A Minnesota sheriff has broken his profession’s code of silence to blast the Minneapolis Police Department, saying he’s “disgusted” at the agency’s reportedly violent practices and calling for an overhaul of the agency from the “top down.”
At a Wednesday meeting of an advisory council to the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) board, Sheriff Sean Deringer of Wright County unloaded on Minneapolis cops who were caught on their own body cameras allegedly “hunting” protesters in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020. ”I was absolutely disgusted watching that,” Deringer said, adding, “I have defended that agency for the very last time.”
In an extended rant, Derringer apologized to members of the advisory board: He said he was wrong to have dismissed public complaints that Minneapolis Police Department had been reportedly randomly shooting nonviolent protesters with beanbag rounds, pepper balls, flash grenades, and other less lethal munitions. He said his earlier reaction had been to defend his brothers in blue, making comments like: “Holy crap, everyone, that doesn’t happen. Cops do not do that.” But, then, Deringer said, he saw “bodycam footage of Minneapolis Police Department again making headlines. Because why? That’s exactly what they were doing!”
The Minneapolis PD did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Jacob Frey, the mayor and civilian leader of the police, who has previously called the videos “galling” and “antithetical to the department we are striving to build.”
The footage of Minneapolis cops allegedly “hunting” protesters showed cops being directed to target protesters and “Fuck ‘em up.” The videos captured cops high-fiving after shooting nonviolent protesters with less-lethal impact rounds. Other cops used the same weapons in a manner that resembled a drive-by shooting, firing on people on the street, seemingly unannounced, from an unmarked van.
The footage of the misconduct only became public because cops fired on a protester named Jaleel Stallings, who thought he was under assault and fired back live rounds at the cops with his legally carried gun. (No one was hit.) Stallings was changed with attempted murder, but a jury this summer found he had acted in self-defense. The bodycam footage, used as evidence in his trial, was released to the media by Stallings’ lawyer. Stallings has also filed a civil suit alleging “evil intent” and an “malicious pattern of force” by the Minneapolis PD.
Wright, whose county is part of the Minneapolis metro area and neighbors Hennepin county, which encompasess Minneapolis, said he disagreed with a recent ballot proposition (voted down by Minneapolis residents) “to completely dismantle the police department.” But nonetheless called for sweeping reform: “I’m telling you, from the top down, that agency needs an overhaul.” Deringer added that the Minnesota Sheriffs Association was “ready to write a letter saying we absolutely denounce whatever is going on with the Minneapolis Police Department.”
Mixing in words like “pissed” and “infuriated,” Deringer said, “I am appalled by the lack of leadership in that agency,” because agencies across the state are “all cast in the same barrel of crap coming out of Minneapolis proper.”
Noting that two of his own officers were currently on leave, Deringer recognized that there are “issues” in every department in Minnesota. But “generally speaking,” he insisted, “law enforcement across the state hold themselves to such a much higher standard.”
Referring to the “hunting” videos, he added: “All 160 of my cops understand that they did something like that, they would fully anticipate that they would be fired.”
“I don’t need a criminal finding that they’ve shot somebody without cause with a beanbag round,” Deringer said. “I would kick them to the curb faster than you can imagine.”