Jacqueline Bilek took in a dog, Sadie, who had been badly mistreated and now accompanies her most places. Photo by Deena Winter/Minnesota Reformer
Four months after Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck, suffocating him on the pavement outside Cup Foods, Jacqueline Bilek called the Minneapolis Police Department about a man who was putting fliers on windshields condemning Black Lives Matter.
Bilek called the 5th precinct police station to see if the man was dangerous, because she’d heard he was having mental health problems.
Officer* Scot Kaiser answered the phone. After hearing her story, Kaiser launched into his own diatribe about the activist group, Bilek said, calling Black Lives Matter a terrorist group that “we will wipe off the face of the Earth.”
“Excuse me?” Bilek replied.
He repeated himself.
She said she didn’t think that was appropriate and asked to speak to his supervisor.
He laughed, she said, and refused to transfer her or take down her contact information.
“And then with all due arrogance, he goes, ‘You know what? I’ve got the feeling you are going to file a complaint, and so let me spell my last name so you get it correctly and give you my badge number, so nothing’s wrong,’” Bilek said.
She called back later, but Kaiser answered again and wouldn’t transfer the call, she said.
Bilek was stunned; he was brazenly threatening a good portion of the people he serves as a police officer.
“He’s an arrogant son of a bitch — pardon my language. I’m 72 and usually very low-key,” Bilek said. “He knew he wasn’t going to be held accountable, and he thought it was funny. It was just a game.”
So she did file a complaint, and ended up talking to inspector Amelia Huffman, who was a deputy chief in charge of internal affairs at the time. Huffman later was named interim police chief, in February 2021.
Bilek told Huffman what happened, and gave her Kaiser’s name. She started to give his badge number when, according to Bilek, Huffman said, “You don’t have to give me the badge number. We know who this is.”
“She wasn’t dismissing it,” Bilek said. “And it was like no news to her that he would do this… she certainly knew about his history.”
Huffman told Bilek an investigator would call her to set up a formal interview. Someone called, but then canceled soon after. For months, Bilek heard nothing. The retired business owner took meticulous notes about the conversation with Kaiser and everyone thereafter, and even had some of them notarized.
Despite Bilek’s repeated phone calls, the city took seven months to interview her.
By then, the world was waiting for a verdict in Chauvin’s murder trial in April 2021. Bilek was at City Hall near the courthouse, being interviewed about her complaint against Kaiser. Downtown Minneapolis was packed with people; reporters were everywhere.
Bilek said one of the officers involved in her case suggested Bilek tell her story to one of the national reporters outside, saying, “This story needs to go national.”
The prospect of stirring an already-boiling-over pot scared Bilek. She opted to proceed with her complaint and let the city’s disciplinary process play out.
For months, she heard nothing. So she started calling City Hall again.
Nick Barkley, an investigator in the city’s Office of Police Conduct Review, which handles misconduct complaints against officers, recently told Bilek that the investigation had concluded, but little else.
In an email to Bilek, Barkley wrote that he sympathized with her about the lack of information he could disclose to her.
“I hear your frustration and I hope it was made clear that we as staff share many of the same frustrations regarding case status, investigation conclusions and other data that is considered private,” Barkley wrote. The Office of Police Conduct Review did not respond to a request for comment.
Public records do not indicate Kaiser has been disciplined. Which means MPD’s notoriously slow disciplinary process is still ongoing two-and-a-half years after Bilek made her report, or that Kaiser was granted “coaching” instead of discipline. MPD introduced “coaching” more than a decade ago, and doesn’t consider it discipline, so complaints that result in coaching aren’t disclosed to the public. That secrecy is currently the subject of a lawsuit against the city by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information.
Bilek’s story illustrates many of the ways in which MPD has struggled to discipline officers: She encountered delays and opacity — and the public is none the wiser.
The MPD declined to make Kaiser, Huffman, or anyone available for comment, referring the Reformer to a police records office.
13 misconduct complaints
City records show 13 misconduct complaints have been filed against Kaiser since 2012, including one case that’s still open, and two for which he was disciplined. It doesn’t appear he was disciplined for a lawsuit the city settled in which a Muslim woman said he unnecessarily searched her and made a disparaging remark about her religion.
Habso Khalif, a Minneapolis woman, sued Kaiser and another officer. She said they unlawfully detained and frisked her, with Kaiser touching her genital area and pulling up the back of her sweater.
According to her lawsuit, Khalif told Kaiser, “You don’t have to touch me like that. I’m Muslim.”
This is how Kaiser responded, according to her complaint: “I don’t care what religion you think you are.”
The city settled the lawsuit in March 2021 for $30,000.
Kaiser has been disciplined for two misconduct cases, but neither was connected to the Khalif lawsuit.
He received a letter of reprimand last fall. While responding to an assault report, he told a citizen, “You got to take the sh** out of your mouth so I can understand you” and then later told a paramedic at the scene, “You got weak leadership that won’t stand up to retard politicians, is really what it is.”
As interim chief, Huffman wrote in a discipline memo (most of which is redacted) that Kaiser committed two instances of unprofessional language.
The police union filed a grievance and later agreed to a settlement that was mostly redacted.
Kaiser was also suspended for 40 hours in July for an incident while responding to a disturbance call in September 2021. Kaiser and a man ended up scuffling on the ground, and when the man said he couldn’t breathe, Kaiser replied, “Good. You’re a stupid piece of sh**.”
According to Huffman’s discipline memo, the man continued to say he couldn’t breathe, “but the officers continued to leave him in the prone position without sitting him up into a recovery position.”
The risk of restraining suspects in a prone position — face down — with weight on them has come under increasing scrutiny in the wake of Floyd’s murder.
At one point the man asked “What did I do?”
Kaiser replied, “It’s called fourth-degree assault — it’s a felony, a**hole! God, you’re a f***ing idiot. You’re drunk, you’re an idiot, you’re stupid.”
The man was handcuffed and after complaining of pain while being taken to a squad car, Kaiser said, “Oh, now you’re a p***y?”
The man asked for mercy, to which Kaiser replied, “Oh you want mercy? Go f*** yourself you drunk f***.”
Huffman found the complaint had merit due to “profane and derogatory language” used by Kaiser, calling his conduct unacceptable and unprofessional. She found Kaiser also violated MPD policy when he ignored the man’s complaints that he couldn’t breathe as the officers struggled to handcuff him while he was prone in a stairway.
Huffman wrote that after Floyd’s death, “every officer should understand the seriousness of any person expressing that they cannot breathe and respond with care.”
In addition to suspending Kaiser, she referred him for refresher training to “review the critical decision-making model, procedural justice, and de-escalation techniques.”
‘I’m afraid of Minneapolis police’
Bilek is disappointed that Kaiser doesn’t appear to have faced repercussions for what he said to her about Black Lives Matter.
“I don’t understand how something like this — where he’s disavowing protection of half the city — isn’t a violation,” Bilek said. “He was pretty clear in saying he wasn’t alone.”
Bilek came away from the experience scared — of the police. Although most are professional and respectful, she said, she doesn’t know which she can trust anymore.
“I am just so appalled and I don’t trust the police,” she said. “In addition to locking my door every way I could, I had chairs in front of my door against the doorknob.”
Eventually, she decided she wanted her story to be told. So she wrote letters to multiple news outlets.
“Im white, I’m educated, I’m privileged, and I’m afraid of Minneapolis police,” she wrote.
Nobody published her letter. And to this day, Kaiser still works for the MPD.
* Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Kaiser’s rank.
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