Beach Activity In Golden Valley Is Long-Time Issue
July 16, 2020
On the evening of Friday, July 10, the Golden Valley Police Department (GVPD) and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) Police Department responded to complaints of potentially unsafe conditions and illegal activity at an unauthorized beach in Theodore Wirth Park. The City of Golden Valley received feedback and criticism about its actions, including the decision to take enforcement action, officer interactions with the beachgoers, and the use of drone surveillance. The City appreciates the feedback and wants to continue the dialogue by responding to some of the questions received.
Why were GVPD and the MPRB PD both involved?
A unique relationship exists between MPRB and the City of Golden Valley. Theodore Wirth Park is owned and operated by the MPRB, but 60 percent of the park resides within Golden Valley’s municipal boundaries. The City and the MPRB work together to patrol the park and keep visitors safe.
Why were officers called to the beach in the first place?
For decades, police response to the unauthorized beach has been based on complaints by local residents and park patrons. The beach has been the location of sexual assaults and other sexual activities, a substance-related drowning, an accident resulting in paralysis, and drunk driving and narcotics arrests. Also, recreational fires in various areas along the beach regularly pose risk to the surrounding parkland and neighboring businesses and homes. In the last year police have written more than 40 citations at this location for violations including indecent exposure, consuming alcoholic beverages, and after-hours park usage. The goal is to keep the beach area safe for all park users.
Regarding this latest incident, police were responding to complaints about illegal beach behavior and encountered illegal consumption of alcohol and nudity.
Complaints said officers targeted individuals of color. What does the City say about that?
The City reviewed drone footage and went to the beach to collect personal information from those who appeared to be violating the law. At the beach, the police collected information from eight individuals to determine if citations should be issued for various infractions. Of the eight individuals observed violating the law that police were able to obtain information from, two were people of color..
Why issue citations for low level violations or non-violent crimes in the first place?
Although the officers collected information from several individuals for various infractions, no citations have been issued at this time. Over the past several months, the City has received many complaints from Golden Valley residents and park patrons and has issued many warnings and citations to beachgoers.
How does the City use drones?
The police use drones to promote public safety and collect evidence, especially in difficult to access areas, and as a de-escalation tool. Examples include surveillance during gatherings on public property, such as community festivals, and fire department operations. Recently, the City started using drones during the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid having unnecessary face-to-face interactions between members of the public and officers.
It seems inappropriate to allow officers to collect footage of nudity.
Drone footage is accessible only to very few staff within the department and is only used for documentation, evidence collection, and prosecution if needed. Police staff are trained in data privacy and maintaining confidentiality. By law, people in public spaces have no expectation of privacy from being recorded by security devices (MN State Statute 626.19, Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).
What happens to the data collected from a drone?
The City deletes drone data as soon as possible and does not retain it longer than seven days, unless it is part of an active criminal investigation. The City welcomes feedback from the public on its drone policy, which can be found at www.goldenvalleymn.gov/police/gvpd-window/.
The City acknowledges the feelings of all involved in the July 10 situation and those who viewed the video footage. The City appreciates that context matters and that there is a heightened awareness around policing behavior. GVPD officers strive to provide fair and unbiased services and take pride in maintaining positive relationships with members of the community. Their priority is to ensure that citizens’ complaints are answered and that parks are safe so all people feel welcomed.
The City strongly condemns racism and discrimination. The City conducts a variety of trainings, and leadership regularly reviews police interactions with members of the public, including body cam and dash cam footage, to ensure officers treat individuals fairly and equitably.
As Golden Valley works to make its community a welcoming and respectful place for all, the City continually tries to balance individual freedoms and rights with safety as well quality of life issues for both residents and visitors.