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K-9 training at Willmar public housing complex on hold after ACLU complaint

The ACLU posted a photo on social media of a sign alerting residents at the Lakeview Apartments of K-9 training taking place in the building.
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A police plan to train K-9 officers in a public housing complex in Willmar has been put on hold after concerns were raised by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.

The Minnesota ACLU posted a picture on Twitter Friday of a sign at the Lakeview Apartments in Willmar, which are managed by the Kandiyohi County Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

The sign tells residents that the building will be used as a training ground for Willmar Police Department K-9s, including in "interior common areas, stairways, hallways and vacant apartments" during "any hour."

In a release, the ACLU said the partnership would turn the Lakeview Apartments into a “de facto police state” and raises “serious legal and public policy concerns.”

After the complaint was made, Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt announced that the training has been put on hold while the concerns were reviewed.

“No training exercises will be conducted at the Lakeview Apartment complex while this matter and the concerns raised are under review,” he wrote in email, according to the Duluth News Tribune. 

"At no time was it the intention of the Willmar Police Department for this training to focus on individual residents of the Lakeview Apartment complex, their guests or occupied units in the complex," he added.

The ACLU stated it had submitted a Data Practices Act request for all information related to the partnership between the Housing and Redevelopment Authority and WPD.

Teresa Nelson, legal director of the ACLU of Minnesota, also sent a letter to Willmar Mayor Marv Calvin and the City Council urging them to end the partnership.

“This plan is bad public policy because it will disproportionately subject public housing residents, including low-income earners, immigrants, and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to a police training experiment without their consent at a time in which our state is experiencing significant trauma related to police excessive force,” Nelson wrote. 

Bring Me The News has reached out to the Willmar Police Department for comment.

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