1/7/2008 Newsletter

Contents:

  • Demetrius Cooper Court Watch
  • CUAPB Report to United Nations
  • CUAPB Taser Data Analysis Shows Disturbing Pattern
  • Black Cop Lawsuit Exposes Deep Layers of MPD Racism
  • Shades of RNC 2008 to Come? MAP Calls Cops on Critics
  • Letter to MAP Supporters
  • St. Paul Police Subpoena Reporter's Cell Phone Records
  • NLG Legal Observer and Videographer Training
  • Resisting the RNC: Minnesota Town Hall Organizing Meeting

GREAT COURTWATCH OPPORTUNITY: DEMETRIUS COOPER CASE

Demetrius Cooper Civil Trial
January 8 onward
9:00 a.m.
Hennepin County Government Center, Minneapolis

Demetrius Cooper's case is finally going to court. To remind you about the case, Demetrius was driving on I-694. Minneapolis police were chasing another vehicle and that vehicle crashed into Demetrius' car. He pulled off at the next exit and was getting out to inspect the damages when he heard Minneapolis cop William Woodis say, "get your f*cking hands in the air or I'll kill you." Woodis dragged him out of the car and kneed him in the stomach. Woodis was then joined by approximately 30 cops who slammed him to the ground--smashing his teeth--and stomped and Tased him many times. When he asked an officer on the scene "why did they do this to me?" the reply was "you were fleeing." He was taken to jail and held for 36 hours. Besides arresting him and impounding his car, one of the officers on the scene stole money from Demetrius. Later, cops found the person they were actually chasing--a woman--and they also beat her.

Demetrius is trying to get some measure of justice for his injuries and false arrest. His case against Minneapolis goes to civil trial this week and he would love to have some court support. The trial promises to be very interesting. For our newsletter readers who live in the northern suburbs, Demetrius is also suing Spring Lake Park cop Randy Brown, who Tased him repeatedly. That case starts in the Anoka County Courthouse on January 14th at 9:00 a.m.


BE PART OF HISTORY: SIGN ON TO OUR UN REPORT

CUAPB is very proud to have contributed to a recent report on law enforcement-related violence presented to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). This report, titled In the Shadows of the War on Terror: Persistent Police Brutality and Abuse of People of Color in the United States is a section of a large national report by grassroots organizations which disputes the US government's report to the committee. Representatives of the US government will appear before this committee in February to answer for their report and it is hoped that CERD committee members will use information provided by groups such as CUAPB to challenge these government representatives. The official US report paints a very rosy picture of race relations in this country--citing the movie Crash as an example--while completely ignoring the persistent effects of racism in all aspects of our society. The US report didn't even mention Hurricane Katrina and it's devastating and lingering effects on people of color, nor did it mention racial disparities in the criminal justice system, education and other institutions. The report we contributed to, known as a shadow report, challenges this rosy view and calls out the US for not meeting the terms of the UN treaty against racism.

We are looking for signatories for this report. Both individuals and organizations are welcome to sign on but the deadline is January 11. To read the report, go to www.cuapb.org and click on Reports and Documents. To sign on to the report, send an email to aritchiedc@aol.com with your name, a descriptor if you wish (such as "survivor of police brutality"), or the name of your group and indicate that you are signing on to the police brutality report.

We are also hoping to have a representative in Geneva the week of February 17-23 to meet with CERD members, other human rights activists, and to witness the US representatives being grilled. This trip will be expensive! If you can help us to defray these expenses, please go to our website at www.cuapb.org and click on the Donate tab.


NEW TASER DATA ANALYSIS SHOWS DISTURBING PATTERN

As part of our contribution to the UN shadow report discussed in the article above, CUAPB reviewed all 227 incidents of Taser use in Minneapolis in 2006. What we learned was pretty astounding. First, we learned that although Blacks are about 18% of the city's population, they are 63% of the people who were Tased in 2006. Blacks were 75% of those receiving 5 or more cycles of Taser, though one white person received 11 Taser cycles. Blacks were also 67% of people who received Tasers to improper areas of the body (according to MPD policy). The study also revealed that there were 16 cases (7%) in which people were Tased while handcuffed.

In reviewing the data by precinct, it is clear that some cops are much faster to use Tasers than others. The 1st precinct and 4th precinct used Tasers most often--together they made up 65% of the uses. By contrast, the 2nd precinct made up only 9% of the uses.

Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments have sold the community on Tasers as a less lethal substitute for deadly force during encounters. Yet it is clear from this data that Tasers are being used in a wide range of situations in which the use of deadly force could never be justified. The data we reviewed indicates the charges associated with each case and only three cases involved weapons charges. Quite a few incidents of Taser use (27 or 12%) involved no crime but were as a result of a "crisis." Given the dangerous and sometimes even deadly nature of Tasers, it is frightening that police are relying more heavily on these weapons in situations where other tools and techniques may well have worked better. Even as the use of Tasers skyrockets and as these weapons become even more powerful, police departments on both sides of the river are attempting to loosen the policies that control their use and to place them lower on the force continuum. The community will need to remain vigilant before we begin to experience the rates of Taser deaths that have afflicted cities in other parts of the country.


BLACK COP LAWSUIT EXPOSES DEEP LAYERS OF MPD RACISM

A stunning lawsuit filed in with the federal court by five Black officers reveals the depths of racism and hostile work environment within the Minneapolis Police Department leadership. To read the suit, go to our website at www.cuapb.org and click on the Reports and Documents tab. Besides the expected (though still outrageous) issues of denial of promotions, unfair discipline, denial of training opportunities and overtime assignments, this document reveals that in 1992 every Black officer on the force received a death threat signed "KKK" through interoffice police mail. If you think that's old history, though, it just lays the groundwork for everything that came after. Remember that in 2002 a number of cops sent blatantly racist emails to then city council member Natalie Johnson Lee (at the time the only Black member of the council) using city email accounts and received no discipline. Just last year, Lieutenant Robert Kroll openly referred to Black US Congressman Keith Ellison as a terrorist without receiving any discipline. The lawsuit reveals that Kroll, a crony of Chief Dolan, has a "white power" patch sewn onto his motorcycle jacket. Is it any wonder that Kroll has a long list of complaints against him by members of the community?

Dolan's tacit approval of racism and discrimination on his force should be a surprise to no one. Dolan was inspector of the 4th precinct during some of the worst police violence against Black Northside residents in years, including the Julius Powell shooting. Did anyone expect anything different, now that he runs the whole force? Just as people in the community feel the heavy hand of racism from the MPD, it seems clear that officers of color would also experience this racism in their working conditions.

Months ago, we warned the community about Dolan's "whiteification" of police leadership. With the latest round of demotions of Blacks, Dolan has run virtually every person of color out of his administration. This is absolutely a move in the wrong direction and destroys any hope of diversifying the force or improving police community relations. The five officers who are suing have taken a bold step and while two of these officers have had less than stellar relationships with the community themselves, the community nonetheless needs to support this suit as a means of exposing the racist underpinnings of this department and as a necessary step toward justice. We will continue to report on this suit as it moves closer to a court date.


SHADES OF RNC 2008? CLUELESS ANTIWAR GROUP CALLS COPS ON CRITICS

From the police riot at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago to the mass arrests at the 2004 party conventions in Boston and New York, and at every convention in between, police have played a terrible role of crushing political dissent and brutalizing those who dare challenge the ruling elites. Naturally, then, with the Republican Convention poised to hit our river banks in summer 2008 and with popular opinion about the direction of this country at an all time low, many are concerned about whether there will be room to exercise our First Amendment rights at all. Actions by the Minneapolis and St. Paul city councils and their respective police departments certainly give us no reassurance, especially with their secret meetings, efforts to pass new ordinances restricting protest and refusals to grant permits.

Into this vortex stepped MAP--the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers. Unfortunately, they stepped into it on the wrong side. At their annual meeting last month, they featured a keynote address by St. Paul police chief John Harrington.

For the uninitiated, Harrington is a cops' cop who instigated the use of Tasers in the St. Paul schools. He was recently caught obtaining phone records of reporter Tom Lyden and a Ramsey County Sheriff's Deputy--possibly illegally--after Lyden successfully obtained a public record Harrington tried to block him from getting. Pretty clearly, Harrington is no champion of the First Amendment. Moreover, judging from reports we get through our hotline, the modicum of control exerted on St. Paul's cops by the previous chief no longer exists, with St. Paul cops nearly as out of control as their Minneapolis counterparts.

That's why, in a carefully crafted letter, CUAPB along with the RNC Welcoming Committee, Karen Redleaf, Lydia Howell, Eric Angell and others issued a statement of concern over this choice of a keynote speaker at MAP's most important event for the year. This letter (reprinted below) and copies of a show about local police brutality were handed out to attendees of the MAP event. By all accounts, those handing out the information were respectful and polite. Which begs the question: why did MAP leadership feel compelled to call the Minneapolis police on these activists?

Doug Grow recently ran an article on the cozy relationship between some of MAP's leaders and the cops. After gushing over the applause given to Harrington's right hand man Dan Bostrom by these clueless "activists" at another event, he laid bare the cops' real motivation for wanting to get chummy: "Ultimately, he even hopes that peaceful protesters will help police weed out 'the knuckleheads' who show up in St. Paul with mayhem on their minds. He's gone so far as to suggest that maybe peaceful protestors can develop some subtle signals that will point police to those who are violating the law." <http://www.minnpost.com/stories/2007/12/07/298/unlikely_as_it_might_seem_st_pauls_top_security_cop_is_gaining_the_trust_of_some_gop_convention_protesters>

Just as we warned in the letter handed out at the MAP event, police will rely on the age old tactic of pitting groups of protesters against each other to justify their violence and repression against dissenters. Apparently, MAP leadership is only too happy to make these cops' wet dreams come true. By calling cops on peaceful dissenters and failing to even consider the concerns they raised, they've shown they cannot be reliable allies to people of color, low income people and other oppressed groups. The letter we were part of asked MAP members which side they are on. Unfortunately, the answer seems all too clear.


Dear Guests of the MAP Annual Meeting,

Some of us writing today are long time activists for social justice. We have struggled side by side with many of you to end war and oppressive violence. This is why we are so concerned about the choice of St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington as keynote speaker for this meeting. We recognize that as guests you did not choose the speaker, and we do not wish to judge you. We want only to encourage you to think about the Republican National Convention, the role the police will play and where you stand. You will be pushed to “take sides” and we want you to make an informed decision.

As protectors of state power, even the best intentioned police will be on the wrong side of the barricades at the Republican National Convention. Ask yourself why. Are the police “upholding the law” by arresting “lawbreakers”, or are they defending those guilty of mass murder and crimes against humanity and nature from being called to account by the people? Why aren’t the police meeting with the people right now to figure out how we will defend our cities from this invasion of dangerous criminals in suits?

The criminal behavior and complicity of RNC attendees will be off the police radar. Instead they will focus on “good” protesters and “bad” protesters. Even if we share all the same goals, the police put wedges between us by focusing entirely on the tactics we utilize to advance our common goals. If we accept the premise that there is such a thing as a “bad” protester, we have already lost. The myth of the so-called “bad” protester will serve as the justification for all the violence perpetrated by the police during the RNC. And make no mistake; the police will be perpetrating violence during the RNC. Believing in “bad” protesters normalizes police violence. It allows people to believe that protesters get the treatment they deserve, and this belief allows the police to use violence even more indiscriminately. Believing in “bad” protesters creates an environment in which police violence does not have to be justified. Police violence - like all state sponsored violence, including war - is presumed to be legitimate. It is disturbing that “nonviolent” activists are so ready to accept police violence.

Holding such beliefs about the “legitimate” use of violence by agents of state power is a mark of privilege. Those on the receiving end of U.S. violence around the world recognize the indiscriminate nature of that violence. As it is around the world, so it is here. But the “war at home” affects different communities differently. The wealthy and white can pretend there is no war if they choose to. That’s privilege.

Ask the poor and people of color about the police. Ask how they feel about police violence. Of course you would have to leave the talk to ask them, because you won’t find them in the audience with you. Ask yourself why. Ask yourself if inviting a police chief to speak at a major peace event reveals something about why people from poor communities and communities of color are not more involved in the anti-war movement – even though these communities are deeply impacted by war. Ask yourself who you are lining up against when you line up behind the police. Is it possible you are alienating those you would seek as allies? The barricades are up. Whose side are you on?


ST PAUL POLICE SUBPOENA REPORTER'S CELL PHONE RECORDS

Associated Press
December 11, 2007
http://www.startribune.com/local/12393851.html

St. Paul police subpoenaed the cell phone records of a KMSP-TV reporter and the phone records of a Ramsey County sheriff's department employee after the reporter obtained an arrest report that should have been public data, the station reported Tuesday night.

Veteran police reporter Tom Lyden had gone to the police department to check on the criminal history of a woman who was sitting in a car with a man who allegedly shot an undercover police officer in a roadside incident in Coon Rapids last June, the station reported.

Lyden requested a copy of a 7-year-old traffic arrest report for the woman, but was denied by St. Paul police spokesman Tom Walsh, the station said.

"I thought it was public and I thought they were stonewalling me and not giving me a public document," Lyden said in an interview with another KMSP reporter.

Lyden later got the document from a county official who agreed the report was public, the station said. Lyden reported his story without naming the woman, who was considered a witness in the police shooting.

The police department then obtained an administrative subpoena for Lyden's cell phone records to try to identify Lyden's source, the station said. Only a county prosecutor, not a judge, needs to sign such a subpoena, the report said.

"We're concerned about data privacy," St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington told the station when asked to explain. Asked what was private about a traffic arrest report, the chief said the station would have to talk to the city attorney about that.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told KMSP the phone records for one of his employees also had been subpoenaed. The station said Fletcher planned to send Harrington a letter saying police used false information to get the subpoena, and that he'll file an internal affairs complaint against the officers involved.

KMSP said its lawyers believe the subpoena violates the First Amendment and may violate state law. It said it has asked for an apology and for Lyden's records back.

"In obtaining my phone records they basically opened up my reporter's notebook," Lyden said. "They basically looked at my notes. They have looked at sources. They have looked at people I have tried to protect."

University of Minnesota media law and ethics processor Jane Kirtley said state law makes it very hard for police to force reporters to turn over their notes and sources.

"In this case you've got a journalists shield law in this state that provides great protection to the press, and yet effectively what the government has done is done an end run around the shield law by going to the telephone company rather than the journalist," Kirtley said. "Had they gone to the journalist the news organization could have contested the subpoena in court and had a full hearing. This was done in a very sneaky and in my opinion very inappropriate way."

Harrington said it was the first time he knew of that his department had used an administrative subpoena to obtain a reporter's phone records. He wouldn't say who authorized the subpoena or how long a time period the records covered.

"There's an open investigation here. I can't really speak to that," he said.

But the sheriff told the station that the police chief should be able to talk about it. Fletcher said he was told that Harrington closed the investigation himself.

Harrington denied that he was trying to discourage his officers from talking to reporters.

But Kirtley said such actions send a clear message to reporters.

"If you're going to pursue a story the government doesn't want you to pursue you're going to have to be very prepared for the real possibility that they will take any steps they can to unmask your sources," she said.

While the investigation targeted the county officials who released the arrest report, Lyden said it's a blow to his work.

"I talk to a lot of people every day," he said. "But now they can go throughout my stories and look at who did I talk to that day. They can match up every source that I have had. It is awful."


UPCOMING EVENTS

NLG Legal Observer and Videographer Training
January 22, 2008
6:00 p.m.
2402 University Ave W, Room 600, St. Paul

The National Lawyers Guild will hold a video training session in preparation for protests against the Republican National Convention. The purpose is to train videographers, i.e. people with some ability to use video cameras to record events at the RNC as part of the NLG's Legal Observer Program. Anyone interested in working on video documentation for purposes of protecting the rights of protesters can attend this event. The training will also address knowledge needed to become a legal observer, so it can be useful to those who are interested in being a legal observer or videographer, but have not decided which one. For more information, contact Jordan Kushner at 612-288-0545.

Resisting the RNC: Minnesota Town Hall Organizing Meeting
Saturday, January 26th
2:00 p.m.
Walker Community United Methodist Church
3104 16th Ave S, Minneapolis

The Republican National Convention (RNC) is coming to our backyard in Sept. 2008. Feeling angry? Want to do something? Come to Resisting the RNC: Minnesota Town Hall Organizing Meeting.

Please join us for a gathering of those who have already started organizing to resist the RNC in 2008 and those looking for a place to start. This will be a space for people to come together, share ideas, energy and participate in the process.
*A discussion about the why the Republicans are coming, what it means for our community, and why resistance is necessary.
*A listening session where those organizing for the RNC will hear what you have to say about the upcoming protests. Come and share your concerns and views and have your voice be heard.
*Updates and presentations of the plans groups have for the convention. After the program, please stay and mingle with each other, get to know each other, and start to work together!

Childcare and snacks provided. Spanish language interpreter available. For more info contact Kim: kimdefranco@yahoo.com or Andy: 612-719-4292 to reserve an information table, present your "already underway" plans, and/or volunteer to help with the event.


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