The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, on behalf of the Minnesota Coalition On Government Information, filed a lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo Thursday, alleging the city’s police department is violating public data laws through the use of “linguistic gymnastics.”
The bulk of the ACLU’s lawsuit concerns the Minneapolis Police Department’s practice of “coaching” officers found to have violated department policy.
Coaching is defined in the suit as “a verbal discussion between the employee and supervisor covering the details of the problem, plans for correcting the problem and a written memo to document the event.”
Under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, “the final disposition of any disciplinary action” for a public employee is public data. The ACLU’s suit alleges that by categorizing coaching as non-disciplinary, the Minneapolis Police Department is hiding instances of police misconduct from public disclosure.
The suit stems from a data request made by the coalition in February to the city for all data “related to coaching of Derek Chauvin,” the former MPD officer who, in April, would be convicted of murdering George Floyd.
According to the lawsuit, the data request was met with the following response from the city: “Coaching is not discipline and has never been discipline. The data you are requesting is private under MN statute 13.43; MPD has no responsive data. Your request is now closed.”
The suit alleges MPD has used “a coaching process” since 2013, but that the department’s policy manual did not mention coaching before Dec. 31, 2020. It also states that MPD changed the manual to indicate discipline in instances of misconduct was not compulsory and explicitly define coaching as “non-disciplinary.”
The suit also states that coaching is “the most common consequence when an MPD employee is found to have engaged in misconduct.”
“Now, more than ever, is the time for open and transparent government and a government committed to their obligations under the law,” the lawsuit says.