State Patrol chief refutes major who said troopers purged emails, texts from 2020 riots

Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer is refuting a patrol major who testified this summer that a "vast majority" of troopers deleted emails and text messages about their response to the 2020 riots in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

"It is not true that a 'vast majority' of State Patrol data has been deleted," Langer said in a new federal court filing in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union over the patrol's use of force against journalists and protesters during the unrest.

Langer did not say how many text messages had been deleted before the State Patrol placed a hold on its 596 employees' electronic data on June 9, 2020, two days after the activation ended. He also did not say whether troopers had filed required reports about all use-of-force incidents during the disorder.

In July, Maj. Joseph Dwyer testified that he and many others in the agency had deleted their emails and texts and suggested that it was standard practice to do so. At the time, the ACLU blasted the deletion of records as a "purge."

In Thursday's new court filing, Langer said news coverage of Dwyer's testimony gave him "serious concerns about the damage this has done to the State Patrol's reputation" and questioned whether the patrol could get a fair trial in the Twin Cities.

Separately, Langer argued that an April 2021 restraining order that prevents troopers from detaining or using force against journalists is "problematic." A federal judge granted the restraining order during violent protests this spring when troopers detained and photographed journalists, while injuring others with rubber bullets.

This story is developing and will be updated.