Here are the short strokes on this week’s stories, from WCCO’s Caroline Lowe and the Strib’s David Chanen, about the latest mess to bubble up from the depths of the Minneapolis Police Department:
For a period of roughly three months last summer, Lt. Michael Keefe was supervisor of the MPD contingent in the Violent Offender Task Force (VOTF), a joint operation between the MPD, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. In August, Keefe–who had been honored as one of the department’s top investigators in 2006–was transferred out of that post.
Fast forward to January 23, when civil rights activist and Police/Community Relations Council co-chair Ron Edwards received a letter in response to a complaint he says he originally filed with the city’s Civil Rights Department in August and was eventually forced to re-file. Edwards’s complaint claimed that Keefe’s transfer out of VOTF was motivated by racial considerations–specifically, Keefe’s objections to a VOTF-assigned officer who allegedly said he didn’t want to work with “women or niggers.” In the letter received by Edwards, assistant city attorney Caroline Bachum wrote that Keefe had been transferred because the department believed he had shared unauthorized information with people outside an investigation. Then her letter went on to allege that Keefe had leaked information in another case “that could have led to the death of undercover officers and informants.”
Keefe had apparently not been apprised of either accusation before both were disclosed in the letter to Edwards. On Sunday Keefe spoke with WCCO and the Strib and came out swinging. Per David Chanen, Keefe “denied everything in the letter, saying it’s colleagues’ retaliation for complaints he raised about a sergeant repeatedly using a racial epithet and about overtime abuse.”
“This letter is calculated defamation,” Keefe told Caroline Lowe. “It is an outrageous lie and that I compromised the safety security of my fellow officers which is an absolutely outrageous lie.”
“Would you be willing to take a polygraph?” Lowe asked.
To the Strib, Keefe said: “[Chief] Tim Dolan doesn’t like me, and I don’t like him… He and the administration knew everything in the letter was false. Nobody even had the decency to tell me the letter existed.”
What to make of it all? A few preliminary thoughts.
* It’s important to note that, in the months since these concerns and charges about Keefe allegedly came to the attention of MPD brass, Keefe has apparently not come under active criminal investigation–since that could hardly have been kept secret from him for long–and he has not been fired or even suspended. This seems odd, to say the least, in light of the gravity of the allegations levied in the letter from the city attorney’s office.
* Here’s an interesting detail from Lowe’s story: “Keefe said he did tell a member of the MPD’s black officers association about the alleged racial comments [at the VOTF unit]. Keefe, who has been an MPD officer for 17 years, said he believes that is why he has been accused of leaking other information. ‘That’s where that rumor came up that I told them more than just that,’ said Keefe.”
* If the claims about Keefe in the assistant city attorney’s letter are not substantiated, one result could be another lawsuit against the MPD by a cop from its own ranks. That would make a total of four such lawsuits–all of them connected, directly or indirectly, to alleged civil rights violations at MPD–filed by officers since Dolan took over as chief. Previously, there was the much-publicized suit filed by five African-American cops in December; a not-at-all publicized lawsuit filed by Sgt. Giovanni Veliz last summer; and the lawsuit claiming defamation and violation of data privacy laws that was filed by Sgt. Charlie Adams a couple of weeks ago.
* The MPD can’t have it both ways. If its allegations against Keefe have any legitimate basis, why have those very serious charges not been investigated and disposed of in a timely manner? If, as the department now claims, he is a cop who endangers the lives of other cops, why is he on active duty? And if Keefe is telling the truth, then a number of people at the MPD have lied, twisted facts, or covered facts in an effort to burn a whistleblower from their own ranks. Either scenario looks like reasonable grounds for firing Police Chief Tim Dolan in light of all the other controversies swirling around him.