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Minneapolis argues to dismiss lawsuit on MPD 'coaching' data

A lawsuit claims Minneapolis is keeping some records private because MPD is "coaching" officers instead of "disciplining" them.

MINNEAPOLIS — When Minneapolis police officers are disciplined for misconduct, some data, by law, is supposed to be accessible to the public.

But a lawsuit filed by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information claims Minneapolis is keeping some records private because MPD is "coaching" officers instead of disciplining them.

They grew suspicious when running into road blocks while trying to look into former officer Derek Chauvin's past.

According to the city, between 2013 and 2019 there were more than 2,000 complaints against MPD officers and the city found 373 of them to have merit. Of those, 334 resulted in coaching and just 39 in "discipline."

"We're saying that coaching is discipline, full-stop," said attorney Leita Walker for the plaintiff.

Walker argues that the judge should determine that what MPD is calling "coaching" in many cases, really is discipline, and those cases should be made public.

"Coaching is discipline because it is indistinguishable from a written warning, and everyone concedes a written warning is disciplinary," Walker said.

"Coaching is, and has always been, a non-disciplinary tool," said attorney Sarah Riskin for the city of Minneapolis.

Riskin asked Judge Karen Janisch to dismiss the case. Riskin argues that coaching is a necessary and a helpful management tool to improve officer performance, short of using discipline.

"It builds trust for an employee to be able to make mistakes without being disciplined. The city, after all, hires people. And people are not perfect," Riskin said.

Judge Janisch will make a ruling soon but worries it will be up to her to define what "disciplinary action" means -- not just for MPD but all entities that fall under the Minnesota Data Practices Act.

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