The 2010 Legislature enacted laws aimed at addressing allegations of misconduct by officers assigned to the Metro Gang Strike Force, including improper seizures and forfeitures.
In May 2009, the Legislative Auditor’s financial audit division conducted a special review of the Metro Gang Strike Force and found that “internal controls were not adequate to safeguard seized and forfeited property, properly authorize its financial transactions, accurately record its financial activity in the accounting records, and conduct its financial activities in a reasonable and prudent manner.”10 Subsequent to this report and after further allegations of misconduct, the strike force was shut down. An additional investigation was conducted at the request of the Department of Public Safety. This report, known as the “Luger” report, found “credible allegations of misconduct relating to strike force employees that went beyond the findings of the Legislative Auditor,” including illegal seizures, potential civil rights violations, and improper handling of seized property and evidence.11, 12
In an effort to curb further potential abuse, the 2010 Legislature passed two bills that addressed the oversight of multijurisdictional task forces, such as the Metro Gang Strike Force,13 and made changes to various seizure and forfeiture laws. Regarding the latter, chapter 391 implemented the following changes in forfeiture law:
- Requires officers to give receipts upon seizing property
- Amends bond provisions for forfeited property
- Implements timelines for forfeiture notice and hearings
- Amends conciliation court jurisdiction to include certain forfeiture claims
- Places a cap on the value of property that may be forfeited administratively
- Requires prosecutors to certify administrative forfeitures
- Prohibits sales of forfeited property to officers and their family members
- Amends and expands forfeiture reporting requirements
- Requires the Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Board and the Minnesota County Attorneys’ Association to develop a statewide model policy for best practices in forfeiture
One of the legislature’s main concerns was the use of administrative forfeiture provisions. If an agency administratively forfeits property, there is no judicial review or formal process. Moreover, the previous law did not set any time limits for initiating these actions. To increase accountability and oversight, the legislature implemented a 60-day timeline to serve notice after seizure and required that contested claims be heard within 180 days of the demand. A cap of $50,000 was placed on administrative forfeitures (anything above that value would need to be forfeited judicially), and prosecutors must certify that certain procedures were met before an agency can dispose of administratively forfeited property. Reporting requirements were also expanded to increase transparency of forfeiture actions.
10 Office of the Legislative Auditor, State of Minnesota, Metro Gang Strike Force: Special Review (May 20, 2009), 1, http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/fad/pdf/fad0918.pdf.
11 Andrew Luger and John Patrick Egelhof, Report of the Metro Gang Strike Force Review Panel (August 20, 2009), 2, http://www.dps.state.mn.us/Docs/FINALReport_MGSFReviewPanel.PDF.
12 One strike force officer was indicted by a federal grand jury in August 2010. A month later, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced he had insufficient evidence to criminally charge former strike force officers under Minnesota state law. Randy Furst, “Obstacles Sink State’s Strike Force Case,” Star Tribune, September 9, 2010.
13 See Laws 2010, ch. 383.