Put MPD under the gun

The city cannot afford its messy, lawsuit-prone police department.

Since 1994, Minneapolis has spent $13.3 million settling lawsuits brought against the police department. Most are related to officer misconduct. For example, after arresting Derrick Simmons and Nancy Johnson in a vehicle stop and charging them with obstructing the legal process with force, surveillance video showed the officersâÄô report of violent behavior was a complete fabrication. The city later agreed to pay the couple $100,000 to settle the case. Now, as part of an effort to improve the identification of trouble officers, the city has contracted with a former Phoenix police officer, Sgt. Ron Snodgrass, who was involved in a similar effort in that city. Unfortunately, it turns out Snodgrass himself is apparently prone to misconduct. He was reprimanded by the Phoenix police department after he showed pornographic photographs to a fellow officer and was under further investigation for planning to use a photo of female genitalia in a PowerPoint presentation, putting the department at risk of sexual discrimination claims. This public information should have been known by the Minneapolis Police Department at the time of his hiring, which raises the question: Did the police not fully investigate a contract for officer training or not care that the provider had demonstrated unethical tendencies? With Police Chief Tim Dolan up for a second term, the City Council must consider the troubled record of officer conduct in addition to the noted drop in crime. A functioning civic society requires citizen trust in the police department. Egregious violations of the officersâÄô code of conduct and ethically compromised ethics trainers should not be the cost of decreased crime.