile), 20 Jul 2021 @ 12:59am

    As Sam Vimes once said (paraphrased) ...

    -- "Me."
    -- "And who watches you?"
    -- "Also, me."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Jul 2021 @ 1:12am

    Re: As Justinian has rightly said,

    "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"

    Everyone quotes Juvenal out of the shady context in which it was posed...but the bit about what to do when the guard isn't trustworthy is still very much valid in any other context as well.

    (The quote is originally from an argument on how to ensure that an older man can ensure his young wife doesn't sleep around, and posits any young strapping guard will be the first corrupted by her amorous intention). - bit of trivia.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Jul 2021 @ 1:15am

    Re: Minor point of correction

    "...unless you consider even termination a “wrist-slap”."

    In most cases to come up where such a "wrist slap" was administered someone who wasn't an officer of the law would have been doing 5 to 20 instead.

    And the termination is more like an encouragement to move since not few of the officers going down for hard crimes have been fired multiple times and been instantly hired to precincts where a reputation as a hardcase is considered meritorious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Jul 2021 @ 1:16am

    Re:

    "I thought (willful) destruction of evidence was an actual crime."

    It is. That's why they're describing it as "curation" instead.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    SGOR, 20 Jul 2021 @ 1:32am

    Minneapolis Second Precinct is the fortress of all of the post WW2 Nazi's in that area, and there are so many "cop bars" there on that stretch of Hennepin Ave that you can't piss in an alley without a Nazi biting your dick.

    Its likely that precinct's miscreants that organized and connected the fire starters and other rioters in the Third precinct, as most of them come from the outlying northern area's of Elk River, Princeton, and other hotbeds of neoNazi/altRight activity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2021 @ 5:51am

    Re: Minor point of correction

    getting FIRED instead of receiving a felony charge is a "WRIST SLAP!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    ECA (profile), 20 Jul 2021 @ 11:17am

    Even the TECH in the 1980's

    was able to speed read and record to TXT most Paper data. About 10 pages per second.
    Where in hell are the digital copies?
    Or is this a Better way to cover things up, Easily.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 20 Jul 2021 @ 3:31pm

    Destroyed evidence is incriminating evidence.

    For those aligned with BLM and defunding law enforcement this is an incriminating act. By acting to tamper with evidence, it means we can assume the worst that the Minneapolis Police Department is acting with malice against the citizens of Minneapolis, possibly aligned with the goals of the transnational white power movement that governs the police unions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 21 Jul 2021 @ 3:02am

    Re: Re: Minor point of correction

    Aw, but think of the poor officer actually having to move to another precinct or worse, a different city, just to get the same job in another crowd of policemen.

    The brown man or poor white guy who isn't a police officer gets food and lodging arranged for years for the same offense, at state expense.

    /s in case it wasn't blindingly obvious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 21 Jul 2021 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Re: As Justinian has rightly said,

    You're right, it was Juvenal. I always get Juvenal and Justinian mixed up…

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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