Minnesota agency holds ‘connected conversation’ to ‘process’ Ricky Cobb incident

In 2021, the taxpayer-funded agency held a "virtual trauma and self-care workshop" to "provide a forum for employees to promote positive self-care during the Derek Chauvin trial." 

A view of the Minnesota Capitol Building and the State Office Building in St. Paul, Minn. (Minnesota Department of Administration/Flickr)

Minnesota Information Technology (MNIT) Services offered therapy resources for employees and held a “connected conversation” in response to the death of Ricky Cobb II.

“This email contains information about an upcoming session you can attend to help process the events following the death of Ricky Cobb II and other available resources,” an internal email obtained by Alpha News reads. “We recognize that we all process this tragedy in different ways.”

It outlined an August event where MNIT employees could “process this tragedy together.” The email went on to state that “this moment is especially hurtful as it is a Black man who lost his life after an interaction with law enforcement.”

MNIT did not respond to Alpha News’ request for comment regarding the email.

The August event was led by Sarah Herder Lewis, MNIT’s director of Equal Opportunity, Diversity, and Inclusion along with Equity and Justice Black Caucus co-chair Maurice Wilson III.

The email referred employees to their Employee Assistance Program that provides counseling to MNIT employees. “If it is helpful, you can request to talk to a counselor who identifies as a person of color,” said the email, which also referenced specialists who can help first responders.

Cobb was pulled over on July 31 by state troopers. Three troopers approached Cobb’s car after learning that he was wanted in Ramsey County, asking him to get out and attempting to physically remove him because he refused to exit.

Cobb began to drive away as one of the trooper’s had his head and torso inside the vehicle, which prompted a trooper on the passenger side of the vehicle to fire his handgun. Law enforcement released body camera footage and announced they had recovered a handgun in the backseat of Cobb’s car.

Local activists published an address of one of the police officers involved in the shooting. The incident is currently under investigation and all three state troopers are on standard administrative leave.

‘Centering equity’

Gov. Tim Walz’s administration has been open about its efforts to make “centering equity” the “new normal” in state government. Public documents reported on by Alpha News reveal the extent of the Walz administration’s attempt to, in its own words, “embed equity and inclusion in state systems and structures.” These efforts included an “equity inventory” of all state agencies.

Much of this language is reflected in MNIT’s annual reports, which, in 2022, began with an “equity statement.”

“MNIT is committed to advancing equity through our technology and our work. We serve all Minnesotans, and we are part of the solution to reduce racial, economic, and other disparities,” the equity statement reads. It also calls for creating “the environment and accountability measures necessary to embed equity across MNIT.”

One of MNIT’s “guiding principles” is: “Ask how your actions are reinforcing or removing structural inequity.”

In its 2022 report, the agency touted the fact that “50 employees on MNIT’s Equity Team worked on 25 activities to incorporate equity into the way that we work.”

The taxpayer-funded agency reports its progress on DEI goals on a quarterly basis to the “Governor’s Inclusion Office,” according to its 2021 annual report.

That report revealed that MNIT “added inclusion-related skills” to the job descriptions for manager and supervisor positions, and hosted several DEI events for employees, including a “virtual trauma and self-care workshop” to “provide a forum for employees to promote positive self-care during the Derek Chauvin trial.”

Employees also participated in an “unconscious bias training” and were greeted with articles about Pride Month and Juneteenth on the agency intranet, according to the report.

“MNIT anticipates significant advancement in equity and inclusion work in 2022 and will utilize employee engagement and leadership to drive that work,” the report said.

The commissioner of MNIT is appointed by the governor and serves in his cabinet.


Hayley Feland

Hayley Feland previously worked as a journalist with The Minnesota Sun, The Wisconsin Daily Star, and The College Fix. She is a Minnesota native with a passion for politics and journalism.