MPD ‘coached’ officers for serious violations, despite years of saying it did not

MPD ‘coached’ officers for serious violations, despite years of saying it did not

MPD 'coached' officers for serious violations, despite years of saying it did not

After years of insisting that “coaching” was only used for minor policy violations at the Minneapolis Police Department, court records now reveal that’s not true.

The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) sued the city three years ago, claiming that MPD is hiding discipline files under the guise of “coaching.” The city has long maintained that coaching is not discipline and, therefore, not public under state law.

But attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union and Ballard Spahr, which are representing MNCOGI, say the evidence and depositions gathered over the last three years show that coaching is a form of discipline and it is, in fact, used in more serious cases.

“If it looks like discipline and quacks like discipline — and if it’s for serious misconduct — then it’s discipline and it’s public,” said Leita Walker, partner at Ballard Spahr.

On Wednesday, MNCOGI filed a motion for partial summary judgment, asking a judge to put an end to most of the lawsuit and side with them by forcing MPD to hand over discipline files related to coaching.

As part of their argument, attorneys for the group suing point to a key May 2021 meeting of the Police Conduct Oversight Commission (PCOC).

Roughly a year after the murder of George Floyd, the commission was trying to get to the bottom of when MPD resolved officer violations with informal “coaching.”

Chair Abigail Cerra pressed then-Deputy Chief Amelia Huffman.

“Something like excessive force would not be eligible for coaching?” Cerra asked.

“Yes, that is correct,” Huffman responded. “In general, our policy is written to only refer things for coaching that are considered to be low-level coaching, and so use-of-force incidents themselves are not included in coaching referrals.”

But court records suggest otherwise.

According to a newly released deposition, the former deputy chief admits some serious cases are resolved with coaching, meaning they are never made public.

“It did not occur to me to talk about coaching that came out of the chief’s discipline process,” she said in the deposition.

According to the filing for summary judgment, MNCOGI and its attorneys said they found numerous examples of coaching, including for officers who violated use-of-force policies, failed to report improper force, mishandled firearms and committed other constitutional violations.

The city has not responded to requests for comment.