State Patrol pushes back on trooper who described massive ‘purge’

(KSTP) – The Minnesota State Patrol is pushing back against its own supervisor who recently testified that the vast majority of troopers engaged in a massive "purge" of emails and text messages after last year’s riots.

In a motion filed late Wednesday, lawyers for the state said those serious allegations are based on “nothing more than the speculation of one witness.”

That witness is the agency’s own employee, Maj. Joseph Dwyer, who was promoted earlier this summer.

Dwyer was called to testify in July as part of a lawsuit brought by the Minnesota chapter of the ACLU on behalf of a coalition of journalists.

“There was a purge of emails and text messages,” he told the court.

But in several motions filed Wednesday, the state says Maj. Dwyer was wrong and that the agency has in its possession the emails for every trooper since last May along with “various text messages” related to its response to the unrest.

“There is no indication of an intentional effort… to destroy relevant evidence for the purpose of suppressing the truth,” the filing said.

The filing is in stark contrast to the picture painted by Dwyer, who served as commander of the agency’s Mobile Response Team after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.

The major’s testimony, which was first reported by 5 INVESTIGATES earlier this month, suggests troopers may have destroyed potential evidence that could be used against the agency in multiple pending lawsuits regarding its use of force on protestors and journalists following Floyd’s death.

In a separate court filing on Wednesday, signed by Col. Matt Langer, the head of the State Patrol expressed his displeasure with the “misleading and false allegations.”

“It is not true that the ‘vast majority’ of State Patrol data has been deleted,” he said. “In fact, all of the emails for the 596 State Patrol employees during that relevant time frame is currently preserved as part of this ongoing litigation.”

Langer makes no mention that it was his own employee who made the claims.

Bruce Gordon, a spokesperson for the State Patrol, declined an interview request, citing the ongoing litigation.

During the court hearing this summer, Maj. Dwyer described the purge as “standard practice.”

Kevin Riach, the ACLU attorney, repeatedly questioned the supervisor about the deleting of emails and possible evidence.

“You just decided, shortly after the George Floyd protests, this would be a good time to clean out my inbox?” he asked.

“That is correct,” Dwyer testified.

Dwyer emphasized that no other official records were deleted following the protests.

The motions filed by the state on Wednesday lay out the vast steps that the State Patrol took to preserve data, including a litigation hold for Col. Langer on June 8, 2020, and the rest of the agency the following day.

A hold is an order to preserve all relevant records in anticipation of a lawsuit. It also puts in place measures to save emails that employees attempt to delete.