Frequently asked questions about law enforcement accountability
What are law enforcement agencies doing to prepare for and respond to civil unrest?
Numerous law enforcement agencies are providing support to Minnesota communities during the criminal trial of the former law enforcement officers accused in the death of George Floyd. These agencies are participating in Operation Safety Net and include the Hennepin County Sherriff's Office, Metro Transit Police Department, Minneapolis Police Department, Saint Paul Police Department and the State Patrol/Department of Public Safety. Additionally, the Minnesota National Guard will be supporting law enforcement efforts.
What accountability measures are in place?
Each agency holds its officers accountable for his or her conduct. Accountability starts with the mission and values of each agency, which are rooted in respect and serving their communities. These values are then reflected in policies, which provide members with expectations and procedures that govern how they should engage in fundamental job duties.
Each agency also provides ongoing training related to its respective mission and values, along with training on policies to ensure members understand their obligations. Finally, agencies maintain accountability through investigations into misconduct that can lead to discipline, including termination.
All participating agencies have people dedicated to accountability. These offices go by various names, such as “professional standards," “internal affairs," or “police conduct review." However, the purpose of these offices is the same: to ensure accountability of agency members.
What types of conduct by law enforcement officers constitute misconduct?
Misconduct is anything that falls outside of an agency's policies or values. All participating agencies expect their officers and members to perform their duties with professionalism and respect toward all citizens, while ensuring the safety of everyone they encounter, including those individuals choosing to exercise their lawful First Amendment rights.
What should I do if I encounter misconduct by a police officer?
The accountability offices within the participating agencies encourage you to file a complaint if you believe an officer or service member has engaged in misconduct. You are not required to identify the agency's policies in your complaint. You need to describe the conduct and why you felt the conduct was inappropriate. Providing accurate and detailed information about possible misconduct will allow the investigators to complete a thorough investigation.
How do I file a complaint against a law enforcement officer or a National Guard service member?
Each agency is responsible to investigate their own employees. If it is determined that the agency you contacted is not involved in an alleged misconduct incident, you may be directed to another agency to file the complaint. One reason for this is that an agency has no ability to discipline an employee working for a different agency.
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office
Internal Affairs Unit350 South 5th Street, Room 2
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Telephone: (612) 348-8318 (Leave a message and a detective will return the call.)
File a complaint online
Department of Public Safety
(State Patrol, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Homeland Security and Emergency Management/State Emergency Operations Center)
Internal Affairs/Affirmative Action
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 530
St. Paul, MN 55101-5530
Telephone: (651) 201-7136
TTY: (651) 282-6555
Fax: (651) 282-6873
Can I file an anonymous complaint?
Yes, agencies can accept anonymous complaints, although the agency's ability to respond may be limited without your statement and/or additional information.
Will I have to participate in an investigation if I file a complaint?
Some complaints can be resolved without witness statements. In general, complaints that identify minor misconduct that can be corrected through discipline such as a verbal warning, supplemental training, or a conversation. This type of complaint may not require you to provide a statement.
If a complaint identifies serious misconduct, your statement is an important part of the investigation. If you choose not to provide a statement, the agency may continue its investigation; however, without key witness information, it may be difficult for the agency to implement discipline or other corrective measures.
How quickly can misconduct be addressed?
While an investigation can take time to complete, each agency has a process that allows the agency to remove a law enforcement officer or military service member from duty. This happens when alleged misconduct could create a substantial risk of harm to the public. This determination is made on a case-by-case basis.
Under Minnesota law (Minn. Stat. § 626.89) only the chief law enforcement officer can make disciplinary decisions after an investigation process is completed.
Will the officer know I complained against them?
In some cases, data practice laws or due process requirements may require the agency to provide the name of the complainant to the officer's attorney, their union representative, or even the officer. However, all agencies prohibit retaliation, which is any conduct that may dissuade or stop a reasonable person from filing a complaint or participating in an investigation. Retaliation by an officer or member of an agency is considered misconduct and subject to discipline, including termination.
Can I file a complaint with more than one office?
Yes, if the misconduct involves multiple agencies, you should file a complaint with each agency.
Can I file a commendation with your group?
Absolutely. If you file a commendation with a participating agency, your information will be provided to the appropriate supervisor to share with the employee.
How do I file a complaint about leadership decisions, agency policies, or the overall conduct of law enforcement or military service in response to the trial?
If the conduct does not violate an agency policy, the accountability offices typically do not investigate the complaint. While you may still submit your complaint, you may want to consider providing feedback to other entities or individuals about leadership decisions, agency policies, or overall conduct of officers or service members:
- Governor's office/Mayor's offices
- State or City officials
- Attorney General's Office
- POST Board
What information can you share with me about the outcome of a complaint or an investigation?
The participating agencies are subject to state and federal laws regarding data privacy. Additionally, the agency's ability to disclose information may be limited by the outcome of the investigation and/or any due process challenges that occur after discipline is implemented (for example, if the officer grieves the discipline under a union contract). Regardless of whether data can be disclosed after an investigation, the accountability offices for the participating agencies actively follow each complaint through to closure to ensure all agency officers and members are held accountable for their conduct.