In a new court filing, the state’s Department of Public Security disputes claims that the Minnesota State Troopers deleted critical records to intentionally obscure the behavior of law enforcement’s response to last summer’s riots.
The state agency also plans to ask a judge to issue a protective order preventing lawyers from the Minnesota branch of the American Civil Liberties Union from making press statements about their lawsuit, according to which soldiers targeted and assaulted. journalists during the riots in violation of the constitution.
The brief comes in response to allegations made by the ACLU earlier this month. In court documents and in a press release, ACLU attorneys cited testimony from state patrol Maj. Joseph Dwyer as proof of the destruction of emails and text messages. In a transcript, Dwyer said he and probably a “large majority of the agency” deleted the records after the riots.
State attorneys now claim Dwyer was just speculating on the other officers in his testimony. They acknowledge that Dwyer permanently deleted the text messages, but the lawyers say the soldiers only “gently deleted” the emails, which means they still exist. Knowing that the ACLU’s lawsuit had been filed, the state filed a “litigation” on the records starting June 8 to ensure the retention of “emails and calendar entries for all 596 soldiers from May 11, 2020. to date “, according to the opposition memorial filed on Wednesday. The state also withheld “various text messages” from other soldiers relating to the riots, the court document said.
The ACLU lawsuit, filed on June 3, 2020, argues that the Minneapolis Police Department and state patrol used unnecessary and excessive force to suppress First Amendment rights to cover up last summer’s riots. It is one of several lawsuits filed against law enforcement for alleged constitutional violations in the use of force last summer.
In a preliminary hearing on July 28, Dwyer said it was “standard practice” to drop releases after an important event.
“Did you just decide, shortly after George Floyd’s protests, that this would be a good time to clean up my inbox?” asked ACLU attorney Kevin Riach.
Dwyer replied in the affirmative.
He said it is up to each individual to decide when to delete these records, and it is a “best practice” to delete after an important event.
“Do you have to keep e-mail correspondence for any length of time?” Riach asked.
“We’re not,” Dwyer said.
Earlier this month, the ACLU said this purge “makes it nearly impossible to monitor the behavior of the state patrol, apparently by design.”
“The purge was neither accidental, nor automated, nor routine,” ACLU lawyers said, in a court motion asking a judge to order the State Patrol to cease attacks on the following reporters. the protests. “The deletion did not occur due to a file destruction or retention policy. No one reviewed the deleted communications before they were deleted to determine if the materials were relevant to this litigation.”
Lawyers for the Department of Public Security say the ACLU is “relying heavily on incendiary and unsupported allegations” to create a case of “bogus false” biased evidence. According to the court document, the state patrol retained a “huge” amount of digital and paper documents relating to its response to the riot, including arrests, dispatches and radio broadcasts, and the use of force.
“Despite not being aware of this information or investigating it, the plaintiffs have presented their misleading allegations and repeated them in the media,” the statement said.
A Department of Public Security spokesman declined to comment beyond the court documents, including Dwyer’s belief that many soldiers deleted the text messages, citing the ongoing litigation. An ACLU spokesperson said their team of lawyers plan to file a response to these allegations next week.
Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036
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