ACLU settles lawsuit with St. Paul over release of police data

The suit has been settled following the eventual release of much of the data the ACLU sought.
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The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has reached a settlement with the City of St. Paul over the release of data from the police department it has sought for over a year-and-a-half.

The ACLU said it had requested four years of data about arrests, citations, traffic stops, and uses of force by St. Paul PD, and claims that the city had "improperly withheld" the public information, a description that police department says is "entirely incorrect."

It says it has now reached the settlement because the city provided much of the data, which encompasses four years. The only data the city didn't provide was on investigative stops, with the ACLU saying it was told that's because the city either doesn't track the data, or "maintain it in a useful format."

The ACLU says the St. Paul PD's manual requires that officers record such stops.

“While we are disappointed it was necessary to file a lawsuit to get data that is clearly public, we are pleased the city of Saint Paul has taken steps to rectify the situation,” said ACLU-MN Staff Attorney David McKinney.

"If the city doesn’t collect and analyze data on investigative stops, how can officials know what police are doing in the field? Collecting this data and making it public is crucial for adequate oversight, accountability and transparency by police, and to understand the true scope of racial disparities.”

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But St. Paul PD spokesman Steve Linders challenged the idea that the data was "improperly withheld," instead saying that the reason it was not released in a timely fashion was because it has been using "antiquated technology that limited us from dissemination as quickly as we'd like."

It says it started upgrading this technology before the ACLU made its request, and should be able to share more going forward, including about investigative stops.

"St. Paul Police Department has been working really hard to build trust through transparency, and since 2016 it has taken extraordinary steps to make more data publicly available than ever before," Linders said, pointing out that Chief Todd Axtell has previously released more than 15 years of traffic stop data, and published the department's first ever report on "how, when, and why officers used force."

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