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June 5, 2021

Lack of Transparency in Federal Law Enforcement Task Force

Community Groups ask who is in charge and what are the terms of the MOA in light of a recent killing of a Black man by police in Minneapolis 

Minneapolis, MN— On Thursday, June 3, a Black man was brutally shot and killed by local and federal law enforcement agencies in Minneapolis. Winston Smith was a father of three and a local comedian. Details surrounding the circumstances of his death have been scant and have changed frequently.

According to early reports, the law enforcement officers who shot Mr. Smith were operating under the “North Star Fugitive Task Force” led by the US Marshal Service. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has said there is no dash cam video or body worn camera footage of the incident because the US Marshal Service does not allow it. However, the Minnesota US Attorney’s Office confirmed this is not factually accurate. Law enforcement officers participating on Federal Task Forces are allowed to use body worn cameras.

There are so many questions that need answers; and the lack of transparency by law enforcement officials is incredibly alarming. For example:

  • Why was this Task Force allowed to operate without body worn cameras? Did Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and Mayor Jacob Frey sign off on this decision?

  • What policies and procedures does this Task Force operate under and who is accountable for their actions?

  • What are the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between this Task Force and local government?

  • Why did this task force place everyone in unnecessary danger by trapping and ambushing Mr. Smith in a parking lot in a busy part of town?

  • Why is there a pattern of these dangerous apprehension tactics being used like in this case and in Dolal Idd’s case?

“The lack of transparency in the MOA allows all of these agencies to escape responsibility for lying, their faulty decision-making and devaluing of Black life”, said Nekima Levy Armstrong, civil rights attorney and founder of the Racial Justice Network. She continued, “We need real answers about what happened and why; who authorized this and why are they silent about it? Black people are not safe in this city.”

“We see white armed suspects apprehended without incident over and over again,” said Billie Jean Van Knight from the Racial Justice Network. “These aggressive tactics do not keep the community safe, but actively damage it.”

We are demanding that law enforcement officials and state and local political leaders such as Mayor Jacob Frey promptly answer these questions coming from the community. We also demand a complete and thorough review of all task forces working in the City of Minneapolis. This review needs to include a detailed action plan to end these aggressive tactics and to increase transparency and accountability in how the city is being policed.


The Racial Justice Network (RJN) is a multi-racial, grassroots organization, committed to fighting for racial justice and building bridges across racial, social, and economic lines.