Judge approves settlement over State Patrol arrests of journalists

A federal judge has approved a settlement regarding the Minnesota State Patrol’s and Department of Public Safety’s conduct toward journalists during protests.

U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright on Tuesday approved an $825,000 settlement for journalists who were attacked and injured or arrested by troopers while covering protests following the murders of George Floyd and Daunte Wright.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU-MN) says the settlement also means troopers can’t:

  • Arrest, threaten to arrest or use physical force or chemical agents against journalists.
  • Order journalists to stop photographing, recording or observing protests.
  • Make journalists disperse.
  • Seize or intentionally damage journalists’ equipment.

Additionally, the settlement requires:

  • Independent expert review of all allegations of mistreatment of the media during the Floyd and Wright protests.
  • Body-worn cameras to be issued to all troopers by June.
  • A change in State Patrol policy to make allegations of press First Amendment violations “serious misconduct,” which triggers an Internal Affairs review and requires reports to a supervisor and the POST Board.
  • Officers who respond to protests to prominently display their agency name and badge number so that it is readable from 20 feet away.
  • Trooper training on treatment of media and First Amendment rights.

A lawsuit alleging violations of journalists’ rights by law enforcement still stands against the city of Minneapolis, former Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, former MPD union head Robert Kroll and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.

“The ability of journalists to cover civil unrest in our communities must be protected and encouraged,” DPS Commissioner John Harrington said in a statement. “The hallmarks of this agreement are transparency, accountability and excellence in policing. Our agency is committed to those principles as we work with members of the media to implement the terms of this agreement.”

“The unprecedented civil unrest and riots of the last two years were difficult for all involved, including media and law enforcement,” Col. Matt Langer, chief of the State Patrol, said in a statement. “We learn from incidents like these and look for ways to make us better. That’s why we have already implemented several improvements, including the use of an ombudsman for media, a public information officer in the field, and the deployment of body-worn cameras.”