A Minnesota sheriff said he's done defending the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), publicly bashing the agency for how officers handled protesters during the unrest following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.
Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer called out the MPD during a Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Ensuring Police Excellence and Improving Community Relations Advisory Council meeting Wednesday morning.
Deringer, who is a district director for the Minnesota Sheriffs Association and is on the advisory council, was highly critical of MPD when he was asked about statewide disciplinary standards during the council's conversation about broadening the POST Board's powers to discipline officers for misconduct.
He said he has defended the MPD for the past 23 months, including when people would suggest officers were shooting non-lethal rounds at people who weren't doing anything wrong.
"I'm like, 'Holy crap, that doesn't happen. Cops do not do that,'" Deringer said. "Well, no s***, three weeks ago every news station across Minnesota releases the bodycam footage of Minneapolis Police Department, again, making headlines because, why? That's exactly what they were doing.
"I'm telling you folks, I was absolutely disgusted watching that. I've defended that agency for the very last time," he said.
Deringer was referencing the body camera footage that was released as part of the Jaleel Stallings case. Bodycam footage showed MPD officers riding in an unmarked van and firing, without warning, rubber bullets at people protesting following Floyd's murder. This prompted Stallings to shoot back, thinking they were white supremacists. Two of the officers then beat Stallings.
Officers claimed Stallings fired first and he was charged with attempted murder, but a jury acquitted him after evidence presented at the trial directly contradicted officers' accounts of what happened.
"I'm telling you, from the top down, that agency needs an overhaul," Deringer said. "We are absolutely disgusted."
Deringer said the Minnesota Sheriffs Association is "ready to write a letter saying 'We absolutely denounce whatever is going on with the Minneapolis Police Department.'"
"I'm appalled at the lack of leadership in that agency," Deringer said, adding: "I am so upset with the lack of leadership, and those other agencies throughout the state that truly do an unbelievable job serving our communities yet we are all cast in the same barrel of crap coming out of Minneapolis proper."
The actions of the officers in the Stallings case were defended by MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo, who said the should be seen in the context of the riots that had preceded it.
MPD is currently the subject of a federal investigation into its use of force, as well as whether it engages in discriminatory policing. An effort to replace MPD with a new Department of Public Safety that supporters say would have brought greater accountability to city policing failed in a Nov
Deringer did acknowledge it's not that there aren't issues in greater Minnesota, noting he has two deputies currently on administrative leave.
Deringer and Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken, also a member of the advisory council, both said discipline of officers is inconsistent across the state of Minnesota.
“I do think that that lack of consistency at times, is what our communities look at and say ‘Well wait a minute, what’s going on here?’ We all get painted with a broad brush and it’s not just Minnesota," Tusken said.
The hour-long advisory council meeting was dedicated to initial conversations about a proposal that would give the POST Board the power to take disciplinary action against police officers for a broader range of misconduct, such as excessive force and criminal conduct, even if the officer is not charged or convicted of a crime.
Currently, the POST Board has the authority to revoke an officer's license if they lie or cheat on a board test, lie to the board, commit sexual assault or harassment, use deadly force when not authorized, or are convicted of prostitution.
Supporters say this proposal is necessary to remove problem officers from the job without relying on the judicial system. It would also bring police licensing in line with other state licensing boards that can revoke licenses without criminal convictions.
Deringer questioned if this is necessary, saying he doesn't wait for a criminal conviction to remove an officer if they violate policy.
Meanwhile, opponents of the proposal say it goes too far. Rep. Paul Novotny, R-Elk River, is on the advisory council and is a former sheriff's deputy. He spoke out against the proposal in a news release on Tuesday, saying it would fundamentally change the discipline process.
Novotny called it a "dramatic overreach by the POST Board," saying it would give the board the power to end an officer's career for using force even if the officer hasn't been charged or convicted of a crime.
As of today, no MPD officers have been charged and only one officer has been disciplined for their conduct during the 2020 riots, now-former MPD Officer Colleen Ryan, who was disciplined for speaking to the media.
Novotny asked the POST Board to reject or delay the proposal until the consequences of it can be fully vetted.
You can watch the advisory council's meeting here.