The families of five Minnesota men who were killed by police officers announced a lawsuit Thursday to force the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to release its investigative files on their deaths, saying the state agency has failed to comply with Minnesota’s open records law, the Associated Press reports. The lawsuit says once the investigation into a deadly force incident is completed and a prosecutor decides not to charge the officers, the data legally should be turned over to the families of the deceased within 10 days of them requesting it. Prosecutors in all five cases cleared the officers of wrongdoing, but the lawsuit says the BCA still hasn’t met its legal obligations to the families. Not only would getting the files help provide some closure, but the long delays make it hard for families to file wrongful death lawsuits within the state’s three-year statute of limitations, Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said.
Paul Bosman, an attorney for the families, said the case files can run from 1,500 to 2,500 pages, so families and their lawyers need time to review them before the statute of limitations to file a wrongful death lawsuit expires. The BCA said it’s committed to informing families and the public as quickly as possible while protecting data that it can’t release under state law. “We understand that families who have experienced these tragic losses would want all of the information that they can have as soon as possible," BCA spokesperson Jill Oliveira said in a statement. ”Once a case is closed, the BCA must review every report, image, audio, and video in the casefile to ensure that information that isn’t public is removed as required under Minnesota law. This requires review of dash camera, body-worn camera, and surveillance video; all other images and audio of the incident; and voluminous reports.”