Open letter to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension – Letter to the Editor

As you certainly know, Winston Smith was killed by officers under the supervision of the U.S. Marshals on June 3, 2021. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension conducted a Use-of-Deadly Force investigation, resulting in a report of over 1,000 pages, submitted to Crow Wing County Attorney Donald Ryan. Mr. Ryan then decided that lethal force was justified and that no charges would be leveled against the Ramsey and Hennepin County deputies who shot Smith. I just checked a minute ago, and that report is still not available to the public.
My understanding is that the entire purpose of this investigative section of the BCA is to provide transparency and inspire public trust and confidence when officers kill. In this case, there were no body cameras worn. No squad video was released. The identities of the shooters have been shielded. No grand jury or public trial of those officers has happened, or will happen, since Mr. Ryan did not recommend them. At this point, nearly three months after releasing the BCA report to Mr. Ryan and over seven months since Mr. Smith’s death, that report is still not available to the public.
Frankly, this leads me to wonder about the entire purpose of the investigation. Is it truly to inspire public confidence, or merely to delay long enough so that the public forgets the doubts that have been raised? If you want the public to trust armed officers who kill, please know that we do not now have the information to reach that conclusion in the case of Winston Smith. By withholding that report for so long, you are only delaying public outcries until the next officer-involved killing. It should not take more than a day or two to redact protected information. Using a computer search function should be able to accomplish that task in minutes. Why is this report still secret?

Charles Underwood

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