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New policy for St. Paul calls for outside investigation in police shooting cases

The St. Paul Police homicide unit had previously investigated “critical cases,” including police shootings, but now will contact the BCA or Hennepin County Sheriff’s office.

The St. Paul Police Department has changed its policy on investigation of “critical incidents,” including police shootings and other use of force by officers, and will now contact the BCA or Hennepin County Sheriff’s office to take charge of those cases.

The department’s own homicide unit has been handling those cases.

The change was recommended by a committee senior police officials, homicide investigators and representatives from the Saint Paul Police Federation.

In a statement this morning, the department said:

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Beginning this month, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) or the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office will investigate incidents involving use of force or response to resistance or aggression that results in the death or serious injury of any person…

The policy change is the result of a months-long discussion by a committee composed of senior-level leaders in the department, homicide investigators and representatives from the Saint Paul Police Federation about how to best handle investigations into officer-involved deaths.

Police Chief Thomas Smith, who is retiring this year, said: “Our priorities are to safeguard the integrity of the investigation, protect the rights of everyone involved and ensure that the public trusts its police department. The BCA and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office both have extensive experience with these types of investigations, so I am confident—and the committee agrees — that this is the right direction for our department at this time.”

Now, when there’s a “critical incident,” the chief will contact the BCA or the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and senior investigators in one of those agencies will conduct the investigation. A St. Paul police homicide official will be a liaison, providng “complete access to information and resources needed to complete a thorough investigation.”

St. Paul officers involved in the critical incident “will retain all of their rights and protections under the law, and they will still have the support and representation of the Saint Paul Police Federation,” officials said.