Minnesota State Patrol Officers Purged Their Texts, Emails Following George Floyd Protests

  • The ACLU of Minnesota filed a lawsuit in June 2020 on behalf of journalists who were targeted and attacked at the protests.
  • State troopers were aware of pending litigation against them when they purged communications, according to witnesses.
  • No trooper has been disciplined for arresting, using force against, or using chemical weapons against a journalist at the protests.

During testimony given on July 28 to the US District Court of Minnesota, Major Joseph Dwyer of the Minnesota State Patrol said that “a vast majority of the agency” manually purged their emails and text messages days after being served with a lawsuit over their response to protests over George Floyd’s death in May 2020, according to court documents. 

Dwyer, who was at the protests and served as commander of the troopers’ mobile response team, is one of many witnesses involved in a class-action lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed in June 2020 on behalf of journalists who were targeted and attacked while covering the protests.

News of the testimony came out last week when US District Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright issued a brief on the case.

“The impact of this purge is compounded by the fact that during the protests Troopers were either directed not to complete use of force reports or told that such reports were not required,” she said. “The absence of both contemporaneous communications and documentation makes it nearly impossible to track the State Patrol’s behavior, apparently by design.”

 

Dwyer testified that he was aware of current litigation when he and other troopers purged their e-mail inboxes and text messages. He also testified that not a single use of force report about the protests was completed, according to court documents.

Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety John Harrington testified that no trooper had been disciplined for arresting, using force against, or using chemical weapons against a journalist. Wright said that “virtually nothing has been done to hold anyone accountable for the misconduct” for violating the constitutional rights of journalists during the protests.

Witnesses also confirmed to Wright that State Troopers concocted false reports to justify the arrest, assault, and use of less-lethal weapons against journalists, and ignored the governor’s order exempting journalists from curfew restrictions.

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