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Watchdogs Want Minneapolis Police to Document Their Stops

Black Lives Matter protesters rallied in Minneapolis last month.

Black Lives Matter protesters rallied in Minneapolis last month.

Whether you're a seventh-grader or mid-career professional, writing reports can be super lame. But some carry more weight than others.

A citizen advisory group is calling on the Minneapolis Police Department to require officers to document more information on suspicious person stops. The Police Conduct Oversight Commission's recommendation follows a study that found in 68 percent of investigatory detentions in 2014 almost no information was documented.

See also: Minneapolis Considers Getting Rid of Lurking and Spitting Laws

"We'd like to make sure that when someone is stopped" it's within the letter of the law, says Jennifer Singleton, the commission's co-chair.

The commission's recommendations include requiring officers to document the reason for the stop, a brief description of the outcome, as well as demographic information such as race and ethnicity for future analysis.

The study comes at a time when police departments across the country are dealing with allegations of racially bias. Minneapolis recently moved to repeal spitting and lurking ordinances critics say target minorities.

Lt. Bob Kroll, the Minneapolis police union's new president, is not surprised little info on investigatory stops was recorded. Current policy only requires officers to enter a fairly generic code indicating how these stops are resolved.

But Kroll believes piling on more paperwork will interfere with more important duties and deter officers from making investigatory stops.

"The more hurdles of paper work that you put in front of people, the less they're going to want to do," he says. "It's human nature."

Singleton downplayed the additional time. "What we're asking for is a couple more lines explaining why a person was stopped," she says.

Even when brief descriptions were recorded, the study found stops often lacked a justification and specific details.

Of the 385 suspicious person stops examined -- a small, random sample of more than 28,300 such stops made last year -- the majority resulted in a warning or a person being "voluntarily removed" from the area. Officers apparently weren't overly frisky, however, as only one led to a search.

Kroll says the reasons for such stops could range from jaywalking to someone matching the description of a suspect.

While the union boss admitted documenting more details could help improve trust between the cops and community, it would still be counter productive.

"The trendy thing to do right now is Monday morning quarterback everything the police do," Kroll says. "Between us and the NFL coaches, on Monday morning there's not many more people that think they can do [a] job better."

Send news tips to Mike Rietmulder.