2/28/2004 Newsletter

Contents:

  • McManus on Duy Ngo Case
  • CUAPB Caucus Resolution
  • Rickey Jones Court Watch
  • Haynes Family Court Watch
  • William Alsaker Court Watch
  • Wayne Heskett Court Watch
  • Carol Knox Court Watch
  • Philander Jenkins Court Watch
  • Al Flowers and Alissa Clemons Court Watch
  • Lucius Rex Court Watch
  • High Speed Chases Often Deadly

MCMANUS SO FAR: TWO THUMBS UP!
New police chief William McManus is already showing his mettle in going after possible corruption in the Minneapolis police department. Politically savvy and smart, he has selected the perfect case for taking on the brutal culture imbedded in the Minneapolis police department--the cop on cop violence case of Duy Ngo.

In his first week on the job, Chief McManus met with Duy Ngo, the police officer who was working under cover when he called in to say that he had been shot by a drug dealer and needed help. Officer Charles Storlie arrived and shot Ngo repeatedly with an MP-5 submachine gun, claiming he thought Ngo, who was prostrate on the ground, was the drug dealer. Storlie is best known for shooting Lawrence Miles, an unarmed teen, in the back. He was never disciplined in that case.

Ngo has complained that he got a cold shoulder from the police department under former chief Robert Olson, who he said never even visited or called him in the hospital or at home while he recovered. Ngo was seriously injured in the incident. While he was on medical leave, wild rumors about Ngo circulated through the police department including that there was no drug dealer and that he shot himself. After meeting with Ngo, Chief McManus held a press conference earlier this week to dispel those rumors.

McManus also issued a memo to the rank and file, telling them that he will have "zero tolerance for police misconduct" and corruption and that crimes by police would result in discipline or dismissal. He backed up his words Thursday by suspending three high-ranking members of the department: Capt. Mike Martin, Lt. Mike Carlson, head of the homicide division, and Deputy Chief Lucy Gerold. "There were allegations made that have a criminal overtone about the handling of some information in a particular case," said McManus. Inside information has it that an internal memo was ordered destroyed in the Duy Ngo case.

Here's hoping that Chief McManus will continue to do the right thing and clean up the very out-of-control Minneapolis police department. This case is easy--all sides involved are police department members. But even with that, criticism of McManus is already heating up among certain city council members (primarily Lucy Gerold supporters). When it comes time for Chief McManus to step out on a case of police brutality against a community member, he will need political cover to be able to pull it off. We'd encourage you to call his office at 612-673-2853, email him at police@ci.minneapolis.mn.us or write a letter to the paper in support of his efforts to clean up the MPD.

After years of trying to get people to believe us that corruption is a problem in the Minneapolis police department, we are feeling just so vindicated. Let's keep it going by thanking Chief McManus and nudging him to take on the community's complaints and concerns. For our part, we plan to provide him with ample information and proof of those concerns in upcoming meetings.


ARE YOU ATTENDING YOUR PARTY CAUCUS ON TUESDAY? TAKE OUR RESOLUTION WITH YOU
Party caucuses for all political parties are being held on Tuesday, March 2nd at 7:00 p.m. This is Minnesota's version of the primaries, where candidates are selected and issues are proposed for the party's platform. They are great places to raise important issues and educate your neighbors.

To that end, we've put together a resolution regarding three bills in the legislature that would criminalize so-called "false" reporting of police misconduct. The text of the resolution is below but please have us email you the spiffed up version on our letterhead. (Reply to this email or write to mgresist@minn.net for a copy.)
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POLICE BRUTALITY IS A CRIME--REPORTING IT SHOULDN'T BE
A PROPOSED CAUCUS RESOLUTION

WHEREAS House bills HF1661 and HF1909 and Senate bill SF1727 have been introduced and HF1661 has gone through one committee already, and would make it a crime to "falsely" report police misconduct to anyone who "communicate[s]" it to a public official, such as when police brutality survivors call the CUAPB hotline and we call the jails, city council, judges, etc. to demand justice, and

WHEREAS the existing MN Statute §609.505 already criminalizes providing "false information" to police, and

WHEREAS the proposed amendment violates the United States and Minnesota Constitutions. Americans have a right under the First Amendment to criticize government, including making complaints about police conduct. Americans have a right to express their opinions openly, including to someone who might "communicate it to a public official." Characterizing police behavior as "misconduct" is our right as Minnesotans. The courts could immediately strike the statute as unconstitutional, and

WHEREAS existing Minn. Statute 609.505 encourages racial disparity. It is already misused by police to discriminate against people of color. African Americans are 35 times more likely to be arrested for providing false information to police under this statute. [T.L. Johnson and C.W. Heilman, Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System: An Embarrassment to All Minnesotans, Bench & Bar of Minnesota (May/June 2001)]. Yet studies show that African Americans commit crimes at no greater rate than whites, and

WHEREAS this legislation would create, essentially two sets of laws--one for police and one for everyone else. In many criminal trials, defense attorneys prove that the police falsified police reports in order to get someone convicted. To criminalize lying about police, and not by police, creates a double standard that undermines respect for the law, and

WHEREAS these bills are unclear about who decided which reports are false. One of the problems now, is that police physically control all evidence they seize (such as videotapes showing their misconduct), even if they seize it illegally. And the municipality controls almost all other evidence of police misconduct (911 calls, radio calls, computer messages, etc.). All of these factors already make it difficult to prove a truthful and legitimate case of police misconduct. But we all know that police misconduct does occur. Where reported misconduct can’t be documented, it could be called a "false" complaint, and

WHEREAS the United States Supreme Court has since 1999 required that the language of criminal laws passed by state legislatures articulate criteria to prevent police from disproportionately enforcing the law. This bill seems to try to do the opposite, and

WHEREAS people are already afraid to complain against police. In a case where a man complained about an officer’s misconduct, two police officers came to his house immediately afterward to intimidate and harass him, and

WHEREAS under these bills, people who complain in good faith could be arrested in their own homes by the very police officer that they complained about. If this bill becomes law, no one will dare complain, and

WHEREAS the Minneapolis Civilian Review Authority has only upheld about 3% of complaints they received in the last ten years. The rate for upholding Minneapolis Police Department Internal Affairs complaints made by community members is even lower. It is unbelievable that 97% of the people who reported police misconduct to the CRA were liars, and

WHEREAS most police brutality incidents involve just the police officers and the person who was brutalized, with no witnesses. Most complaint agencies take the word of the police officer over the word of the person reporting the brutality, and

WHEREAS most police departments in Minnesota aren’t set up to deal with complaints. There are no independent investigators and no funds for decent quality investigations. Even when police departments refer complaints to other law enforcement agencies, investigations are often shoddy and the results biased, and

WHEREAS police who lie and falsely arrest people to cover their own brutality are NEVER prosecuted for their false reports, and

WHEREAS police brutality incidents are on the rise and political dissent is harshly targeted, these bills will have a severe chilling effect on reporting police misconduct if we allow them to become law. Their very existence implies that police brutality doesn’t exist or that people who experience it are exaggerating or lying.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the ________________________ party opposes House bills HF1661 and HF1909 and Senate bill SF 1727.
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If you're going to your caucus, please take us along. To find out where your caucus is being held, go to http://www2.co.hennepin.mn.us/voterinfo/caucus/options.htm or call the Secretary of State at 651-296-9073.


UPCOMING EVENTS AND COURT WATCH OPPORTUNITIES
We have quite a number of court hearings coming up--sometimes more than one on the same day. If you can spare even a little time to make it to one of the hearings, please come. To find a case, go to the court information desk and give them the name of the person involved--they will give you the courtroom number. Court watch can make all the difference in getting folks getting fair treatment by the courts--please help if you can.

3/1/04
9:30 a.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
Rickey Jones: Pretrial on multiple cases of harassment by the same police officers. Rickey is a professional photographer who captured an incident of police brutality on film and has been subjected to serious harassment by police ever since. He has a number of false charges against him as a result of this harassment. Since Rickey has been successful in his previous cases, his attorney and the prosecutor agreed to put all the remaining cases together. Should be a very interesting event.

3/8/04
9:00 a.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
Haynes Family: Oscar Haynes, his wife and son were driving home from a family outing. When they got to the corner of Washington and 4th Avenue North, they were pulled over by Minneapolis police for allegedly playing their radio too loud. Problem is, their radio didn't work. (Maybe the real reason is that the family is multiracial.) Oscar presented his drivers license and insurance card but was pulled out of the car, beaten and had his head bashed into the bumper of his car. His wrist was broken during the beating. These are people who had never had an encounter with law enforcement before. His wife came out to the car and begged police to stop beating Oscar. Police then turned on her and beat and tasered her. Their 12-year-old son was crying in the car and saying "stop hurting my mom and dad." Police dragged him from the car and beat and tasered him, too. When we met him, he had several large, painful taser burns all over his back. He was taken to juvenile detention while his parents were taken to jail. The son was found not guilty in his juvenile court trial. Now it's Mom and Dad's turn in court.

3/9/04
1:15 p.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
William Alsaker: William is bipolar and was having an episode when approached by police. He fled briefly but laid down on the street and was handcuffed. Police then kicked and beat him so badly that the jail refused to accept him. He was taken to HCMC, where he had facial reconstructive surgery as a result of his injuries. He is charged with fleeing and obstructing legal process.

3/9/04
1:30 p.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
Wayne Heskett: Wayne is a business owner who has experienced ongoing harassment by police including destruction of some of his business property after he reported that the neighboring business, a cab company, was blocking access to his parking lot on a regular basis. Turns out one of the owners of the cab company is a cop. Wayne faces concocted charges.

3/10/04
9:00 a.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
Carol Knox: Carol has a seizure disorder. She had a seizure on 12/12/03 and awoke handcuffed in an ambulance. Although a neighbor explained to police that she was having a seizure, Carol was apparently arrested during the event. Her kids, ages 11 and 7, were left at home alone. Carol was taken to HCMC, treated for the seizure and a broken finger, and was released. A few days later, she got a ticket in the mail saying that she is being charged with 3rd degree assault on a police officer.

3/15/04
9:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
Philander Jenkins: The last cases in the ongoing saga. This young man was originally beaten during a raid on a house he was visiting. His jaw was broken in three places. Despite this, he was held in the Hennepin County jail for 10 days with no medical care. When he was released, he required multiple plates to repair his shattered jaw. After that, he became a target of ongoing police harassment including charging him with serious offenses. During his arrest for one of the charges, he was physically and sexually assaulted by sheriff's deputies in the Hennepin County jail. We are hoping to see Philander get justice in these cases and be able to move on with his life.

3/16/04
9:00 a.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
Al Flowers and Alissa Clemons: Continuation of hearing. Al Flowers was attacked by Minneapolis police outside of the Urban League building while attempting to attend an NAACP meeting. He and his sister, Alissa Clemons, a former Minneapolis police officer, have both been charged in this incident, which was witnessed by many people including council member Natalie Johnson Lee and state rep Neva Walker. Even with those witnesses, prosecutors are still going after these people to cover police brutality.

3/16/04
10:30 a.m.
Hennepin County Juvenile Court
Park Avenue and 6th Street
Lucius Rex: Continuation of hearing. Most charges were dropped against this young man who was beaten after driving a neighbor's car a short distance. The neighbor's son was also in the car at the time. Admittedly, he was too young to be driving but he did not deserve the severe beating he experienced at the hands of the Minneapolis police.


HIGH SPEED CHASES OFTEN DEADLY
The Jersey Journal
By Robert Rudolph
Newhouse News Service
Monday, February 16, 2004

"The Hartford, a major insurance firm that tracks the results of police pursuits, reports that nationally, 'Ten times more people are killed in high-speed pursuits than are killed by police weapons.'"

High-speed police chases are becoming a familiar sight on television, but Hudson County residents were glued to the news - or at least the replays - last week when they watched an SUV fleeing a squadron police cars down familiar streets, plus a detour through Lincoln Park.

Thursday's 50-mile chase ended shortly after 5 p.m., when the 27-year-old driver taken into custody in Bayonne.

"I just prayed no innocent people would get hurt," said Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham. "This whole thing could have been 10 times worse."

Police chases in New Jersey often are.

Six times a day in New Jersey - 2,000 times a year - police are involved in high-speed chases, often with devastating consequences.

Of the 2,042 pursuits conducted in 2002 - the last year for which complete figures are available - 538 ended in crashes that injured 322 people and killed four.

Such chases are often sparked by nothing more than a minor traffic violation, yet they are extremely dangerous to police and innocent motorists as well as the driver.

In New Jersey, a policy directive from the Attorney General's Office calls for discretion in initiating police chases. But it does not have the force of law. Some local jurisdictions pursue aggressively, others do not.

No one has suggested that police involved in Thursday's chase over-reacted. The driver allegedly hit another motorist with a pool cue after the two were involved in a fender bender. Police also were investigating whether the driver fired shots at a patrol car during the chase.

But in many chases, the wisdom of pursuing a fleeing motorist is less clear cut. A wild chase in South Jersey two days before Thanksgiving last year is a case in point.

Gregory Ganski Jr. had left work early to spend a holiday weekend at home with his young son and family. Passing though the South Jersey community of Bellmawr, the 27-year-old driver was pulled over for a traffic violation.

No one knows exactly why Ganski sped off as the patrolman approached his car - records show he had unpaid traffic tickets and had failed to respond to a summons - but the decision to flee triggered a shattering series of events.

Within moments, Ganski and the patrolman were engaged in a wild car chase that wound through rush-hour traffic in three jurisdictions, onto a highway, and back onto local roads and residential neighborhoods with an ever growing line of police cars behind them.

The chase ended when Ganski's silver 1990 Probe veered out of control, crossed the center line and collided head-on with a blue Chevrolet sedan driven by Thomas Fitzgerald, a 58-year-old father of two. Fitzgerald and Ganski were killed.

Today, Ganski's father acknowledges that his son's actions were impetuous and wrong.

"He should have exercised better judgment," said Gregory Ganski Sr.

But at the same time, he said, it was an accident that should never have happened, and a chase that should never have begun.

"There are two people dead," he said, "all because of some unpaid traffic tickets."

"It's ridiculous," he said. "They (the police) didn't have to do what they did. They knew where he lived - instead of chasing him, they could have been waiting for him."

The case remains under investigation by the Camden County Prosecutor's Office. No Camden officials would comment on the incident.

Chases called irresponsible

Lisa Sheikh, the executive director of the Partnership for Safe Driving, a Washington, D.C., coalition of road safety groups, says the majority of police chases are irresponsible.

"Most of the chases are pure insanity," she said. "There is almost never a reason to chase someone unless the individual is firing a weapon (or) carrying explosives."

Sheikh maintained that in the absence of such situations, "there is almost always another way to track the driver down, including calling ahead for police support to stop him."

The state's figures show that as many police and occupants of third-party vehicles were injured as were occupants of the cars being chased. In Essex and Hudson counties, more police officers were hurt than people in the cars they were chasing.

In 1993, a task force commissioned by the Attorney General's Office studied the state's policy on police pursuits over a three-year period and concluded that the vast majority of chases were prompted by motor vehicle offenses and stolen vehicles.

While recognizing that car theft remains a "particularly egregious problem in our society," which can reach "epidemic status" in some cities, the study found that tragic consequences of some of the chases "strongly militate" against authorizing pursuit of car thieves.

The current policy guidelines issued by the Attorney General's Office discourage police chases. They bar police from attempting to shoot out tires or bumping a car off the road. Roadblocks are authorized only as a last resort.

The recommended procedure calls for cops positioning themselves ahead of a fleeing vehicle and placing a remote-controlled strip on the road that can puncture and deflate the car's tires.

No blanket prohibition sought

The task force stressed, however, that it was not recommending a blanket prohibition of police pursuits, noting that such a move "would be to send a false signal to would-be car thieves that they can go about their illegal business with impunity."

The pursuit policy was drafted in 1985, revised in 1993 and again in 1999.

Former Attorney General John Farmer Jr. said the guidelines call for police to weigh the overall safety of the public against the value of chase that could become dangerous.

"You have to balance the need to apprehend criminals when they endanger the public safety," he said, "while realizing such pursuits can endanger the public safety themselves."

Farmer refused to second-guess current state procedures but stressed that if officers flagrantly violate the guidelines, the state should "ensure that the appropriate accountability exists."

In Newark, department procedures were revamped after a number of innocent bystanders were killed in a series of police chases in 2001.

The new policy stresses the need to take into account the safety risks of a chase and concludes that in most cases, "the Newark Police Policy would limit pursuits to violent felons."

"We don't pursue for motor vehicle violations," said Newark Police spokesman Lt. Derek Glenn, who stressed that without the commission of a violent crime by the suspect, "we are not going to pursue for a stolen vehicle."

Figures compiled by the Essex Prosecutor's Office show that under the more stringent policy, the numbers have dropped significantly - from a high of 329 pursuits in 2000, to 195 in 2001 and 191 in 2002.

But, critics say that even well-intentioned guidelines are ineffective if there is no accountability for violating them.

John Hagerty, a spokesman for the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, said he was "not aware" of any chase triggering criminal charges against a police officer. He said it is up to departments to impose disciplinary sanctions, although an occasional incident reaches into a "gray area" that requires a review by the state.

In 2001, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 365 people died nationwide because of police chases.

The NHTSA reports that when it comes to pursuit-related deaths, California is in the lead, with 51 reported deaths in 2001, New Jersey comes in ninth, with 10 reported deaths, seven of which involved occupants of other cars. One was a pedestrian. One was the driver of a fleeing vehicle. (National figures for more recent years are not available.)

Experts in the field say the figures may be a "gross understatement" of pursuit fatalities because so few states have any system for compiling pursuit-related accident reports.

The Hartford, a major insurance firm that tracks the results of police pursuits, reports that nationally, "ten times more people are killed in high-speed pursuits than are killed by police weapons."


Communities United Against Police Brutality
2104 Stevens Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)


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