Lawmakers to discuss Gang Strike Force reportby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Four legislative committees will hold a joint hearing today to discuss what went wrong with the embattled Metro Gang Strike Force.
Lawmakers will review a report that alleges widespread misconduct and even possible criminal behavior by some of the police officers on the strike force.
DFL State Rep. Michael Paymar, chair of the House Public Safety Finance Committee, will be at today's hearing. Paymar told Minnesota Public Radio News he was disappointed to hear the allegations in the report.
"It was quite startling," Paymar said. "I think the whole thing has been very frustrating and disconcerting to all of us who have oversight over the gang strike force."
Last week, a review panel released a highly anticipated report detailing its findings and outlining recommendations following a nearly three-month investigation of the strike force.
Among the findings, the report concluded that some employees repeatedly took property obtained during searches for their own person use; some officers or their families were permitted to purchase items from evidence rooms at low prices; and on a number of occasions, some officers stopped, searched and seized property from individuals who had no connection to gang activity.
The Department of Public Safety formed the review panel on May 20 to determine if Strike Force personnel engaged in inappropriate conduct beyond what was found by the Legislative Auditor and to determine the causes of any misconduct. The Department of Public Safety has turned over the review panel's findings to the FBI.
State officials shut down the Strike Force in July, just a week after they kick-started the embattled gang unit, hoping to overcome a string of scandals.
Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion said the Department of Public Safety will immediately begin the process of implementing the review panel's recommendations, which include refusing to support "stand alone" strike forces not administered by a specific law enforcement agency and assessing the state's current forfeiture laws.
The recommendations also include appointing a special master to return seized funds and property to the rightful owners and convening a meeting of law enforcement officials and prosecutors to create a new approach to investigating gangs across jurisdictional lines.
Paymar said he's looking forward to hearing recommendations on how to move forward.
"There's a fine line between doing good police work, which most of our law enforcement agencies do, and having an entity without the proper controls that allows officers to do things they would normally probably wouldn't do in their own police departments," Paymar said.