A Minnesota State Patrol officer said that the “vast majority” of emails and text messages following the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis were deleted. Minnesota State Patrol Maj. Joseph Dwyer said during a July 28 hearing that it was typical that, as an organization, officers “periodically delete our inboxes” after large-scale events.
ACLU lawyer Kevin Riach asked Dwyer about the irony that officers would clean their inboxes after the protests. His reply was that “I periodically delete my e-mails.”
Dwyer held the rank of captain and was a commander of the Mobile Response Team during the unrest.
The reason why we know about this hearing is because the ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit asking a Minnesota court to put a stop to what it calls “unconstitutional conduct targeting journalists” by law enforcement, according to CNN. The transcript that includes this testimony was released as a result. The ACLU filed the lawsuit in June of 2020 arguing that “(t)he past week has been marked by an extraordinary escalation of unlawful force deliberately targeting reporters.”
Here is more from CNN:
Just days before the lawsuit was filed, CNN journalist Omar Jimenez was taken into police custody during a live broadcast at the site of the protests, after clearly identifying himself to officers. His crew, including a producer and a camera operator, were also placed in handcuffs.
“We are facing a full-scale assault on the First Amendment freedom of the press,” Brian Hauss, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said in a statement when the lawsuit was filed.
Riach asks Dwyer whether he was aware the class-action lawsuit had been filed when he deleted the messages.
“You were aware that this case had been filed, though, at time the materials were deleted, correct?” Riach asked.
“I was aware that there was litigation and I retained my records in relation to a litigation hold,” Dwyer said, according to the transcipt.
“When was the litigation hold placed?” Riach asked.
“I’d have to have my memory refreshed,” Dywer said.
“That was after the purge, correct?” Riach asked.
“Again, I don’t remember the exact date,” Dwyer said, the transcript states.
Minnesota Department of Public Safety spokesperson Bruce Gordon told CNN in a statement, “The Minnesota State Patrol follows all state and agency data retention requirements. In addition, there is a litigation hold for all data related to this case. We are unable to comment further due to the ongoing litigation.”
As far as the ACLU is concerned, the Minnesota State Patrol could be covering up something.
“The absence of both contemporaneous communications and documentation makes it nearly impossible to track the State Patrol’s behavior, apparently by design,” the filing says, especially because “(n)o one reviewed the purged communications before they were deleted to determine whether the materials were relevant to this litigation.”