The instructor taught the police officers how to write more effective reports and offered several tips such as how to “prepare the scenario” and present the police officers as “victims”.
During the webinar, officers were also reprimanded for documenting injuries sustained by suspects in fights with police.
“I don’t understand why cops have this inherent need to take gory photos of suspects after they’ve had a fight or whatever with the bad guy,” said Bruce Praet, a lawyer and former officer. “You take pictures of this guy when it looks like his face went through a meat grinder. Their white shirt is crimson red and you take color photos. Stop that. Clean them.
Praet was advising officers on how to protect their departments — and his clients — from costly legal settlements.
“There is a simple formula, you all have to memorize it: red turns green when it comes to trial,” Praet added. “If there is blood in the photo, you will pay money.”
Praet’s 2019 presentation is one of many training seminars offered to law enforcement across the country and state, through a police consulting firm he co-founded called Lexipol. .
Since he helped create the Texas-based for-profit company in 2003, she has become “one of the most powerful voices opposing reform” in policing, according to researchers at UCLA Law School.
The company’s own attorney recently described efforts to restrict officers’ use of force as “bad for business.”
Since Minnesota became the epicenter of police reform following the 2020 killing of George Floyd, advocates have focused on changing policies related to the use of force, de-escalation and, most recently, no-knock warrants.
However, 5 INVESTIGATES found that many Minnesota police departments and sheriffs’ offices do not write their own policies. Lexipol does.
The company sells policy manuals for tens of thousands of dollars.
“Any decision they make will have an outsized influence,” said UCLA law professor Joanna Schwartz, co-author of a study published last year that examined Lexipol’s influence on law enforcement. laws.
A company spokesperson declined multiple interview requests and declined to share how much money he makes from services provided in Minnesota.
But public records obtained by 5 SURVEYS of Lexipol customers reveal just how much influence the company has over law enforcement in the state:
- At least 50 of the top 100 police departments currently have contracts with the company.
- Lexipol also writes policies for 82 of the 87 sheriff’s departments under an agreement with the Minnesota County Sheriffs Association.
- One in five approved training seminars for law enforcement in Minnesota are conducted by Police1, a company acquired by Lexipol in 2019.
The state’s largest agencies, including the Minneapolis and St. Paul police, don’t pay Lexipol to write its policies. However, the Minnesota State Patrol spends about $20,000 a year on training through the police1.
Contracts obtained by 5 INVESTIGATES show that police departments and sheriffs’ offices have paid the company at least $2.2 million combined over the past three years.
“To me, it’s a very cheap insurance policy,” said longtime Dakota County sheriff Tim Leslie.
Leslie, who sits on the company’s law enforcement advisory board, says Lexipol’s automatic policy updates are a more efficient way to keep rules up to date for agents and reduce legal settlements.
“I would put $100 on the table that a similar sized organization without Lexipol paid more than me,” Leslie said.
Critics argue that such a mentality is part of the problem because it shows that Lexipol’s main goal is to limit a department’s liability rather than establish best practices.
“If you look at their documents, they consistently and passionately argue for giving officers maximum discretion, using ‘may’ instead of ‘must’, ‘may’ instead of ‘must'” says Schwartz.
Praet, co-founder of Lexipol, calls this strategy one of their “secret sauces”.
“You will rarely, if ever, see the use of the word ‘must’ in our policies,” he said in another webinar that has since been removed from the company’s website.
His comments were referenced in UCLA research and independently confirmed by 5 INVESTIGATES in a review of the company’s webinars, blogs and other articles.
In the 2019 webinar, which remains live on the company’s website today, Praet went so far as to instruct officers to not only clean up suspects’ blood, but to “make them smile” before proceeding. take their picture.
“Try it. Have you ever had trouble convincing a gangster to throw up a sign for the camera?” Praet said. “They love it. They don’t understand that it’s going to be used as a punishment enhancement later on.
After initially refusing to provide a statement, Lexipol later downplayed Praet’s role in the company he started. Although Praet is the co-founder and member of the board of directors, he is “not an employee and he is not involved in writing the content of the policy,” a spokesperson said in a recent email at 5 INVESTIGATES.
The spokesperson added that Praet’s webinar, when viewed in its entirety, encouraged officers to provide “the clearest view possible of what happened” when writing their reports.
The company did not specifically respond to Praet’s advice about cleaning up the bloody suspects.
Mendota Heights Police Chief Kelly McCarthy, whose department has a contract with Lexipol, said she was unaware of Praet’s remarks.
“I’ve never heard of this before and would be very surprised if this was accurate and in context,” she said. “We don’t change (the evidence) to present to juries, you don’t change these things.”
McCarthy, who is also chairman of the Minnesota POST Board that endorsed Lexipol-based training, says the company offers departments a template for writing their own policies.
She emphasized that it should only be used as a starting point.
“Just like if you downloaded a resume template and didn’t change anything, you’d be in for a world of pain,” McCarthy said. “Just like if you download police policies and don’t do anything to make sure you’re meeting public expectations, it’s going to come back and bite you.”
‘Bad for business‘
Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, one of the most prominent advocates of police reform in Minnesota, says she thinks Lexipol discourages departments from going off-script.
“Lexipol doesn’t want people to change their policies,” she said. “They like things to be a bit loose, because when you have loose rules, you can never tell someone didn’t follow those rules.”
A Lexipol spokesperson said the company continues to support police reform efforts.
But in a police reform webinar last year, the company’s own lawyer said it’s a “common myth” that policy changes can actually change an officer’s behavior and has cautioned departments against going too far.
“Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we’re seeing,” Laura Scarry said. “For example, we find that some policies actually add the specific circumstances in which an officer may use force. Bad for business.
In recent months, Lexipol has begun to retire some of its old training materials and presentations, citing “rapidly evolving” changes in public safety.
Still, Praet’s 2019 presentation on what officers should do before taking pictures of bloody suspects is still available.
“Make them smile, showing their painful wounds. We use it in court later,” he said. “It’s good material. Send me copies, I’m going to publish a book, ‘Fools Hurt by the Cops’. We’re all going to win a million dollars.