September 21, 2021 09:44

St. Paul City Council wants to investigate Sheriff for “Live on Patrol” YouTube series

Katie Galioto

Star Tribune

Three St. Paul City Council members joined the list of east metro officials criticizing Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher’s live patrol videos in a resolution asking the state to determine whether they violate any policies.

Fletcher’s shows on Facebook and YouTube, dubbed “Live on Patrol,” have attracted more than 13 million views since his debut last July. The sheriff says the livestreams are meant to educate the public about law enforcement, but some local leaders have expressed concerns that the videos are a distraction from Fletcher’s duties and more about entertainment than public safety.

The St. Paul resolution — which is sponsored by Council Members Amy Brendmoen, Mitra Jalali and Rebecca Noecker — references instances when Fletcher drove the wrong way down a one-way street in pursuit of a stolen car and accuses the sheriff of not wearing a body camera while on duty.

If passed, the measure would serve as a formal complaint to the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board and ask the state authority to “employ an independent industry expert” to examine Fletcher’s shows and determine whether he broke any state or local codes of conduct.

“Live on Patrol” is mostly filmed by a camera fixed to the dashboard of the sheriff’s squad car. Fletcher described the show as “90% driving around,” featuring responses to calls, conversations with community members and random chats with his partner, part-time crime analyst Pat Scott.

But some nights the show caught more serious incidents, including a high-speed chase through a St. Paul neighborhood and an intervention in a domestic altercation that left Fletcher with two black eyes.

Fletcher said he launched “Live on Patrol” “to help show the human side of law enforcement” in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, when public perception of law enforcement plummeted. The council resolution argues the sheriff should instead follow the lead of similar livestreams that canceled their programs amid national protests against police brutality.

Fletcher said he doesn’t think the council’s complaint has “any substance” and accused officials of opposing his show “because it builds trust with the police and that runs counter to their narrative to defund law enforcement.”

“Many council members would prefer the public not be aware of the current increase in violent crime,” he said in a statement. “They are opposed to transparency when it reflects on their failure to keep the community safe.”

Violent crime in St. Paul rose 25% in 2020, a trend fueled by record-breaking gun violence and 34 homicides.

The proposed resolution refers to “Live on Patrol” as “a crudely-produced reality show,” citing resident complaints about dangerous driving as the reason for the complaint.

“This isn’t about politics,” Brendmoen said. She expects the council will vote on the resolution at Wednesday’s meeting.

“This is more than appropriate for someone who holds a dual role in our community as both a law enforcement officer and a public office holder,” Jalali said in a Facebook post. Ramsey County residents elect their sheriff, and Fletcher’s current four-year term will finish in 2023.

Some members of the Ramsey County Board have also expressed frustration with Fletcher, who uses “Live on Patrol” to opine about his job and local government. On a Thursday night livestream, he elicited a string of supportive messages from fans after wondering aloud how the council couldn’t see the benefit of his shows.

Katie Galioto • 612-673-4478


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