Some former Gang Strike Force cops under reviewby Amy Forliti, Associated Press
Minnepolis — Fourteen employees from at least three law enforcement agencies face internal reviews for alleged wrongdoing while working on the now-defunct Metro Gang Strike Force.
A special panel reported last month it found "appalling and outrageous" misconduct by some members of the gang-fighting unit. On Wednesday, panel co-chair Andy Luger gave the names of those officers to their employers.
The Minneapolis Police Department, the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office, and the St. Paul Police Department confirmed they have employees on the list and all three agencies said they started internal investigations.
Officials have not released the names of the employees or the allegations against them. However, the report by Luger and retired FBI agent John Egelhof found instances in which officers took televisions and jewelry for their own use, or seized thousands of dollars from people with no gang ties.
The panel review was launched after a Legislative Auditor's report concluded the gang-fighting unit lacked internal controls to safeguard seized and forfeited property or track its finances.
No employees of the union have been charged, but the FBI is investigating.
"Our ability to police requires the communities' trust, and these allegations fundamentally undermine the faith and trust that we work so hard to earn," Minneapolis police Chief Tim Dolan said in a statement.
Seven officers from his department who were assigned to the strike force face allegations of misconduct, he said. He expressed his disappointment and promised "rigorous and thorough" investigations.
St. Paul Police Department spokesman Sgt. Paul Schnell five current members of the department and one past member were on the list. Two of the active members face potential allegations of criminal wrongdoing, Schnell said, and they have been reassigned to administrative duty. The others may have violated procedures and will be subjects of an internal investigation.
Schnell said Chief John Harrington also was concerned and wants to "get on with ensuring that Minnesota has the kind of law enforcement that it has come to expect - a highly transparent and trusted law enforcement service."
The Ramsey County Sheriff's Office said one of its deputies might have handled evidence improperly. Spokeswoman Holli Drinkwine said the department started an internal investigation on Aug. 24, after the original release of the Luger-Egelhof report.
Drinkwine said the deputy has been reassigned pending the outcome of the investigation. She said: "We have no knowledge of an active FBI investigation into our deputy."
Bud Shaver, West St. Paul Police Chief and chair of the Metro Gang Strike Force advisory board, said he wants the officers' names released.
"I don't want to see anybody get into trouble," he said. "But all of these allegations were on all Minnesota law enforcement shoulders. ... It tarnishes everybody."
He said he wants the attention instead to be on the "small fraction of officers" involved in alleged misconduct.
"Get the focus on the people that it needs to focus on. Let the processes continue to work ... and let's move on," he said.
The Metro Gang Strike Force was created in 2005 by the state Legislature so agencies could coordinate gang investigations. The goal was to prevent gang violence and to arrest and prosecute those involved in gang-related crimes. It is a successor to the Minnesota Gang Strike Force, created in 1997.
In recent years, it has consisted of more than 30 law enforcement officers and supervisors from various departments and agencies.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)