MANKATO — The city of Mankato has taken down posted photographs of unidentified vandalism suspects after backlash on social media. All of the seven men in the photographs are Black.

On Tuesday evening the city released surveillance images of suspects believed to have been involved in vandalism at the Mankato Target store earl on May 30. Glass doors were broken while a crowd was gathered outside the store following protests the previous evening over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

The city posted the photos on its Facebook page and distributed them to local media with a request for members of the public to contact the Mankato Department of Public Safety if they recognized any of the suspects.

The city had also announced a man and a juvenile suspect had been identified and charges requested from the county attorney’s office. The known adult suspect was not charged Wednesday.

The city’s initial Facebook post has generated more than 300 comments, most of them in objection. Many commenters questioned whether the photos could produce positive identifications because the images were unclear. Some commenters were concerned some of the suspects could be juveniles. Many worried that Black men in Mankato would be harassed because of the photos.

“You are putting a target on every single young black male in the Mankato area,” Madison Meyer wrote.

”They knew posting unidentifiable images of only black men would create a space for ‘vigilantes’ to enforce law as they see fit,” wrote Jasmine Gates-D’Avilar.

Other commenters lauded the city for working to hold vandals responsible.

“Anyone destroying our beautiful city should be prosecuted. I don’t care how old or what race they are,” Lisa Marie Senese wrote.

The city posted a Facebook response Wednesday initially declining to take down the photographs.

“We acknowledge and appreciate the concerns shared and echo that these photos not be used to target people of color,” the post says. “Balancing personal accountability of damaging behavior, while respecting and protecting personal rights and honoring speech about an important topic is challenging. Taking the post down now would be disingenuous as it has been shared broadly on other media sites. The comments and dialogue associated are important.”

That post sparked continued debate with over 150 comments as of Wednesday evening.

“I see nothing wrong with posting images of perpetrators in order to hold them accountable for their actions,” Melanie Raine wrote. “Color does not matter. If they’re doing something illegal, they should be held accountable.”

But Susan Van Amber called the city’s second post “a ridiculous response to the backlash you rightfully received.” She also said the photos put “anyone that resembles those in the blurry photos in danger of being wrongfully accused and harassed.”

Katie Kujawa called for the department to be completely restructured.

“{Mankato Public Safety had a very special opportunity here to reconcile with the community and commit to change,” she wrote. “Instead, they showed us that they have no interest in changing their behavior, policies, training and leadership.”

The city reversed course early Wednesday afternoon, removing the photos but leaving up the text of the posts and all of the comments.

Assistant Director of Public Safety Matt DuRose said the decision was made after department leaders reviewed the social media comments, had conversations with a few citizens who contacted the city and had extensive internal discussions.

“We didn’t feel it was still in the best interest of the community,” he said.

Releasing suspect photos to the public has been a tool that DuRose said his department has used multiple times to fulfill its duty to hold people accountable for crimes. He said the department has had success even when the photos, which are usually taken from surveillance video, have not been clear.

The step generally is not taken until investigators have exhausted all other leads, he said.

At this point department leaders are not considering ceasing the distribution of suspect photos in such cases. But DuRose said they will give more careful consideration going forward to the potential community impact.

React to this story:

React to this story:

2
6
4
2
30

Recommended for you