In a major policy shift, St. Paul, Minnesota police officials will hand over all future probes of officer-involved shootings to independent investigators in an effort to restore public trust in the uniform and meet federal recommendations, according to the Star Tribune.
Officials on Monday announced that beginning this month, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) or the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office will investigate when victims are seriously hurt or killed during an encounter with St. Paul Police, writes the news outlet.
Police in neighboring Minneapolis announced similar changes that follow recommendations from President Barack Obama‘s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which calls for independent investigations into police shootings.
“Our priorities are to safeguard the integrity of the investigation, protect the rights of everyone involved and ensure that the public trusts its police department,” St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith said in a statement.
In Minneapolis, Police Chief Janeé Harteau said Monday she has asked the BCA to investigate all fatal officer-involved shootings since 2013. There’s only been one since then — the high-profile November shooting of Jamar Clark in north Minneapolis. An initial attempt by Harteau to adopt the new policy stalled after resistance from her police union and Gov. Mark Dayton. However, it still became standard operating procedure. Referral on nonfatal shootings is decided on a case-by-case basis, police spokesman Scott Seroka said.
The departments historically have conducted those investigations in-house, choosing to outsource some incidents on a case-by-case basis. But a wave of national and local criticism about police use of force has forced departments here and across the country to rethink how they function.
The announcement comes after St. Paul Police Sgt. Jeffrey Rothecker was placed on paid administrative leave after he wrote “Run them over” on social media before a Black Lives Matter protest, which was held on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as NewsOne previously reported.
The sergeant eventually deleted the post and apologized, but Black Lives Matter St. Paul leaders have called for criminal charges to be filed against him.
Speaking of Black Lives Matter, the Minneapolis offshoot of the movement recently had its Facebook page restored after the company unpublished it on Tuesday morning, reports MPR News.
The group alerted Twitter followers that the page was down early Tuesday. The page had been restored by 2 p.m. that afternoon.
“Basically, they unpublished our page,” said Miski Noor, the group’s spokeswoman. “They’re not indicating which posts or comments are a problem, or which community standards or terms are being violated. But they said we had the option to appeal the decision.”
A Facebook spokesperson responded in an email that the “page was removed in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate. Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong. We’re very sorry about this mistake.”
But leaders of the group suspect the shutdown occurred because they spoke out against the St. Paul police sergeant.