MPD lieutenant gets letter of reprimand for forwarding racist email 11 years ago
A Minneapolis police squad car in May 2021. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.
A Minneapolis police lieutenant was recently disciplined with a letter of reprimand — the lowest level of discipline meted out by the department — for forwarding a racist email 11 years ago.
Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara concurred with a police conduct review panel that found merit to the allegation that Lt. Aimee Linson violated MPD’s ethics and communications policy, which bans employees from transmitting, accessing or storing material that’s offensive, such as racial slurs.
The case dates back to 2012, when Linson, a sergeant at the time, forwarded a chain email to several other MPD employees with the subject line “Only in the Ghetto” and 16 photos, seven of which portrayed Black people in a negative light. Most of the photo labels indicated they were taken from a website called ReallyGhetto.com.
An MPD spokesman said the incident came up recently in connection with the state Department of Human Rights investigation related to a pattern and practice of racist policing. The reprimand comes amid a federal investigation of MPD for racist policing, which is ongoing even as the department begins to implement an agreement with the state human rights department.
O’Hara said in a statement to the Reformer that a result of the state’s findings and “the singling out” of Linson, she was placed on administrative leave.
“Insufficient investigatory or disciplinary processes unnecessarily prolonged the investigation and the amount of time that this situation was left unresolved,” he said. After taking over as chief, O’Hara said he needed to determine whether the 11-year-old email violated the departments ethics and communications policy.
“As this email was a clear breach of department policy and my expectations, I concurred with the review panel’s findings and issued a letter of reprimand,” O’Hara said.
Linson told investigators she didn’t remember sending the email — which isn’t surprising given it was 10 years before she was interviewed by Internal Affairs, where in the intervening years she became an investigator.
O’Hara wrote in a letter to Linson that the department can’t afford to lose legitimacy with the people it serves. But he noted that in the decade since the incident, there’s no evidence of similar conduct by Linson, who hasn’t been disciplined in 25 years with the force. At least a half dozen misconduct complaints have been lodged against her; only one has been sustained.
Meanwhile, Linson advanced through the ranks to lieutenant and has served as a crisis negotiator, supervisor of the field training program and a member of the mounted patrol. She has also received a merit award from the chief.
O’Hara’s letter indicates Linson expressed remorse for the incident, and has not had any other incidents of bias or discrimination in the past decade. He noted that most crimes have a three-year statute of limitations, except the most serious.
Still, he concluded coaching was not an acceptable consequence for behavior that he said undermines public trust.
“This incident is one example of a situation that has occurred far too often where the identification of inappropriate group behavior resulted in a single individual or selected few, often the lowest ranking within the group, being singled out,” O’Hara said in his statement. “In contrast, higher-ranking members of the group who are charged with being leaders within the department faced no accountability. Eliminating these gaps in accountability and instances of scapegoating is a focus for myself and my new administration.”
This story was updated at 6 p.m. Tuesday to reflect the police chief’s statement.
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