A Minneapolis police lieutenant placed on a yearlong paid leave for forwarding a racist email over a decade ago has been appointed as the new head of the department's homicide unit.
Lt. Aimee Linson, a 25-year veteran of the force, returned to duty and was issued a written reprimand in April following an investigation into whether she violated the agency's ethics and communications policy, which prohibits officers from intentionally "transmitting, accessing or storing" material that's offensive, like racial slurs.
Roughly six months after her reinstatement, department leadership selected Linson to replace Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the department's longtime head of homicide who was a key witness in the trial of ex-officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. The restructured unit will combine the Shooting Response Team, where Linson most recently served, and Homicide into one division.
Zimmerman, the department's longest-tenured employee, was promoted Sunday to the rank of commander. In his newly created role as Major Crimes community response coordinator, Zimmerman will work as a liaison in the community and mentor younger investigators at crime scenes.
The personnel changes were announced in an internal e-mail circulated within the department this week.
"[Linson] is taking on a huge responsibility and I am grateful to have her in that position," Violent Crimes Cmdr. Emily Olson wrote to staff in an email obtained by the Star Tribune. She named Linson as the primary contact for shootings and homicide-related cases.
Several police reform advocates condemned the move and questioned whether MPD leadership was serious about overhauling its culture.
"The city — and MPD specifically — is not in fact committed to the change that they claim to be embracing," said Kimberly Milliard, of the Racial Justice Network. "They've got consent decrees hanging over their heads and they're still doing the same stuff that created the need for the consent decrees in the first place."
On Wednesday, Chief Brian O'Hara defended his pick by highlighting Linson's experience leading both the Crisis Negotiations and Shooting Response teams.
"Of the Lieutenants currently available to oversee Homicide, Lt. Aimee Linson is the most qualified," he said in a statement to the Star Tribune. "In addition to her ability to interact with individuals in the initial moments of grief after a homicide, she understands complex investigative processes and is well suited to provide leadership for those responsible for the crucial role of homicide investigations. For me to do otherwise would be to underutilize her talents at a time when I am charged with leading the MPD with nearly 40% fewer sworn members."
Linson's suspension stemmed from a 2012 incident, when, then a sergeant, she forwarded an email chain to several colleagues with the subject line "Only in the Ghetto." The message contained 16 pictures, seven of which negatively portrayed Black people. Most had a label indicating that they originated from a now-defunct website called Really Ghetto, according to a copy of the email obtained by the Star Tribune.
The email was uncovered in 2021 during an extensive Minnesota Department of Human Rights probe, which culminated in a scathing 72-page report outlining a pattern and practice of discriminatory policing by MPD. That report jump-started a court-enforceable settlement agreement with the state that requires Minneapolis to implement sweeping reforms. A separate consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice has yet to be finalized.
Interim Chief Amelia Huffman suspended Linson in March 2022, pending the results of the investigation. She remained on paid leave for more than a year, until O'Hara resolved the case with a written reprimand on April 5, 2023.
The low-level discipline followed a unanimous ruling by a police conduct review panel, which found that the allegations against Linson had merit. O'Hara concurred with their decision, writing that Linson "failed to meet our standards when she sent an email that contained content that was offensive based on race and/or socioeconomic status," according his reprimand letter. "The violation in this matter undermines public trust."
Under questioning from Internal Affairs, Linson said she didn't remember sending the email, which was by then 10 years old. A Minneapolis police spokesman confirmed Thursday she sent the email only once. It's not immediately clear whether anyone who received the email responded to it but, department sources say, it was never reported to Internal Affairs.
During that time Linson steadily rose through the ranks, eventually serving as a lieutenant in the training division and an investigator within Internal Affairs, where she built a reputation for "integrity, intelligence and fairness," O'Hara said. He found no evidence to suggest that she ever engaged in similar behavior again and noted that she expressed remorse for her conduct.
"Lt. Linson … [understands] how instances such as this threaten the fragile relationship that our officers hold with residents," O'Hara wrote. "There has been nothing further in her work history that would demonstrate any level of bias or discrimination."
The letter marked the first time Linson had ever been formally reprimanded in her career. At least eight other misconduct complaints over the years were closed without discipline. Her personnel file includes accolades such as the Chief's Award of Merit and 2016 Unit Citation award.
"I stand firmly behind my decision to best utilize Lt. Linson's skills and abilities," O'Hara said Wednesday, "and I am confident that she will continue to serve the City of Minneapolis with professionalism and compassion."