Review highlights need for improvements in how state investigates complaints against DPS employees

An independent review is recommending reforms in how the Minnesota Department of Public Safety investigates complaints and incidents involving its employees.

Cliff Greene, a retired Minnesota lawyer and founder of Greene Espel, and James Welna, the former Metropolitan Airports Commission police chief and deputy federal security director in Minnesota, were tasked with reviewing DPS’ Internal Affairs/Affirmative Action division as part of the settlement of a federal lawsuit brought by a group of journalists who accused law enforcement of excessive force and illegal actions during the civil unrest that followed the killings of George Floyd and Daunte Wright.

Their report became public on Friday and outlines areas of improvement for DPS when looking into allegations against its employees.

One of the recommendations the two had is for DPS to make it easier for people to access up-to-date information after filing a complaint. They should also be told how long the investigation into their complaint will likely take and what information to expect and not expect when it’s finished.

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Additionally, the report recommends a written plan for each complaint investigation, complete with a timetable for its completion. The investigations can be expanded as needed but the authors note that in several cases, DPS supervisors may have “failed to appreciate the media exemption when ordering the arrests or continued detention of journalists” after Floyd’s death, yet the investigations didn’t rise up the chain of command.

Another recommendation is for DPS to provide more resources to complete internal investigations in a timely manner. The authors wrote that DPS took between six and 30 months to finish nine investigations into 10 complaints during the civil unrest.

Finally, the report highlights a need for better transparency with complainants, noting the current letter they are sent after investigations are completed doesn’t even say if the complaint was sustained or not and, if so, what it stemmed from.

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“We believe that even if the results cannot be shared with complainants, there is substantial relevant information that nevertheless might be shared with complainants,” the report says.

Greene and Welna did note that the state agencies have already been working to improve some of the areas they highlighted and “strongly support” expedited investigations.

“The Minnesota Department of Public Safety takes the findings in the report regarding the agency’s internal affairs process seriously,” DPS Commissioner Bob Jacobson said in a statement. We strive for the highest level of accountability for our employees and processes that help guide investigations of alleged misconduct. We continuously work to improve our processes, which was the overall goal of this independent review and subsequent report.”

“DPS continues to explore recommendations in the report that will work to evolve the agency’s commitment toward fair and thorough investigations completed in a timely manner,” he added.

The Internal Affairs/Affirmative Action division is an independent, civilian-led division that reports directly to the DPS commissioner’s office.

Their full report is available below or by clicking here.