MPD supervisors face scrutiny in Chauvin’s newly released excessive force cases
Videos released this week are raising more questions about excessive force at the Minneapolis Police Department, particularly about the role of supervisors.
On Friday, the Minneapolis Police Federation, the union representing officers, pushed back against claims that supervisors did not do enough to stop Derek Chauvin when he put a knee on a teenager’s neck back in 2017.
Body camera footage of that incident and another excessive force case involving Chauvin became public Thursday after the City of Minneapolis approved a combined nearly $9 million settlement for the victims.
But the videos are not just about the actions of Derek Chauvin.
“The supervisors that were involved should have made sure that he was held accountable in 2017,” said Mayor Jacob Frey during a press conference Thursday afternoon.
In the case involving John Pope, who was 14 years old at the time, Chauvin struck the teen’s head with a flashlight twice, choked him, then put his knee on the back of his neck for nearly 15 minutes.
His supervisor, Sgt. Lucas Peterson, is seen on camera walking into the room while Chauvin is on the teenager, but does not intervene.
According to the civil rights lawsuit filed against the city, Pope’s attorney, Bob Bennett, said that Peterson reviewed and approved all of Chauvin’s force that night.
“Wouldn’t you expect the sergeant to walk in and say ‘Chauvin, what are you doing? Get off him!,’?” Bennett said in an interview with 5 INVESTIGATES. “There’s no good reason that that didn’t occur.”
On Friday, the Minneapolis Police Federation disputed the claim that Peterson approved Chauvin’s force.
In a statement, Union President Sherral Schmidt said “How the department chose to handle this incident… is no fault of Sgt. Peterson and it is disgraceful that they now want to cast blame” on him.
5 INVESTIGATES previously revealed that Peterson was one of numerous MPD officers who justified the force they used by either falsifying police reports, omitting key details, or failing to report it altogether.
In one case involving Peterson, the City of Minneapolis paid out $100,000 to settle a claim brought by Nancy Johnson, who was charged with Obstruction of Justice after Peterson claimed she jumped on his partner’s back.
Surveillance video revealed it never happened.
“My perception at the time of the incident led me to believe that I observed this Nancy Johnson grab my partner from behind,” Peterson said in a video recorded deposition obtained by 5 INVESTIGATES.
“When the video surfaced it showed that not to be the case,” he said.
Peterson received a written reprimand at the time because the department determined he “did not intentionally misrepresent the facts”.
The police federation also said Peterson was a highly respected officer and supervisor. He is no longer with the department.
Just last month, MPD agreed to put more responsibility on supervisors when reviewing use-of-force cases — that’s part of the settlement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
“Ultimately we will not be relying only on an individual supervisor or one or two supervisors to review levels of force,” said Chief Brian O’Hara during the news conference on Thursday. “That’s something that will be handled on a much more robust and serious level and ultimately be reviewed by command rank personnel in each incident.”