Sheriff Hutchinson's staff feared for safety, Hennepin Co investigation says

Newly released notes and text messages from Hennepin County’s investigation into former Sheriff David Hutchinson show members of his senior command staff feared for their safety because of his escalating erratic and volatile behavior.

The material is now part of Metro Transit’s internal affairs investigation into whether Hutchinson’s conduct while sheriff should prevent him from returning to his previous job as a sergeant in the Metro Transit Police Department, sources have confirmed for FOX 9. 

‘He could lose it’ 

"He believes that he is a person that could come up and shoot at you," a member of Hutchinson’s command staff told an outside investigator hired by the county.

"You cannot have a regular conversation with him. This is going to end really badly," the person said.

The heavily redacted contemporaneous interview notes from Hennepin County’s outside investigator, KZ Workplace, show the concern was shared by several members of the sheriff’s command staff.

"[Name redacted] is concerned that he [Hutchinson] could lose it and shoot someone in the office. Doesn’t feel like mental health is intact. Worried he is going to shoot someone," the investigator wrote.

"There are days [name redacted] feels unsafe at work," the investigator wrote.

"[Name redacted] is concerned that he (Hutchinson) could lose it and shoot someone in the office," the investigator continued.

Back to Metro Transit?

Interview notes and text messages with Hutchinson’s command staff, were released as part of a public records request by the FOX 9 Investigators.

Metro Transit has made a similar Minnesota Data Practices for the material as part of its own investigation into Hutchinson’s conduct as sheriff.

After his term as sheriff expired Jan. 2, Hutchinson returned to Metro Transit Police and was placed on administrative leave the next day pending an investigation into conduct unbecoming a peace officer.

Minnesota state law provides an opportunity for public employees to take an unpaid leave of absence if they are elected as a legislator, full-time city or county office, or an Indian tribal council.

State law requires the employee to return "at the same salary, which would have been received if the leave had not been taken."

The law requires the public employees to fill out a Personnel Action Request (PAR) before they take leave.  Hutchinson filled out the form on Dec. 6, 2018.

If Hutchinson returns to his old job, he will make $114,000, $23,000 more than he did previously, due to pay increases from a union agreement.

A Clean Discipline Record

Hutchinson’s personnel file shows he had a clean discipline record with Metro Transit Police ever since he was hired in August 2007 as a police officer.

Over the next decade with Metro Transit Police, he scored high on performance reviews and evaluations.

Those reviews are in striking contrast to his behavior with his own command staff while serving as Hennepin County Sheriff.

Allegations about Hutchinson’s racist, sexist, and homophobic behavior and text messages were first reported by the FOX 9 Investigators in July 2022.

Hennepin County Administration hired the outside investigator, KZ Workplace, to review the allegations, and that report was made public in December.

Members of the command staff said Hutchinson’s erratic and unprofessional behavior also preceded his drunk driving crash while returning from a law enforcement conference in Alexandria on December 8, 2021.

"He has been an embarrassment to the agency way before Dec. 8," said a command staff member who said the sheriff behaves like an 8-year-old.

"We are on high level meetings with chiefs throughout the state. He would get on that meeting a burb and say stupid things. We lost reputation quickly," the command staff member told the investigator.

On Sept. 6, 2019, Hutchinson was allegedly giving a tour to a child, when he introduced an employee as "the office idiot."

He also allegedly asked someone in Alcoholics Anonymous where they get their marijuana.

"Everything revolved around sexual connotation; financial gain – very shallow, sophomoric type," a command staff member told the investigator.

"Whenever there is an officer involved shooting, his first text would be what race is the person. If they were black, he would be concerned that we would have riots," the command staff member said.