A Minnesota police major testified in court that state troopers dumped text messages and emails after responding to protests in Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd last year.
According to the New York Times, confirmation of the communications purge came Friday (September 3) after court transcripts of a hearing held in a lawsuit –– filed last year by the ACLU on behalf of journalists who accused law enforcement agents of assaulting them during the protests –– were released.
Minnesota Police Maj. Joseph Dwyer testified at a July hearing that he and other state police officers deleted their emails and text messages after responding to the protests in the city and added that he believed that “a vast majority” of officers had done the same. The email purge had not been ordered by any superior officers, but Dwyer said the practice of state troopers deleting their emails was recommended from time to time.
“The purge was neither accidental, automated nor routine,” lawyers with the ACLU said in a court memo released Friday (September 3). The attorneys for the group say no one has been able to review the deleted messages to see if they might be relevant to the lawsuit case.
“The absence of both contemporaneous communications and documentation makes it nearly impossible to track the State Patrol’s behavior, apparently by design,” the court memo continued.
On Monday (September 6), Kevin Riach, a lawyer working with the ACLU, told KSTP that he was suspicious about deleted communications among state troopers before questioning Maj. Dwyer in July.
“We were shocked at the apparent extent of the destruction,” Riach said. “We still have questions.”
The lawsuit accuses state troopers of interfering with freedom of the press rights of journalists who provided news coverage of the protests following Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020. One news crew from CNN was arrested live on air sparking outrage from news media groups and other journalists.
“The protests were marked by an extraordinary escalation of unlawful force deliberately targeting reporters,” the lawsuit says.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called the police interactions with journalists covering the protests “chilling,” and has urged law enforcement officers “to make changes that will help ensure journalists do not face barriers to doing their jobs.”