Have something you're obligated to release, but don't really want people to notice?
Wait until everyone's stopped paying attention and shifted into weekend mode. It's even more effective if the weather's nice.
Of course, no one ever admits to this strategic timing, and it's possible that disciplinary records for the Minneapolis Police Department simply weren't ready for public release until about 6:00 p.m. last Friday. We're just saying: If you wanted to be both transparent and still hope people don't notice the potentially damaging information, that's when you'd take it public.
The Minneapolis force published two documents Friday, both summary reports of complaints, investigations, and disciplinary findings against officers across the city through the first quarter of 2016. One report covered the work of the Office of Police Conduct Review (OCPR), an official city body that teams up civilians and cops to look into civilian complaints against cops.
There were 82 complaints filed with the OCPR from January 1 through March 31. Close to 60 percent of those were dismissed or dropped due to a lack of jurisdiction, often because the complainant failed to keep in touch with investigators. Another 21 incidents were investigated, while eight low-level cases resulted in an officer's being sent to "coaching," to alter and improve their conduct.
During the first quarter of the year, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau handed down discipline in seven cases. Three officers received a written reprimand. Three were suspended: one for 60 hours for an allegation of "discrimination"; one for 40 hours for excessive force; and one received a 30-hour suspension for "inappropriate language" and not following police procedure.
The seventh officer disciplined was fired outright, for what's described as a "sustained D-level violation," referring to the highest level of misconduct.
Of the 82 complaints filed during the quarter, 17 were filed against officers in the Fourth Precinct, the north Minneapolis branch where, for several weeks last year, Black Lives Matter and supporters staged protests over the police killing of Jamar Clark.
That gives the Fourth Precinct the most complaints filed among the five city precincts, followed by the Third Precinct (16 complaints) in south Minneapolis, and the Second Precinct (13 complaints), which covers the University of Minnesota campus through northeast.
On the other report published Friday evening, the north-side cops of the Fourth Precinct stand alone, statistically.
Cases investigated by the police department's internal affairs unit during the first three months of 2016 resulted in 18 disciplinary actions: A dozen letters of reprimand were issued, and six officers were suspended. Of those 18 punishments, half were doled out to officers in the Fourth Precinct.
Five northside officers received letters of reprimand, and four were suspended during the quarter. In the First Precinct (which polices downtown Minneapolis), four officers received written reprimands, and one was suspended; one officer in the Fifth Precinct received a letter. The Second and Third Precincts had no disciplinary actions of any kind during this time.
The investigation process takes time, and officers are given plenty of recourse to challenge allegations against them or appeal findings. This means it's likely the majority of these letters and suspensions actually stem from cases that originated last year.
The quarterly breakdown of stats is a new feature for the Minneapolis Police Department, which had previously issued annual reports. In a statement accompanying the release, the department said it had heard the request from community members to "increase transparency surrounding the complaint process." These reports are a first step.
Then again, real transparency would entail releasing the names of the officers, and the specific offenses they committed to get suspended or, in the one case, fired. For those details, you'll have to ask. We did, and will keep you posted when we learn why these officers faced punishment in the first place.