Golden Valley police officer fired after reports of data breaches, racially biased conduct

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Multiple reports released by Golden Valley show complaints were made against eight police officers for violating public data practices, and one of those officers was fired after she also made racially biased and insensitive statements.

Former officer Kristin Hoefling was terminated from her position in the department after the investigation found that she violated the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, according to the report released by Golden Valley. The investigation summary states that she had also made racially biased and insensitive statements, some of which were made during an anti-racism meeting.

The report states that Hoefling was making unauthorized use of unauthorized recordings of multiple non-public staff meetings attended by Golden Valley police officers, staff members and leadership. This included collection, dissemination and use of private personal data regarding a candidate or an open position with the city.

Hoefling’s last day of employment in Golden Valley was on Aug. 2.

“The racist and offensive comments and behaviors described in the report are not aligned with the City’s values of social equity, inclusion, and justice, and our work in this area must continue,” a Golden Valley representative shared with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, adding: “The investigation also revealed significant data breaches, which the City addressed and has taken steps to prevent the likelihood of this type of behavior reoccurring in the future.”

The investigation focused on eight officers, but only the findings surrounding Hoefling were made public. One of the eight officers remains employed with the GVPD.

According to the city, twelve officers have left the department since March. The city representative added there are currently 19 sworn officers, with a budget for 31.

The spokesperson also shared the following regarding steps the city has taken to address the report’s findings:

Beyond the disciplinary measures outlined in the news release, the City has engaged in the following:

  • In July 2022 the City amended its Respectful Workplace Policy to address workplace behaviors that create disproportionately adverse work conditions for employees of protected classes.
  • The City followed up with mandatory respectful workplace training for all employees.
  • All police officers and some administrative staff have attended data practices and social media training. This training will be provided to all City staff in the first quarter of 2023.
  • All City employees outside of the police department have attended the foundations seminar provided by Racially Conscious Collaboration (RCC). All supervisory staff (including police command staff) are attending a five-session leadership training through RCC, to practice having healthy cross-racial dialogue about racism.
  • All police department employees will participate in RCC or similar training in early 2023.
  • The City will continue its work with its Police Employment, Accountability, & Community Engagement (PEACE) Commission, its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commission, and its focus on the Reimagining Public Safety Programs: Reducing Harm Through Collaborative Solutions grant to transform the police department.

Officials said because some of the “communication uncovered during the investigation, the City will host listening and healing circles” — those were held Friday.

One Golden Valley resident who joined the healing circle was Ruth Paradise.

“I’ve know that there’s a lot of discussion, and a lot of bad feelings going on, and feel that it’s important for everybody to be there and come together,” Paradise said.

“I think it’s important for people of all sides of issues to get together and build community together, understand where others are coming and come to a consensus about how we want to move forward,” she added.

Golden Valley Police Chief Virgil Green said the following in a statement on the city’s website:

“We believe all forms of discrimination negatively impact everyone, especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. We will continue to pursue meaningful changes to transform our police department so that all our community members are seen, safe, and respected.”

Another statement was attributed to City Manager Tim Cruikshank:

“The independent investigation was necessary to bring clarity to the allegations of misconduct, hold employees accountable, and have a better understanding of the systemic issues that harms the community trust in policing.”

The investigation began in March 2022 and was conducted by the Greene Espel Law Firm.

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5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris, all members of the Golden Valley City Council and Police Chief Virgil Green for comment. Those who responded declined an interview.

The president of Law Enforcement Labor Services, the union representing Golden Valley police officers, did not respond to a request for comment either.

Golden Valley officials said that data practice training will be implemented for all city employees. Other training will focus on diversity, equity and inclusion that will include the recently formed Police Employment Accountability and Community Engagement Commission.

In statements on the city’s website, City Manager Tim Cruikshank said the investigation was needed to “better understand” the “systemic issues that harm the community trust in policing.”

Chief Green stated his department will “continue to pursue meaningful changes.”

Friday evening, about 15 people attended a healing circle organized by the city in response to the developments.

“Of course the city needs to take action, and so do the city’s citizens,” said Colleen Maiers, a Golden Valley resident who was at the meeting.

“I really wish them healing and I wish them well. But change is hard,” said Mina Price, another attendee from Golden Valley. “I’m glad that there’s an investigation to show justification why the police officer was let go. I think it’s a good calling card for other people that might be feeling that way.”

“This is everybody’s responsibility, we’re all part of the community,” said Maiers. “It’s our responsibility to step up and voice what we want our community to be like, and hold everybody accountable. Our neighbors, each other, the police when we have encounters with them. We’re all in it.”

*Editor’s Note: The reports released by Golden Valley spell the former officer’s name as Kristen Hoefling. Public records reviewed by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS spell her name as Kristin Hoefling, which is the spelling we chose to use.