For the past couple of months, many have waited breathlessly for the clearing up of a rather puzzling mystery.
A couple of months ago, the major White press in the Twin Cities reported the high-profile suspension of two African American officers with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). The first was Mike Roberts, the longest serving African American officer — 29 years — in the history of the department. A second officer, Lt. Lee Edwards, is the former inspector of the Fourth Precinct.
There was also a third African American officer named as “a person of interest” by both the federal authorities and the MPD. For political reasons, he was never suspended.
An assumption about part of the mystery is that the City doesn’t know what to do now that the suspension and investigation of the two police officers has become a political albatross around the neck of the City and its police department.
The mystery continued when, a little over a week ago, rumors swirled that Lt. Edwards had been exonerated. When that question was posed to MPD Chief Tim Dolan, he indicated that he would not comment. However, later that day, according to White media, the Internal Affairs Unit indicated that both Lt. Edwards and Officer Roberts were under continued investigation.
On the 26th of June, a settlement conference will be held, presided over by a federal magistrate, a procedure consistent with the rules of the federal court. An interesting aside is the fact that depositions are being taken from the five Black Minneapolis police officers who filed suit in federal court on December 3, 2007.
One of those being deposed was Lt. Edwards. An interesting theory has emerged that raises serious questions about the fairness of a trial on behalf of these five African American police officers.
Since the early summer of 2007, according to a sworn statement by Chief Tim Dolan, who himself is under criminal investigation, an intense investigation of these Black officers and others was being conducted. That investigation included electronic surveillance, including wire taps.
Those wire taps included conversations between African American police officers who have filed suit and their attorneys, which raises the question of a series of breaches of judiciary procedure.
Now the City, of course, is saddled with this story and these statements. There will be serious consequences if the court shows that not only during the course of discovery for evidence, but also before that discovery began, the right of confidentiality between the Black officers and their attorneys was intentionally and knowingly violated.
It is clear that, according to the department’s own statements, Officer Roberts was under electronic surveillance, and in the course of that surveillance he was engaged in numerous conversations with the five Black police officers of record and their discussions with their attorneys.
It is now clear that the conversations of Sgt. Adams, Sgt. Hamilton, Lt. Harris, Lt. Arrodondo and Lt. Edwards with their attorneys about their lawsuit were being intercepted, and thus the City is using that information to help prepare its defense for the Settlement Conference scheduled for June 26, 2008.
It was clear as early as September 11, 2007, that advanced information among Black police officers was being intercepted. In fact, it seems quite clear that when the executive committee of the Minneapolis City Council met the morning of September 12, 2007, and were briefed by Civil Rights Department Director Michael Jordan with respect to his meeting the previous day with at least 10 African American police officers, City officials had been reviewing the electronic intercepts prior to that meeting and were fully aware of the concerns of African American police officers.
Yet they did nothing to address those concerns.
As has been widely reported, Jordan was quoted in a newspaper article in the Star Tribune in October 2007 saying he chose to take no action whatsoever. It is clear that the City has been comfortable with these intercepts, yet the lawsuit of December 3, 2007, seems to have caught them off guard — they thought that their secret investigation was well disguised and would not be uncovered.
Of course, City officials never expected that by the first week in March of 2008, the head of their own department, Chief Tim Dolan, would himself let the cat out of the bag. This then caused the Police Federation to ask for a criminal investigation. That investigation has such serious consequences that Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman sent the complaint on to Dakota County.
It will be very interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks and months. There are numerous questions that will have to be answered. Courts don’t look favorably on tampering with discovery.
In the meantime, the mystery of the allegations against African American Officers Adams, Roberts, Edwards, and a fourth officer identified as KP seems to be treated as a regrettable and unfortunate incident; as if, since there is no blood, there is no foul, no harm.
It makes one wonder who is watching the watchers. Stay tuned.
Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of key civil rights organizations, including the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com; hear his readings and read his solution papers and “web log” at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com.