ST. PAUL, Minn. (CN) - The St. Paul Police Department said it will hire outside agencies to investigate incidents involving its officers that resulted in a person's death or serious injury.
The department announced Monday that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) or the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office will independently look into incidents involving use of force or response to resistance caused death or injury.
The new policy will take effect this month.
"Our priorities are to safeguard the integrity of the investigation, protect the rights of everyone involved and ensure that the public trusts its police department," St. Paul Chief of Police Thomas Smith said in a statement. "The BCA and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office both have extensive experience with these types of investigations, so I am confident-and the committee agrees-that this is the right direction for our department at this time."
Under the new policy, the chief of police will contact the BCA or the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, and senior investigators with one of the agencies will lead the investigation when there is a critical incident. The St. Paul Police Department's Homicide Unit, which used to investigate such incidents, will then act as a liaison with the lead agency.
The department says its officers will retain all of their rights and protections under law, and will still be represented by the St. Paul Police Federation.
The policy change is in line with suggestions from President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which recommended independent investigations into police shootings.
"I applaud Chief Smith for following the recommendations of the Obama Administration's Task Force on 21st Century Policing by ensuring independent reviews of officer-involved shootings and other critical incidents," said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.
The change also follows the department's decision to put Sgt. Jeffrey Rothecker on paid administrative leave after he posted "Run them over" on social media in advance of a Black Lives Matter protest, which was held on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Rothecker ultimately deleted the posting and apologized for making the comment two days later. However, Black Lives Matter St. Paul called for a criminal charge against him Friday.
This story was originally published by Courthouse News.
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