The Potluck

Sheriffs’ group disavows MPD criticism by one of its directors

By: - December 3, 2021 1:33 pm

MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo, pictured here in 2015. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

The head of the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association distanced his organization from public comments made Wednesday by a member of his board of directors criticizing the Minneapolis Police Department.

Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer, who sits on an advisory council to the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, said Wednesday that the sheriffs’ association is “ready to write a letter saying we absolutely denounce whatever is going on with the Minneapolis Police Department.” 

But Bill Hutton, executive director of the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association and retired Washington County sheriff, said the group has not considered writing such a letter, and had not had any conversations about doing so.

Hutton said while Deringer represents the association on the advisory council, his statement did not represent the association’s views.

“The comments that were made by Sheriff Deringer are his comments,” Hutton said. “Sheriff Deringer is a really good leader and he’s also very passionate. As you can imagine, those comments were made out of passion.”

At the meeting, after being asked about statewide standards for disciplining police officers, Deringer broke the proverbial blue wall of silence and went on a three-minute diatribe about the MPD, saying he was “done” defending the embattled department after seeing body camera video showing a SWAT team driving around Minneapolis in an unmarked van at night, firing rubber bullets at protesters without warning. 

Deringer apologized to his colleagues on the advisory council, saying he’d wrongly told them “cops do not do that,” and said MPD needs an overhaul “from the top down.” 

Minnesota’s 87 counties are divided into six districts, with each represented by two sheriffs, who sit on the association’s board of directors. Deringer represents District 4 in central and eastern Minnesota. 

Deringer has not responded to a request for comment. He said on Wednesday that he asked officers during a recent in-house training whether they would expect to be fired if they behaved as the MPD officers did.

“All 160 of my cops understand if they did something like that, they would fully anticipate that they would be fired,” he said. “I don’t need a criminal finding that they shot somebody without cause with a beanbag round. I would kick them to the curb faster than you can imagine.”

Asked whether Deringer’s comments caused any consternation within the association, Hutton said, “I’ve had conversations with some sheriffs.” But he wouldn’t say how the association stands on the issue of the MPD, saying it’s like a family, with lots of views. 

Asked whether Deringer was in trouble, Hutton said no. 

“He’s a really nice guy, and he’s real passionate.”

Deringer was outraged by bodycam videos made public during the Jaleel Stallings case showing MPD officers being told to “F*** up” protesters and then shooting rubber bullets at protesters on Lake Street, celebrating direct hits and having fun.

The MPD officers didn’t tell investigators they fired first when they encountered Stallings, and their conflicting accounts of the incident were later contradicted by bodycam videos. Stallings was acquitted by a jury of eight charges, including attempted murder. An internal investigation of the officers is now underway.

Asked for comment on Deringer’s critique, MPD spokesman Garrett Parten said in an email, “As a professional courtesy and out of respect for Sheriff Deringer’s leadership position, the Minneapolis Police Department is reserving the right to not make a public comment at this time.”

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.

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