Problems At Minn. Violent Crime Task Forces Detailed in Report
Violent crime task forces across Minnesota, misusing taxpayer money. That's the word from the state, as it wraps up two dozen financial audits conducted over the past year.
The Metro Gang Strike Force was shut down after widespread and egregious officer misconduct. The Violent Crime Coordinating Council was set up as a result, to give these task forces more oversight and supervision.
Its stated goal is to fight gang and drug crime in Minnesota. The council oversees 23 task forces across the state, composed of nearly 200 officers, at an annual cost to taxpayers of $4.2 million. The council is also currently asking for more funding.
The report, released last month, details bookkeeping issues found at several task forces. The common findings include failure to properly document seized cash, property, and evidence, improper use of drug buy funds for investigator expenses and petty cash, a payment to a confidential informant that didn't officially sign on as an informant until the following day, and several other instances of bad bookkeeping.
Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, chair of the House Public Safety Committee, said the findings are troubling, especially given the history behind them.
"I would have hoped that we would have learned our lesson several years ago after the scandal broke with the Metro Gang Strike Force. We tried to do what we could to make sure that we had safeguards in place to make sure that that doesn't happen again, but if there's problems, we have to correct it," Paymar said.
The outgoing chair of the council declined to comment, and referred us to the Department of Public Safety, which administers the council.
A DPS spokesman said that the audits, "revealed the need for improvements in order to ensure that each team functions with the highest level of integrity and professionalism."
He also said those task forces are already in the process of revamping their policies and procedures, and that state officials will be personally visiting each one once those overhauls have been completed. After that, there will be another round of audits, likely within the next year.
DPS said that violent crime task forces, "must meet all certification criteria in order to maintain grant funding."
The VCCC was set up in the wake of the scandal at the Metro Gang Strike Force. That unit was shut down after officers wrongly seized property and engaged in other misconduct. In September, a judge ruled that more than 100 victims of that force are entitled to nearly $1 million in damages.