When a law enforcement officer uses force and a person dies or is seriously injured, the officer(s) actions are investigated and reviewed under Minnesota statute 609.066, subdivision 2, to determine whether they were legally justified.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) will conduct a criminal investigation of an officer use-of-force incident if requested by the local jurisdiction. The BCA conducts an independent and unbiased investigation to find out what happened, and then provides that information to a prosecutor (usually a county attorney) who reviews the case under the law. The BCA does not determine whether an officer is guilty or innocent.
Steps of a BCA Investigation
Collecting Evidence and Conducting Interviews
The BCA conducts a thorough and independent investigation of the incident. BCA agents and crime scene personnel respond to the scene and immediately begin gathering information and evidence.
BCA agents talk to people to find out who may have seen something or may have information that may be valuable to the BCA’s investigation. BCA agents interview witnesses as quickly as possible. Often, the information is gathered at the scene or at witnesses’ homes.
Agents and scientists on the BCA crime scene team collect evidence from the scene including weapons, casings, vehicles and other items. They also photograph the scene, take measurements, and much more.
Agents interview the parties involved in the incident away from the scene – at the BCA, at a hospital (if one of the parties is hospitalized), or at another location. Oftentimes an attorney representing one of the parties also attends their interview.
The BCA cannot require any person to speak with investigators. The constitution protects the right of all parties (those involved in the incident and witnesses) to remain silent.
Examining Evidence and Conducting Follow-Up Interviews
Scientists, medical examiners and other experts analyze the evidence to identify fingerprints, understand the direction of gunfire, find out who touched a weapon and whether it was fired, learn whether any of the parties were substance-impaired and much more. These processes can include many steps and often take weeks to complete.
Once agents receive test results and other information about the evidence, agents will often interview the parties again with to ask follow-up questions.
BCA agents provide updates to the prosecutor throughout the investigation. Once the agents have gathered all of the information and finished all of the interviews, they provide their findings to the prosecutor for review.
If one of the parties was killed during the incident, the BCA will ensure that the family is notified.
It is common practice for officers to be placed on administrative leave following a use of force incident.
Their agency decides whether the officer(s) are placed on leave and for how long.
The BCA does not investigate whether officers followed local agency policies or procedures.
Release of Evidence
The BCA releases information about its investigation when it is legally able to do so and when it will not hurt the integrity of the investigation. Minnesota statute 13.82 identifies what information is public and when it is public. Most information becomes public when the case is closed. This happens when all court proceedings have finished or if the prosecutor decides against pressing charges.
The BCA provides information from the case file to the parties involved in the incident – or, if they are deceased, to their family – before releasing it to the public.
BCA Victim, Family and Community Relations Coordinator
The BCA Victim, Family and Community Relations Coordinator is the primary contact for families during a BCA investigation of an officer use-of-force incident.
Explains the BCA investigative process.
Provides status updates during the investigation.
Notifies families about the county attorney’s decision in the case. Their review and decision process can take months to complete.
Provides references to resources as needed.
The Victim, Family and Community Relations Coordinator will reach out to the family within 24 hours of the incident or as soon as possible to establish contact and open a line of communication that will last until the case is closed.
Victim, Family and Community Relations Coordinator
Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
1430 Maryland Ave. E., St. Paul, MN 55106
609.066 AUTHORIZED USE OF DEADLY FORCE BY PEACE OFFICERS.
Subd. 2. Use of deadly force. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 609.06 or 609.065, the use of deadly force by a peace officer in the line of duty is justified only when necessary:
(1) to protect the peace officer or another from apparent death or great bodily harm;
(2) to effect the arrest or capture, or prevent the escape, of a person whom the peace officer knows or has reasonable grounds to believe has committed or attempted to commit a felony involving the use or threatened use of deadly force; or
(3) to effect the arrest or capture, or prevent the escape, of a person whom the officer knows or has reasonable grounds to believe has committed or attempted to commit a felony if the officer reasonably believes that the person will cause death or great bodily harm if the person's apprehension is delayed.