MPD Scandals, Continued: A Primer

The Duy Ngo case: McManus bets the farm; Will Olson land on the hot seat?

Among the questions no one seems to be addressing at present is why the Ngo shooting investigation has never been brought to any public conclusion in a year's time.

 

Who is implicated in the BCA investigation?

Of the three cops suspended by McManus, only Gerold has spoken publicly about the case. In a written statement released Friday morning, she claimed McManus "said that he had been told that I ordered an internal memorandum destroyed. This is absolutely and unequivocally not true. I told the chief that it was not true when I met with him. The memorandum was written to me and given to the previous chief." (Her words also contained a hint of possible lawsuits to come: "I want my name cleared and my reputation restored, to the extent it can be[emphasis added], as quickly as possible.")

Gerold's claim that Olson knew about the memo, if true, changes the landscape considerably. If it can be proven that she shared the document with Olson, then the spotlight of the investigation might shift away from the three suspended officers to the former chief himself.

Veteran officers familiar with the administrative workings of the MPD termed it extremely unlikely that Olson could have been unaware of the memo, especially if news reports that he ordered the analysis himself are correct. And one pointed out that failure to treat the memo properly by any of the cops allegedly involved would be deemed "just as serious" a breach of procedure as ordering it suppressed.

Last Friday, at an impromptu Q&A session with reporters, McManus was asked, "Are there other suspects to come out of this?"

"Possible," he replied. "It depends on what the BCA kicks up."

Ngo's attorney, Bennett, told CP that in his view, Olson "is not out of the woods yet." Asked whether the former chief could still become a named party to the lawsuit, Bennett replied, "I typically don't sue people unless I have a specific reason. This may qualify."

But it should also be noted that whether Olson or the others wind up named in a civil suit is a separate question from whether any of them acted, or failed to act, in a manner that rises to the level of criminality. The latter is the only point that matters in the current BCA inquiry.

Contacted by phone last Saturday, Olson refused to discuss the case. "I don't know anything about the investigation," he said, "and it wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment on it."

Reached again on Monday, Olson allowed, "If it was a memo to me, I probably saw it." He declined to elaborate further, again citing the ongoing investigation.

Police union head John Delmonico told City Pages on Monday that he has been able to determine that "all four of them [the three suspended officers and Olson] had a meeting after the memo was written [last June], and maybe one before that, where the contents of the memo were discussed."

Delmonico added: "The Hennepin County attorney's office was contacted for the investigation, and they would have known of the memo. They would have to." Pete Cahill, a chief deputy attorney for Hennepin County, confirmed that the county attorney's office became aware of the memo and its contents last summer while investigating whether to pursue criminal charges against Charles Storlie for shooting Ngo. In the end, the office declined to pursue charges.

 

What if no wrongdoing is found?

Last Friday morning McManus met with a small, ad hoc assemblage of reporters from MPR, the Pioneer-Press, and the Associated Press. "Before we get started," he said, "I want to ask you guys something. I've been in this business, on the job, for a very long time. This is standard procedure. I've never seen a media flurry like this. The interest in this--what's the big deal?

"I guess this is a big city, or a bigger city," he went on. "A major city. I didn't expect this kind of media interest. It's way beyond the scope of what I'd seen in the past. It's routine in that any time there's an investigation, you put officers on leave. Any time you have an administrative issue...or an investigation has criminal overtones or allegations, this is routine procedure. The media attention puzzles me."

McManus may have been protesting too much, trying to take some of the charge out of the story, but the abrupt suspensions left some in and around the MPD and city government wondering if he fully understood what he'd bitten off.

"The way I see it," said one, "this can only end badly." If BCA investigators turn up what they deem evidence of criminal misconduct on the part of MPD personnel, then obviously it ends badly for the cops in question. On the other hand, if the BCA finds no criminality in the way the memo was handled, the popular line will be that McManus spent most or all of his political capital earning himself a very public black eye.

And this will be true even if McManus's suspensions were the procedurally correct thing to do, as he claims. McManus is not just any new police chief; he is the candidate Mayor R.T. Rybak selected from a pool that included two popular internal candidates who were women--and one of them has since been suspended in this probe. If McManus's concerns are not vindicated by the BCA investigation, those rank-and-file cops who were predisposed to be suspicious of the new chief because of his tussles with the Dayton police union will have fresh ammunition.

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