What were they trying to hide?

Would it be suspicious if, after you committed murder, you immediately deleted your email records and shredded all your files? Because that’s what the Minnesota police did after they killed George Floyd, just ripping apart anything that might allow investigators to figure out what they were doing.

Minnesota State Patrol officers conducted a mass purge of emails and text messages immediately after their response to riots last summer, leaving holes in the paper trail as the courts and other investigators attempt to reconstruct whether law enforcement used improper force in the chaos following George Floyd’s murder.

In a recent court hearing in a lawsuit alleging the State Patrol targeted journalists during the unrest, State Patrol Maj. Joseph Dwyer said he and a “vast majority of the agency” deleted the communiqués after the riots, according to a transcript published to the federal court docket Friday night.

This file destruction “makes it nearly impossible to track the State Patrol’s behavior, apparently by design,” said attorneys for Minnesota’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing the state patrol and Minneapolis police on behalf of journalists who say they were assaulted by law enforcement while covering the protests and riots.

“The purge was neither accidental, automated, nor routine,” said ACLU attorneys, in a court motion that asks a judge to order the State Patrol to cease attacks on journalists who are covering protests. “The purge did not happen because of a file destruction or retention policy. No one reviewed the purged communications before they were deleted to determine whether the materials were relevant to this litigation.”

Quick, check their dictionaries — you’ll probably find they also deleted the word “accountability”.

They also deleted case files, throwing some drug prosecution cases in peril (which seems like a good thing).

The revelations come as Minneapolis police say they’re also investigating why officers in the Second Precinct — across the city from where the riots took place — shredded case files during the riots last summer. Attorneys say police destroyed key evidence to charges in a drug prosecution and have asked a Hennepin County Judge to throw out the case.

In the July 28 hearing, Dwyer said they were not acting on an order from on high to delete records, but it’s “standard practice” for the troopers to so.

“You just decided, shortly after the George Floyd protests, this would be a good time to clean out my inbox?” asked ACLU attorney Kevin Riach.

Dwyer answered in the affirmative.

Now I’m curious. If there was no coordination, and no instructions from on high, why did so many police officers suddenly get in the mood to do some serious house-cleaning, and how many policemen were involved? It’s not necessarily a conspiracy — I mean, I get in the mood to clean up my office when I’ve got a major deadline in my face and want to procrastinate — but something motivated these officers to up and throw out evidence. What was it, if not a command from a superior?

Could it be…guilt?


  1. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Seems I’m not alone in thinking it is or should be illegal for the police dept. to delete anything from the record for public review and confirmation their actions were proper. It would seem deleting these things would be an automatic admission of guilt and malfeasance. WTF

  2. says

    That’s totally how innocent people behave. Because “there’s nothing in there that might make us look good” is apparently the conclusion.

    Innocent people want lots of corroborating evidence. Guilty people want the evidence to go away. There is no other explanation and the media ought not to accept the farcical “we were just freeing up space” bullshit. Because there are any number of people who’d be happy to store that stuff. It’s destruction of evidence and it’s a crime.

  3. says

    “You just decided, shortly after the George Floyd protests, this would be a good time to clean out my inbox?” asked ACLU attorney Kevin Riach.

    Sequester the backups, immediately. Officer porkbottom just indicated that his mailbox at that time had incriminating emails in it. Get James Comey on it.

  4. christoph says

    The town of Camden, NJ abolished their entire police department in 2013 to get rid of the bad cops, then formed a new police department and invited all the former officers to reapply for their jobs. This was to get rid of all the bad cops and avoid rehiring them. This is a good example for Minnesota.

  5. Allison says

    I used to work in the finance industry (no, not on the trading side), and over and over again, it was emphasized that if there was even the possibility of litigation, e.g., by the SEC, we were to destroy nothing. Deletion of documents, except in accordance with an explicit general policy, is seen as tantamount to an admission of guilt.

  6. jrkrideau says

    @2 slithey tove
    It would seem deleting these things would be an automatic admission of guilt and malfeasance.

    My thought exactly.

  7. mandrake says

    If the police were to roll up to my house to question me in relation to a crime in which I were suspected of hiring a hitperson to kill my parents and they caught me wiping my phone clean they would have probable cause and would arrest me on the spot. Even if they didn’t catch me in the act of erasing data, had I done so it would still be suspect. So how is what they did any different? Maybe it has something to do with a majority-white police force who get to decide who should be held accountable.

  8. robro says

    Whether it’s viewed as an admission of guilt, destruction of official documents is probably considered a crime itself. It wasn’t just the content of the tapes that got Richard Nixon, it was the gaps.

  9. Who Cares says

    According to the union there are no bad cops so there is no one to fire.
    And the union always wins if there isn’t someone filming a cop committing murder (and even then it is a 50/50 on if they can get away with it on some lesser charge that allows them to them hired by another department). Just look at the unions routinely flipping out and crying “END OF THE WORLD!” for having minor accountability things going on after their members keep basically breaking the law themselves.

    What the union cannot stop is the complete abolishment of a police force. They also cannot interfere in the hiring process.

  10. Howard Brazee says

    As soon as people saw there was going to be an investigation, I suppose everybody decided to clean up everything they had.

  11. lanir says

    I’ve worked at a couple places where legal proceedings happened. They aren’t violating the law if they do it before the court asks them not to delete anything. But it’s an obvious admission of guilt to do something that systematic that isn’t part of any maintenance cycle.

    When I’ve had my boss tell me we need to keep everything because of litigation, in every case I was involved with we kept everything. It doen’t matter if it looks bad or helps the other side in the court case. Pretty sure I don’t want to go to jail for contempt of court just to save a company from paying out a fine they deserved.

    And when someone sues a government entity it’s even more clear cut. You have to keep the evidence or you tell everyone everywhere that destroying it is in their best interests and there will be no consequences. Those cops think they’re making their jobs easier but this is one of those choices that looks like a smooth move in the moment but afterward it’s nothing but a long term pain in the arse. Every defendant in that court system can destroy evidence now and point out how they didn’t do anything the cops themselves didn’t do.

  12. says

    #9 and #15…

    It’s worse than that, since as a government agency the public records laws of Minnesota requires many such things to be kept even in the absence of litigation. I can’t say that every deletion was illegal, but most of them are. So, yes, they had a duty to not delete even before being notified that there was litigation afoot. Not to mention that many of the deletions happened after litigation began.

    Dozens if not hundreds of these officers are guilty of violations or crimes relating to public records, and a significant subset are guilty (in fact, not yet in law) of felony obstruction of justice. If they don’t prosecute a whole bunch of these fucks, that’s yet another act of corruption by Minnesota’s law enforcement/criminal justice community.

  13. christoph says

    @davidc1, # 10: Sacking all the bad cops would get the union involved. Police unions seem to prioritize defending and covering for bad cops. If the police force is disbanded, the union has no power. And the union negotiations with the new force would be a lot different.

  14. christoph says

    @The Vicar, #6: What is your point? Oh wait, never mind-you never answer a direct question.

  15. Ridana says

    I would bet money that most of those who deleted emails and files have them backed up on a flash drive somewhere.

    Depending on how inadequate the department’s file security is, they probably also have a backup of the whole system somewhere that’s been overlooked. Given the wholesale nature of the erasures, they would’ve had to just wipe out entire days and weeks of backups of everything the department did, and that seems like it would really go against the grain for people whose raison d’être is collecting information.

  16. says

    Backups for the day are automatically wiped at midnight. You know, for security reasons. Nothing to see here.

    Seriously, this kind of wide-spread coordination is exactly the argument needed for abolishing the police force and starting over from scratch. All new people, all new policies.