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Justine Damond

The Minneapolis Fox affiliate has posted a story, which if entirely accurate, raises disturbing questions about the Damond investigation. As regular readers know, the search warrants the BCA served hours after Damond’s death were indicative of an illegal fishing expedition, a crude and particularly odious attempt to find something, anything, to discredit Damond. According to the return of that warrant, the attempt utterly failed. Because the public has no access to the police reports of the investigation, it’s impossible to know if that was an aberration, or an indication of a lack of ethics and competence of the overall investigation. Fox 9’s report suggests things may be worse that I initially imagined:

Nearly five months after a Minneapolis police officer shot and killed Justine Damond, investigators have yet to interview the officers who responded to the scene in the immediate aftermath, the Fox 9 Investigators have learned.

As I’ve previously noted, the BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) was reported to have completed its investigation, and in September, gave the results to local prosecutor Mike Freeman. If this latest report is accurate, it would indicate the BCA considered they had done all investigative work necessary for Freeman to make a charging decision. It’s always possible something may come up—a new witness appears, the statement of a witness changes, a new piece of evidence is discovered, etc.—that requires some degree of follow up investigation, but in a police-involved shooting, investigators are normally very careful to make no mistakes and to be as thorough as humanly possible.

According to multiple sources, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office is now asking its own investigators, five sworn Hennepin County Sheriff’s detectives, to join BCA investigators in seeking voluntary interviews with the Minneapolis police officers who responded to the scene.

Several of the officers are now seeking legal counsel before agreeing to an interview.

Every professional police investigator reading that surely said “what the hell…?” This will help explain:

The alley where Damond was killed

After the shooting, the responding Minneapolis police officers submitted detailed written reports, and some had activated their body cameras at the scene, but they were not interviewed by BCA agents. A spokesperson for the BCA would not explain why the officers were not interviewed, because it is an active criminal investigation.

All police officers involved in any incident are required to write a report about their involvement. If an officer, for example, did nothing more than direct traffic, no report would be necessary, but pretty much anything else does. This is particularly true of an incident as important as an officer involved shooting.

What’s bizarre about this report—again, if it is entirely accurate—is that the BCA apparently did not interview these officers before submitting their report to Freeman. That’s basic criminology 101. Equally bizarre is the assertion that these officers, apparently not directly responsible for the investigation, are “seeking legal counsel before agreeing to an interview.”

Police officers retain their right against self-incrimination. They can refuse to be interviewed, and/or invoke the Fifth Amendment, but there are several related issues, all stemming from the 1967 Supreme Court decision, Garrity v. New Jersey.  Police agencies can require their officers to write complete reports about their official activities; it’s what we expect them to do on our behalf. They can also require they submit to interviews about what they’ve seen and done. However, if the officers write reports and submit to interviews, anything they say cannot be used against them in a criminal trial. The related issue is if an officer refuses to do his duty, if he refuses to write a report or submit to an interview, or if during an interview he takes the Fifth, he may be disciplined, even fired. The Fifth Amendment protection refers to criminal prosecution, not employment.

The best available information indicates MPD Officer Matthew Harrity, who was driving the police vehicle, and across whose body Officer Muhamed Noor fired to shoot and kill Justine Damond, cooperated with the investigation and was comprehensively interviewed by the BCA. We don’t know how many interviews he gave or their dates and circumstances, but there is no reason—at the moment—to think he did not fully cooperate, as any innocent police officer must. Noor apparently immediately lawyered up. Two more odd bits of information:

But in this case, Hennepin County prosecutors want their own detectives present during the interviews and participants in the follow-up investigation.

And:

A spokesperson for the BCA said the deputies are assisting with interviews the BCA is conducting.

Any competent investigator would immediately review all police reports. Normally, it would not be necessary to interview officers, particularly those that had a peripheral role; their reports would provide all necessary information. However, it’s not unusual for investigators to speak with officers if they need to clarify something, or think an officer might have omitted something that didn’t seem important at the time, but later takes on greater importance. But all of this would be done in the days immediately following the event, particularly with an officer-involved shooting.

And why would MPD officers lawyer up? There are three primary reasons, and all might be related. Any officer facing potential criminal charges would be wise indeed not to say or write a word without counsel. Any officer that suspects a civil suit might be filed should also seek counsel. The third possibility is the officers don’t trust their superiors—and this would include prosecutors–who might be acting with political, rather than legal/professional, motivations. In any city ruled by Democrats, this is always a significant issue for police officers.

A related issue might be that MPD officers don’t trust the BCA, which is understandable, if their warrants in the Damond case, and the implications of this latest development, are reflective of their competence and apparent intentions. How any police supervisor—and here I speak of the BCA and the MPD—could possibly sign off on an investigation where every witness—particularly police officers—had not been completely interviewed, as necessary, is jaw-dropping. Did some supervisor suddenly notice no one thought to do necessary interviews of police officers some five months later? Ooops.

Another issue might be that the prosecutor’s office doesn’t trust the BCA, or perhaps, the BCA’s report hasn’t provided evidence to support the preferred, politically correct narrative.

Another issue is agency politics. The state police of any state would not be the least interested in local cops assisting with their case. While state investigators routinely use locals to help them find addresses, people, and to provide reports and that sort of support, they seldom truly work together. That the BCA is apparently using five deputies in this case is unusual at best. One would not normally see this sort of thing without massive political pressure, or perhaps the reputation of the BCA is so low with local law enforcement, they need the help of the deputies to convince officers to speak with them. In any case, this is surpassing strange.

There is reason to believe officers have much to fear from their superiors, and honest residents of Minneapolis do too. The Star Tribune explains:

Hodges is number 1

The cadet class, set to graduate next month, was the latest group to go through the training, divided into eight-hour sessions over three days. The second day of training is scenario-based, while on the last day, officers are taught to recognize and work around hidden biases.

“Hidden biases.” Translation: “you’re all racists, sexists, etc. and you’re even worse because you’re not aware you’re biased.” And what sort of training might this be?

In 2014, Minneapolis was among the first cities in the country to offer procedural justice training, recommended by former President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing as one way police departments can reform, joining the likes of Pittsburgh, Fort Worth and Stockton, Calif.

“Procedural Justice.” Translation: imposing social justice on cops, with all the incompetence, political favoritism, racism, tribalism, ignorance of the rule of law and incompetence it suggests.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio recently credited the training program with both reductions in crime and in complaints of police abuse.

As all police officers know, there is no one more concerned about the rule of law and the safety of police officers than Bill de Blasio, under whose rule NYC has seen a drastic decline in the quality of life due to crime, and what better recommendation for such a program than a connection with Barack Obama?

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said that procedural justice, introduced by his predecessor, Janeé Harteau, has become part of the department’s DNA.

‘We found that we had some cancerous cells within our organization that had caused harm to our communities,’ Arradondo said, while speaking at a national policing conference last summer. As an example, he pointed to another policy enacted by Harteau last year that required officers to address transgender and gender-nonconforming people with their preferred pronouns.

‘If my driver’s license says ‘Rondo,’ but I’m telling you as an officer, please refer to me as ‘Sheila,’ have that respect and dignity,’ Arradondo says in a video of the conference posted online.

Former Police Chief Harteau

I trust, gentle readers, I don’t have to tell you how rank and file police officers—at least those dedicated to the rule of law and equal treatment for all, would respond to this ludicrous mandate. Working cops have far more pertinent issues demanding their attention than worrying about the personal pronouns of profoundly confused people. That the head of the MPD would see this as a significant issue speaks volumes, none of it good. Obviously, police officers should treat people with as much kindness and patience as they allow them, and all competent, professional officers do just that. It’s not only the right thing to do, if makes their jobs easier and safer, but that’s not what such social justice initiatives are about. I assume that Harteau was not only a lesbian and a minority, had nothing to do with her infusion of this DNA. And like everything else wrong with the world, policing’s issues are also Donald Trump’s fault:

Departments across the country are rethinking decades of tough-on-crime policies and embracing ‘fair and impartial’ policing philosophies, he said, even as Trump is pressing for more aggressive policing.

Well of course they would rethink such things. Why would any police agency think to be tough on crime? It’s particularly important to move away from such unfortunate thinking because Trump.

Minneapolis officials cautioned that it was still too early to see a shift in the department, but they remain hopeful there will be positive results down the road.

Glenn Burt, the only civilian in the five-person procedural justice unit, said that while the training may be slower to catch on with more seasoned officers, it is stressed from day one for the department’s newest hires.

‘So for them, this is mother’s milk,’ Burt said at a recent community meeting in northeast Minneapolis. ‘From day one, they’re going to be taught procedural justice. They’re going to be expected to practice procedural justice.

Sour milk it is, for competent officers. That they would proudly trumpet their intention to avoid actual police work is telling. Obviously, they believe they’re invulnerable in Minneapolis. They can’t force experienced officers to do stupid, counterproductive, dangerous things, but they might be able to indoctrinate the newbies, particularly if they’re social justice/diversity hires, which is where this intersects—the Left is all about intersectionality—with the Damond case.

This single report suggests directly people like Muhamed Noor were diversity hires, and the MPD is working hard to hire more and to properly indoctrinate them. Exactly how that will affect a charging decision is unclear. On one hand, if Noor shot and killed a black person, he’d be much more likely to be charged, but Damond was a white woman, so his minority/diversity armor may be impregnable. One might think officers are protected by the proverbial “blue wall,” but in places like Minneapolis, such protection might extend only to minority officers, and be dependent upon ever-shifting political winds. As we’ve seen in Baltimore, even black officers may be sacrificed for greater social justice goals. While one might argue that Justine Damond is the ultimate argument for procedural justice, there’s that white person problem again. If she had identified as anything other than a straight white female, she too might be a member of a protected victim group, but such protection seems unlikely in her case.

I can’t predict the future, but everything we have learned to date suggests there will be no charges in this case. That would not be procedural/social justice. Stay tuned.

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