Police monitoring system for protesters continued to operate after the killing of George Floyd

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OSN team activities

The activities of each of the OSN teams mentioned are unclear – the agencies involved in the OSN responded to our request for clarification, stating that “mutual assistance” and “joint response” were common, and that joint response to officer trials outside of the killing of George Floyd really took place. “As with any event that may span multiple agencies or government agencies, affected groups met to discuss how best to collaborate to ensure public safety,” the Minneapolis Police Department said in an email. “These relationships and efforts are ongoing. OSN is no longer operational.”

However, several email threads we studied in October included meetings of OSN Communications, the OSN Executive Group, and the OSN Intelligence Team in preparation for protests that could arise around the trial of Kim Potter, an officer who killed Daunte. Wright, as well as the trials of three officers, in addition to Chauvin, who were charged with crimes related to the killing of George Floyd. (Potter was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced last month; three officers involved in Floyd’s murder were convicted in federal court last month and are awaiting sentencing.) In one email about an executive group meeting, the agenda lists the current plans as “OSN 2.0”. Bruce Gordon, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Public Safety, says any such mention was “unofficial” and that “there has never been and never has been OSN 2.0.”

Email from the Minneapolis Police Department regarding the OSN Executive Group meeting dated October 25, 2021.
Agenda for the October 26, 2021 “OSN Executive Group” meeting
An email regarding the October 12, 2021 “OSN Public Affairs Meeting” discussing planning for a Kim Potter trial unrelated to the killing of George Floyd.

In the intelligence group, shared files used to transfer information between law enforcement have continued to be added and updated as of October of last year, which is the latest period covered by our filing requests. The group held regular meetings, according to emails, consisting of 12 people, including two from the FBI. In response to an MIT Technology Review request for comment, Cynthia Barrington, public relations officer for the FBI, said the bureau’s activities extend to sharing information “through state and regional synthesis centers.” Barrington also acknowledged the bureau’s involvement in preparing protests related to other lawsuits besides the Chauvin trial. “This took place during preparations for a state trial involving former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, as well as during preparations leading up to subsequent trials related to recent high-profile state and federal prosecutions.”

“Team Intel” is an electronic group of local, state, and federal agencies responsible for law enforcement during OSN, Gordon says. “These agencies are involved in planning other events, and the same group email may have been used in other, unrelated planning efforts. All agencies involved have ongoing responsibilities related to public safety that did not end with the termination of the OSN.”

Email from “OSN-Intel team” dated October 5, 2021
Email regarding the exchange of information between the Minneapolis Police Department and the FBI dated October 8, 2021.

Munira Mohamed, political officer for the Minnesota ACLU, said the “porous nature” of collaborative law enforcement practices creates “all these opportunities for loopholes and evasion of public scrutiny and public scrutiny.” Mohamed said that the continuity of the OSN is “a tale of mission sprawl” and that “the story of surveillance and these law enforcement agencies is that once the infrastructure for something is built, it kind of doesn’t weaken, it goes on and it becomes a permanent infrastructure.”

While it is not clear to what extent the current nature of the program is formal, many of the commands, operations, and communications structures established for OSN remain in place to this day and are used to respond to protests. A spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department told MIT Technology Review in an email that the agency “has returned to normal operations following the completion of OSN, effective Friday, April 23rd.” The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department denied our requests for comment.

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