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Report: Golden Valley officer fired over data violations made 'racially biased' comments

The City of Golden Valley hired a law firm in March 2022 to conduct an independent investigation into alleged police department misconduct.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — An investigation into allegations of "toxic workplace culture" and unauthorized distribution of private information in the Golden Valley Police Department resulted in one officer being fired for data breach violations and misconduct, according to a new report released by the city.

The City of Golden Valley hired the Greene Espel Law Firm to lead the investigation, which began in March 2022.

According to the report summary, investigators "considered allegations against eight current and former officers and concluded there were data practice violations." Kristen Hoefling, identified in a series of report documents, was subsequently fired from the department in Aug. 2022 for her alleged role in the data breaches.

The documents reveal that Hoefling made unauthorized recordings of staff meetings and distributed those recordings within and outside of the city's secure network.

The investigation also determined Hoefling "made racially biased and insensitive statements" in violation of the department's Professional Conduct Policy and the City's Respectful Workplace Policy. According to the public documents, those comments were made during a recorded staff meeting in May 2021.

During that meeting, Hoefling repeatedly laughed and dismissed information shared in a presentation about inequitable health outcomes for Black women. According to the report documents, the presenter shared a statistic that said "in 2010, Black Americans made up 13% of the population, but only had 2.7% of the country's wealth," to which Hoefling said to herself while on mute, "because they don't work."

In addition to recommending Hoefling be terminated, Greene Espel recommended the city invest in data practices training and social media training, and shift its focus on how the department approaches diversity, equity and inclusion work and policing goals.

“The independent investigation was necessary to bring clarity to the allegations of misconduct, hold employees accountable, and have a better understanding of the systemic issues that harm community trust in policing," City Manager Tim Cruikshank said in a statement.

The city says it plans to implement data practice training for all employees and will continue work to "eliminate racist beliefs, attitudes and behaviors." The city plans to do that through additional diversity, equity and inclusion training and through the Police Employment, Accountability and Community Engagement (PEACE) Commission.

KARE 11 reached out to Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris on Friday for a comment on the report. Harris declined to speak with KARE at that time but said he plans to discuss the investigation's findings next week.

On Friday, Dec. 2 at 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., the city is hosting two listening sessions that are open to the public. The goal of the sessions, according to the city, is to "focus on resolving conflict, repairing harm and healing relationships." 

The meetings will take place at the Brookview Valley Room at the Brookview Golden Valley Center.

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