ACLU information request covers St. Anthony Police Department

The national office of the American Civil Liberties Union filed Freedom of Information Act requests for information about the St. Anthony Police Department.

The ACLU filed the requests with the Department of Justice’s civil rights division Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, known as COPS, according to a Jan. 4 press release. 

The requests are for documents on DOJ investigatory or enforcement activities with state and local law enforcement since Jan. 1, 2016, a timeframe that includes COPS’ review of St. Anthony police.

In September, the DOJ announced it would scale back efforts to investigate local police departments and release reports on any findings. 

The COPS review came at the behest of St. Anthony police in the wake of the police killing of Philando Castile, an African-American man, by a St. Anthony officer, during a traffic stop in July 2016.

The DOJ held listening sessions three consecutive nights in Falcon Heights, St. Anthony and Lauderdale in January 2017 as part of the review. 

“So why are you here now?” asked John Thompson, an African-American and activist, during the St. Anthony meeting, dressed in a  hairnet and cafeteria uniform in honor of Castille, who was a lunchroom supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori School in St. Paul. 

“To listen? We actually want somebody to do something; please do something,” Thompson said.

The ACLU, alongside the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund, seek “all information on any existing or proposed agreements with local police” and anything the DOJ has on “work in enforcing a federal criminal law that prohibits police officers from violating an individual’s civil rights,” according to the press release. 

“Our FOIA requests demand that the Justice Department simply provide information to the public on the technical assistance and enforcement activities it is undertaking so that local communities can get on with the hard and necessary work of policing reform that the department has chosen to abandon,” said legal defense fund president and director-counsel Sherrilyn Ifill.

St. Anthony police Chief Jon Mangseth, in newsletter updates that can be found in PDF form on the St. Anthony City website, said his department’s work with COPS is ongoing. 

Mangseth said that the police department completed training on fair and impartial policing in September, which he says “applies the modern science of bias to policing.” Procedural justice training, which was completed in November, is aimed at enhancing connections between “front-line” officers, as well as police staff, with the communities they serve, said Mangseth. 


—Solomon Gustavo

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