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Monday, November 16, 2015

The Limits of Transparency


The police department is one of the most visible and critiqued areas in local government. Transparency and dissemination of timely information to the public is critical in every corner of the policing world. Dealing with data privacy laws, while trying to be transparent and keeping the community informed, is a tough line for police administrators in Minnesota.
One particularly difficult incident occurred a few years ago when I terminated an employee in a use of force case that received a lot of media attention. Due to Minnesota law I was unable to publicly share that I had terminated the employee. Unfortunately, we are forbidden from releasing the employment information until final discipline occurs, which is after the grievance period or arbitration. The only information I could release was previous discipline, employment status and whether it was paid or unpaid. In this case, it was unpaid administrative leave even though the employee had been terminated.

Many in the community asked why I did not terminate the employee and were upset the officer's employment status was "administrative leave." Some believed we were not being transparent and I found myself frustrated that I could not talk more openly about what action had been taken.

The termination eventually became public when the union dropped their grievance, but it was tough from a community relations standpoint to not speak directly to the matter at the time. The fact the employee was terminated 18 months later was no longer news and the fact the employment status remained "unpaid leave" simmered in many communities.

3 comments:

  1. I remember it well. A neighboring department chief made the opposite decision in a similar incident and while I agreed to disagree with him I was intensely proud of you for siding with justice and doing the hard thing! Proud of you sir G, my dear friend! L

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  2. It would be hard... But honestly, Kevin and you news people before Anna was an embedded social worker the departmental policy with the mentally ill seeking to contact police was shamefully sad. In June of 2012 I had an officer posing as Lt. Rish come to my mental health providers at Accend Services in Duluth- he would refuse to converse with me; lecturing and eventually calling me hostile before explaining that I'd never get to see the chief of police and that I'd be denied police services; which from 2013-2015 would occur dispite an assigned officer only investigating me as a criminal primarily.
    She would not see me as a human being despite being a decorated good officer and it was not her fault but what that guy ordered her to do. We in society were " swept under the rug"- what kind of tranparency do you have if you leave out part of society( it's called discrimination sir!) sure; great with Natives; super with blacks- but leaving me hurting because I was mentally ill; two years of no service for me! That's the truth; now I have waited two years for anyone to take any info from me regarding the incident of calling me hostile and deciding I shouldn't be served.... If you are my friend G., I truly question why you would let this happen to me; to others... I can only surmise others weren't transparent with you about how I was to be treated or I don't believe you'd have condoned it; I'd ask at this point for investigators as the officer assigned to my denial of services case has never spoken to me about it; I'd just trust he'd do the right thing until he'd begin denying me my assigned officer's contact through communications recently three times... Without being told I've somehow been reassigned from a good team partnership- by denial of services and not being allowed to speak to him when he is on... It continues and I'm not allowed rights other citizens have, to call to identify matters through communications non-emergency at all to officers. I am treated differently as someone mentally ill only- when do I get investigators like any other citizen? Please answer me G., on here, for I know you won't risk you to call me back; you won't take the time because you don't have any time... And I'd be depressed and sad; no crushed, not only that no one cared enough to call today or say they couldn't call but that I'd have to struggle to be heard by police because all they see is an illness- I know you all aren't educated and I know that I can't afford coffee out with the social worker every week. I'll talk to human rights and I'll wonder G, tell Kevin, don't tell me, tell him why I get " special treatment" and I am not treated like other people- tell him why my concerns have been ignored for years ( just say you are too busy) but don't justify calling me hostile or not seeing me professionally yourself... I know my heroes harm people like me every day and you can't continue to sweep it under the rug.

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