Minnesota Troopers Decided Being Sued For Excessive Force Was The Perfect Time To Delete Emails And Text Messages

from the mens-rea-me-this,-motherfuckers dept

How do you reform this?

Minnesota State Troopers engaged in a massive "purge" of emails and text messages shortly after the agency was accused of using excessive force during the protests and riots over the death of George Floyd last summer, according to court testimony filed late Friday.

That's according to KSTP reporting by Ryan Raiche, which appears to have broken the news about this defensive effort by the MSP. It's not just defensive. It's illegal. The records purge appears to have been triggered by lawsuits filed against the agency alleging excessive force during policing of the George Floyd protests.

This is some serious misconduct. This is the people entrusted with making sure the rest of us abide by laws abandoning their duty to be law-abiding themselves.

The purge of communication means troopers may have destroyed potential evidence that could be used against the agency in multiple pending lawsuits regarding its use of force on protestors and journalists following Floyd's murder.

When this is done in a civil case, it's sanctionable. When it's done in a criminal case, it's called obstruction. Well, it's called that when civilians do it. When cops do it, it's possibly excusable, especially if it doesn't run afoul of any precedent.

The Minnesota State Patrol certainly seems to believe this conveniently timed purge of communications that might be made public during litigation is acceptable. According to testimony by Minnesota State Patrol official Joseph Dwyer, the agency did nothing wrong. Everything that happened was just the following of procedure. Defending these actions in court, Major Dwyer said the purge was "standard practice."

But how standard? Major Dwyer had no (satisfactory) answer for this question.

[T]he supervisor acknowledged that practice typically varies from trooper to trooper and does not follow any sort of set schedule.

Sometimes, the MSP deletes email and other communications after a set period of time. Other times it deletes communications after being informed it's being sued. We don't know what the normal deletion schedule is, but we do know what this deletion was in response to, thanks (once again) to the Major's testimony.

Kevin Riach, the ACLU attorney, repeatedly questioned the supervisor about the deletion of emails and possible evidence.

"You just decided, shortly after the George Floyd protests, this would be a good time to clean out my inbox?" he asked.

"That is correct," Dwyer testified.

Looks pretty open-and-shut, your honor. Sanctions all around! One can only assume the deletion was an effort to keep incriminating communications from being used by litigants suing the agency. This isn't speculation. This is the only logical reason a law enforcement agency would start deleting stuff after being served with a lawsuit. And by "logical," I mean that it's an action that would eliminate inculpatory communications. I don't mean "logical" as in the equivalent to common sense.

If I'm the judge handling these cases, sanctions are just the beginning. Default judgments in favor of the plaintiffs would really drive the message home. This is heinous bullshit. Hopefully, the judges handling these cases will punish the Minnesota State Patrol just as enthusiastically as its officers punished peaceful protesters.

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Filed Under: deleting evidence, excessive force, george floyd, minnesota, minnesota state police, police, protests


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2021 @ 4:03am

    Everywhere I've worked over the past couple of decades, sure, I can delete stuff in my email folders, but the server and archive copies are kept (and deleted) according to a defined schedule. Individuals don't get to override the corporate retention policies.

    In addition, there are legal hold rules - and they come into play when the lawyers are aware of even the possibility that there may be action - they're not allowed to wait until the lawsuit lands on the desk, they have to take pre-emptive action to conserve the material.

    Simply no excuse here.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 17 Sep 2021 @ 4:14am

    'I have no idea how that incriminating data was wiped, honest.'

    If any judges involved are willing to give destruction of evidence this blatant a pass they might as well skip the whole farce of a trial and declare up-front that no case filed against a minnesota trooper or their department will result in a guilty verdict, no matter what.

    While their 'individual troopers can delete records whenever they want' system is questionable as hell and seems tailor made to bury incriminating evidence it might have provided at least some plausible deniability, however the department engaging in a records purge en-mass after being accused of employing excessive forces stretches that plausible deniability well past the breaking point, such that you'd have to engage in mental contortions far beyond even a sliver of rational to justify it or believe the excuse given that the timing was just a complete coincidence.

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

    • identicon
      David, 17 Sep 2021 @ 4:25am

      Re: 'I have no idea how that incriminating data was wiped, hones

      Of course the timing was not coincidence. It was a courtesy to the court so that they would not have to dig through mountains of evidence irrelevant to the case but could just focus on the exculpatory evidence. I mean, relevant evidence. Same thing.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 17 Sep 2021 @ 7:37am

      Re: 'I have no idea how that incriminating data was wiped, hones

      Such systems should undergo regular backups that are out of reach for anybody. Ie: nobody should be able to selectively purge any part of government data. Or all of it anyways. There are plenty of cold storage solutions to keep stuff available.
      There's no "accidental deletion" of massive swats of data. If the data was destroyed they should automatically be considered guilty upon accusation and the onus of proving the innocence should be theirs. Unfair? Think about it before tampering with evidence.
      The whole thing is absurd just as you said.

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

  • icon
    Upstream (profile), 17 Sep 2021 @ 5:22am

    SOP

    This is the people entrusted with making sure the rest of us abide by laws abandoning their duty to be law-abiding themselves.

    This is what a majority of elected, appointed, and hired "public servants" do as standard operating procedure (SOP). Exceptions to this rule are rare, indeed, and are usually purged, themselves (recent, high profile case-in-point: Justin Amash).

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2021 @ 5:27am

    Sadly.....

    Minnesota tax payers will ultimately pay for any sanctions.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2021 @ 6:26am

    You know those cops didn't sit down and go over thousands of emails one by one. Without a doubt they deleted many other important communications that will harm their ability to enforce the law in other cases.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2021 @ 6:28am

    1 year contempt of court for each email deleted.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2021 @ 7:35am

    if these various PDs were doing NO WRONG, there would be no need to delete anything in the first place! this deletion only shows the guilt they have and are shit scared of others finding out exactly what and how far the rot actually goes! what is also extremely concerning, in my opinion, is the extent the Unions go to protect the officers concerned. rather than ensuring that the guilty ones and not the innocent ones are brought under investigation, the whole lot are protected to the extreme. to me, that's NOT what a union should do!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2021 @ 7:57am

    Nah, the default judgement is clear, and it's called the 2nd Amendment is now in effect.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 17 Sep 2021 @ 12:48pm

      Re:

      Why is is that the 'kill em all' lot never have the honesty to at least be honest about their murderous suggestions, and always seem to think that if they just 'hint' it won't be glaringly obvious they just suggested murder?

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

      • icon
        Coyne Tibbets (profile), 17 Sep 2021 @ 11:15pm

        Re: Re:

        Honestly from the "kill em all" lot would look too much like incitement to murder.

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 18 Sep 2021 @ 1:33am

          They're already doing that is my point though, no-one's fooled when they swap out 'murder' with 'employ a second amendment solution' or whatever language is used by a particular trigger-happy poster so that that point they might as well at least be an honest psychopath.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2021 @ 3:51am

            Re:

            As that same AC, would it be more helpful if I state that 2A should be applied to cops, Republicans and their backers first, then Democrats if they become the Republicans??

            After all, it appears that all legal methods have been exhausted and will not work. At least while the Supreme Court Justices are overwhelmingly Republican.

            I am a very extreme misanthropist and I don't see any legal way to punish bad cops if they keep getting rewarded at best, light slaps on their wrists at worst. Hence the "incitements to murder".

            Having a few cases work as intended, procedurally and ethically, does not override the bigger number of reported cases where bad cops go scot-free.

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

            • icon
              Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Sep 2021 @ 6:26am

              Re: Re:

              "I am a very extreme misanthropist and I don't see any legal way to punish bad cops if they keep getting rewarded at best, light slaps on their wrists at worst. Hence the "incitements to murder"."

              Or you could opt for the european solution where people are generally happy to see the police and its pretty rare to read about police officers drawing guns let alone murdering people. Peelian principles have a lot going for them.

              The issue of course is that in the US every road out of misery will remain decisively blocked as long as the various freedoms provided keep including the right to be an asshole harming everyone else. That nation is, today, a demonstration of Karl Popper's paradox of tolerance - a nation where bigotry and selfish asshattery was tolerated for so long it became the default condition of much of the citizenry.

              When "Fuck You, Got Mine!" is the rallying cry of half the people in the country it's no wonder all levels of society as a whole ends up irreparably broken.

              Your solution can be summarized as "Screw it, we can't fix this as is and we can't bring ourselves to adopt the mindset we need to get to where we can fix it. Let's just take it to Beyond Thunderdome and be done with it!"

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2021 @ 7:43am

                Re: Re: Re:

                And in order to adopt the European solution, we still have the Confederates in power to deal with.

                Blood needs to be shed, because we're not only fighting against entrenched assholes, but also 2 million+ years of evolution as well.

                Best to swallow that bitter pill now. There's no escaping the sheer violence necessary for any solution to work. And if 73 million people have to be murdered, then so be it.

                The worst case scenarios are already in existence.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2021 @ 2:26pm

                Re: Re: Re:

                The issue of course is that in the US every road out of misery will remain decisively blocked as long as the various freedoms provided keep including the right to be an asshole harming everyone else. That nation is, today, a demonstration of Karl Popper's paradox of tolerance - a nation where bigotry and selfish asshattery was tolerated for so long it became the default condition of much of the citizenry.

                And you expect a way out that doesn't involve violence/murder, especially AFTER January 6 happened?

                You expect to overturn what could possibly be at least 2 centuries of ingrained societial behavior with laws, voting, protests and, in what you deem the worst-case scenario, tyhe judiciary ruling on these things?

                73 million have chosen to back the new wave of Confederates. And they aren't fucking listening to what any of us have to say.

                And ASSUMING the "right" way works, these fuckers are going to drag the entire country into the drain, screaming, kicking and most likely STABBING a few elected officials, while THEIR elected officials cheer them on from the back.

                And there's even worse on the horizon, seeing as authcap dictatorships and "de facto one party democracies" are more successful than the schizo mess that is the USA and Europe. And I live in one of those authcap shitholes.

                Very few people want to adopt the right mindset. Even less want to be vocal about the need to adopt these mindsets. And to even start talking is almost impossible, no thinks to the extreme polarization and the people that enable that onsense, regardless of nationality.

                So forgive me if I agree with Lenin on the "violent revolution" and calls for actual murder.

                This bitter pill has to be taken. It cannot be put off, since the Republicans already have their rotten thinktanks poisoning not just American society with their propaganda, but also other countries as well.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 21 Sep 2021 @ 4:25pm

      Re:

      the 2nd Amendment is now in effect.

      Did it get suspended? I would have thought I would hear about something like that.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2021 @ 8:40am

    Most likely scenario, the case will be dropped and those involved will be given a "sabbatical" then brought back a month or two later with no further questions asked and this topic will never be brought up again.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Sep 2021 @ 8:47am

    Someone want to check on the backup schedule the state is paying for?

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

    • icon
      Coyne Tibbets (profile), 17 Sep 2021 @ 11:23am

      Re:

      I'm betting that -- by complete and total random coincidence that only an insane, malicious and unreasonable skeptic would doubt -- the backups got deleted at the same time.

      Ain't it funny how life is like that?

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 17 Sep 2021 @ 12:54pm

        Re: Re:

        Alternatively and also by complete and totally random coincidence all the data that would have been backed up wasn't, thought the troopers were going to get to it any day now.

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

  • icon
    K`Tetch (profile), 17 Sep 2021 @ 12:17pm

    Ok, simple way to sort it then.

    Since we don't know what was deleted, then we're just going to have to take the worst case, and assume they may have deleted material relevant to every case they're working on in the time period covered by the deletions, and charge them accordingly.
    Luckily, MN law is VERY interesting, and LOTS of relevant sections of law.

    609.43 Misconduct of public officer of employee
    1 year and $3000 fine per instance. Gross Misdemeanor

    609.48 Perjury
    Penalty 7 years and a $14,000 fine for a felony case, 5 years and $10,000 otherwise. Felony charge

    609.486 COMMISSION OF CRIME WHILE WEARING OR POSSESSING BULLET-RESISTANT VEST.
    Fun one - we can assume they accessed official computers while on duty, in which case they were almost certainly wearing a vest.
    Penalty 5 years and a $10,000 fine. Felony charge

    609.498 TAMPERING WITH WITNESS
    By deleting evidence, they're attempting to dissuade witnesses, by removing the ability to defend themselves, and holding themselves outside the law, and unaccountable. Range of penalties here, first degree is 5 years and $10,000 fine. Felony charge regardless

    609.856 USE OF POLICE RADIOS DURING COMMISSION OF CRIME;
    As with the vest, they were probably kitted out, and the statute just requires possession of a police radio during a crime. In fact, it would also count cellphones used for official business at any time.
    Penalty 3 years and $5000 Felony charge

    609.88 COMPUTER DAMAGE.
    Data falls under the statute that it was intentioanlly destroyed, and since it almost certainly enables a loss of at least $2500 (bail may be more than that) then it's the top tier penalty, of 10 years and $50,000 fine. felony charge

    So, we add that up, and it''s something like 30 years, and $88,000 in fines max per case, for 5 felony charges and a Gross Misdemeanor
    Surely officers have no problems with charges being stacked, right, I mean it's ok to do to others, so they're fair game right.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2021 @ 3:54pm

    When it comes to criminal obstruction, one youtube video I saw once says that a parent can be prosecuted under Sabanes Oxley for flushing their childrens drugs down the toilet, which a lot of parents do. This was on one of those illegal things people do without realizing they are breaking the law.

    When good parenting, such as flushing your kids weed, or other druigs, down the toilet, becomes illegal, that shows why Sarbanes Oxley needs to either be repealed, or reigned in.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2021 @ 5:12pm

      Re:

      Actually, good parenting would consist of teaching your children about the devastation that the immoral war on drugs has wrought, and encouraging them to work toward changing the corrupt government that has been waging that war for the past 50+ years on the citizens whose rights it is supposed to protect.

      Yeah, and tell them that Sarbanes Oxley is unnecessary Federal meddling, while you are at it.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 21 Sep 2021 @ 4:30pm

      Re:

      When it comes to criminal obstruction, one youtube video I saw once says that a parent can be prosecuted under Sabanes Oxley for flushing their childrens drugs down the toilet, which a lot of parents do.

      Only if there could be a federal investigation in process or anticipated.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Sep 2021 @ 9:16pm

        Re: Re:

        With the current interstate commerce clause abuse, and the President's and Congress' belief that they can meddle in anything they want, a Federal investigation must always be anticipated.

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


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