Last night, I sent the below letter to the 14,000 people who subscribe to my mailing list, but I want it to be available to everyone. I am still pressing for more information on the circumstances surrounding Justine Damond’s tragic death, but I will continue to stay in communication with all of you – giving updates as I have them, offering information about process and policy, and keeping you in the loop with what I’m doing every step of the way.
Dear Friend –
I am heartsick and deeply disturbed by the fatal officer-involved shooting that happened in Southwest Minneapolis over the weekend. This is a tragedy — for the family, for a neighborhood I know well, and for our whole city. My thoughts are with the family of the woman who was killed, Justine Damond, with the community, and with everyone affected.
Every shooting death in our city is devastating and awful. Still, you might have noticed a difference in how I’m talking about this tragedy, and how often. I have listened to all of you, and learned that it’s important that I share my feelings in these moments, and that I do everything I can to keep the lines of communication open. That’s how I intend to approach this difficult time.
We still have few facts about exactly what happened that night. That’s frustrating to me, and I know it’s frustrating to you as well. Here’s why it’s difficult to get information: In 2014, MPD asked the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) to take over “critical incident” investigations involving MPD officers. This decision was made to avoid having MPD investigate itself in these most sensitive cases, and in so doing, help build community trust in the oversight process. MPD Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo called the BCA immediately on Saturday night, and they were on the ground very quickly to begin their work.
I think it was the right move, but there are trade-offs to this policy. Since MPD doesn’t manage the investigation itself, the City doesn’t have access to — and thus cannot share — information about the investigation until it’s made public. Still, I am calling on the BCA to share as much information with us as they possibly can, as soon as they possibly can, while maintaining the integrity of their investigation.
I have a lot of questions, as you do. Many of you have asked why the officers’ body cameras weren’t activated, and I’m asking the same question. Right now, we don’t know. I assume the BCA will ask that question as part of their ongoing investigation, and I hope and anticipate we’ll get answers as soon as possible.
After a few months of rollout and training, MPD’s body camera policy has been in full effect for just over six months. It is still a living document. We, and I personally, remain committed to continuously evaluating the policy, to officers adhering to the policy, and to making changes that strengthen the policy. I believe body cameras are a powerful tool, and I want them to be as effective as they can be.
For my part, I’ve been spending every waking hour doing what I can to keep the lines of communication open in three ways:
First, by getting and sharing as much information as I can about the circumstances of the shooting, as quickly and transparently as possible.
Second, Assistant Chief Arradondo, my team and I have been calling community stakeholders, elected leaders, faith leaders, neighbors, and people deeply involved in policing issues — both to share information, and to gather their questions. I’ve also been in communication with the family, and on their request, I’ve helped connect them directly to BCA investigators. We will keep those lines of communication open throughout this process.
Third, I have spent a great deal of time with the internal city team — including Assistant Chief Arradondo, City Attorney Susan Segal, and City Coordinator Spencer Cronk — making sure we are all on the same page on our roles as the investigation proceeds. That allows all of us to be as responsive as possible to all of you.
This is not a situation that any community ever wants to face. At this stage, we get to support and listen to each other, ask the hard questions, and look for answers from our leaders, our faith when that’s part of our lives, and our community. For the foreseeable future, I will do everything I can to keep everyone — you included — as informed as possible.
Mayor Betsy Hodges