Minneapolis police chief faces three investigations for alleged misconduct
City Attorney’s Office reminds city employees it’s a crime to release information on active investigations
Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara discusses the state settlement with Minneapolis over racist policing. Photo by Deena Winter/Minnesota Reformer
Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara is under fire, with some activists calling for him to be reprimanded after three complaints were filed against him, one in connection with his approval of the hiring of an officer with a history of excessive force.
A city spokesman confirmed Thursday that the city has three open misconduct complaints and one closed complaint against O’Hara, filed with the Office of Police Conduct Review.
Information about such complaints isn’t public at this stage, but KSTP-TV reported Tuesday that it obtained the confidential complaints.
It’s a misdemeanor to disseminate complaints publicly while the investigation is open, and the City Attorney’s Office released a statement Thursday saying violations are punishable by suspension or termination.
The social media account CrimeWatchMpls posted a letter indicating the office has initiated an investigation into a possible “data breach.”
A member of a police watchdog group told the Star Tribune the complaints reek of a police union witch hunt, but Minneapolis police union president Sgt. Sherral Schmidt denied she had any involvement.
KSTP-TV reported one complaint alleges O’Hara yelled and cursed at an Edina detective who refused to give him a nonpublic report about an MPD officer cited for assault; the second alleges he failed to report using force during a Jan. 27 incident; and the third says he was untruthful when he told the Minnesota Reformer about the hiring of Officer Tyler Timberlake.
Timberlake was hired by MPD even though he made headlines on the East Coast for repeatedly using a stun gun on a disoriented, unarmed Black man in Virginia just days after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.
After the Reformer reported on Timberlake’s hiring by the Minneapolis Police Department in April, O’Hara ordered an investigation into MPD’s hiring processes and said Timberlake wouldn’t be deployed until it was over. Community activists called on the chief to fire Timberlake, and in July, the city terminated him.
But personnel documents later obtained by the Reformer show O’Hara signed the letter offering Timberlake a job as a police officer. Key portions of Timberlake’s personnel documents were redacted by city attorneys, such as Timberlake’s reason for leaving Virginia, whether he’d been suspended or terminated from a job in the past decade, and whether he’d been charged with or convicted of crimes.
Asked why O’Hara launched an investigation even though he personally signed off on the hire, the police chief said Timberlake was presented to him as “highly recommended” for hire after multiple layers of review.
A prominent Minneapolis civil rights lawyer, Nekima Levy Armstrong, is calling for Mayor Jacob Frey to reprimand O’Hara, who is white, similar to the way he did two Black public safety leaders: former Chief Medaria Arradondo and outgoing Community Safety Commissioner Cedric Alexander.
Frey disciplined Arradondo in December 2021 for holding a press conference to oppose a public safety ballot question just days before the November election where the fate of the police department was on the line.
And he disciplined Alexander last year for getting into a Twitter battle with some citizens one night just a couple of months into the job.
Ally Peters, a spokesperson for the mayor, said in response, “It should surprise nobody that investigations into a public tweet and a nationally televised press conference moved more quickly than a complex investigation involving multiple people, more than one department, and private data.”
Armstrong leads the Racial Justice Network, which put out a statement Thursday saying it’s a double standard for Frey not to discipline O’Hara for more egregious acts and calling on O’Hara to step down if the allegations are substantiated.
“Frey’s failure to reprimand or discipline Chief O’Hara is a tacit endorsement of the very type of behavior and broader culture within MPD that he claims needs to change,” said Pete Gamades of the Racial Justice Network.
The Racial Justice Network said O’Hara’s “deceptive statements” about the hiring of Timberlake undermine public trust and demonstrate the lengths he’ll go to maintain “racist policing practices.”
MPD released a statement to the Star Tribune saying the chief is confident the investigation will resolve the matter and allow the department to move forward.
O’Hara recently told the Reformer he believes most rank-and-file officers are behind him and want to move forward, but some don’t want change.
“I’m not their guy,” he said.
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