The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota sued the City of Saint Paul Wednesday in state court to get public data that officials have improperly withheld for more than 18 months.

Since the summer of 2018, the Saint Paul Police Department has unlawfully refused to provide the ACLU of Minnesota with critical public data about its policing activities in the community, including stops, citations, arrests and uses of force, said the lawsuit filed in Ramsey County District Court.

“Although Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and SPPD Chief Todd Axtell have publicly committed to government transparency and police accountability, the SPPD has not produced information required by Minnesota government data laws,” the lawsuit said.

“Police have provided only a fraction of the data the ACLU of Minnesota has been requesting for more than 18 months, even though this data is clearly public under state law,” said ACLU-MN staff attorney David McKinney. “A full accounting of police activities is crucial to ensure adequate oversight, accountability and transparency, and to understand the scope of racial disparities that are already apparent in the limited amount of data that the police department has released. This information is essential to make sure that all interactions with police are safe and just.”

The data (from Jan. 1, 2015, to the present) that the SPPD has refused to produce includes:

  • Data for each adult and juvenile arrest for all felonies, gross misdemeanors, misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors. 
  • The identity of police officers associated with citations, arrests, stops or uses of force. 
  • Any information related to investigative stops, Terry stops, stop and talk, and stop and frisk interactions, other than published traffic stop information, even though SPPD’s own manual requires officers to record these stops and give them a case number. 
  • Any use-of-force reports documented by police officers.

The SPPD claims that it doesn’t track investigative stops, even though the department’s own manual requires officers to record these stops and give them a case number. SPPD asserted that its electronic storage system is “antiquated and does not allow for saving an electronic report, or even mailing a report,” even though it has the technical capabilities to produce detailed arrest and apprehension data to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. SPPD is also violating state law that requires governments to keep records “easily accessible for convenient use,” the complaint said.

The ACLU is asking the court to make SPPD follow the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act and release this public data. Supporters can join the call for police transparency by telling Saint Paul officials to make public data public. Call Chief of Police Todd Axtell (651-266-5588), Mayor Melvin Carter (651-266-8510) and Council President Brendmoen (651-266-8650) today.