Saint Paul Police Department will seek independent investigations into officer-involved deaths

In an effort to better align its policies with national best practices and improve transparency, the Saint Paul Police Department has changed its policy on investigations into incidents where serious injury or death occur during police custody or involvement, which are commonly referred to as critical incidents.

Beginning this month, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) or the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office will investigate incidents involving use of force or response to resistance or aggression that results in the death or serious injury of any person. In the past, the Saint Paul Police Department’s Homicide Unit led the investigations.

The policy change is the result of a months-long discussion by a committee composed of senior-level leaders in the department, homicide investigators and representatives from the Saint Paul Police Federation about how to best handle investigations into officer-involved deaths.

“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,” Chief of Police Thomas Smith said. “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.”

In addition, the policy change aligns with a recommendation by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which recommended independent investigations into police shootings.  

Under the updated policy, the chief of police or a designee will contact the BCA or the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office when there is a critical incident. Senior investigators with one of the agencies will then lead the investigation. A representative from Saint Paul Police Department’s Homicide Unit will act as a liaison with the lead agency to ensure that their employees have complete access to information and resources needed to complete a thorough investigation.

Saint Paul police officers will retain all of their rights and protections under the law, and they will still have the support and representation of the Saint Paul Police Federation.

“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 Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

More information about the department’s policy can be found on