2/8/2009 Newsletter

Contents:

  • Ahmed Guled Killed by MPD
  • CUAPB Sues Minneapolis over CRA Complaint Status Info
  • City Pays $169,500 to Downtown Patrons Roughed Up by Cops
  • St. Paul Settles Suit with RNC Protester
  • Why the Full-Court Press to Convict McKay
  • LA Pays $12.85 Million to May Day Marchers and Bystanders

ANOTHER TRAGIC DEATH AT THE HANDS OF THE MPD
TIME TO TAKE THE STREETS AND SAY "NO MORE"!

Rally and Memorial
Wednesday, February 11
4:30 p.m.
Corner of Morgan Ave S and Golden Valley Road, Minneapolis
(next to North Commons Park)

Early on Thursday, February 5, Minneapolis police killed Ahmed Guled, 23, as he drove down Morgan Avenue in the area where police were arresting three other people. One of the arrestees witnessed the incident and states that reports by police that they were somehow "in danger" and had to shoot were lies. He states that Guled was driving no more than 20 miles an hour and was just trying to get through the narrow lane police created by blocking the road with their vehicles when police opened fire, shooting at least 20 times. He referred to the killing as "an execution."

Guled's tragic death follows closely on the heels of the December 9th death by Taser of Quincy Smith, a well-known radio personality on People's Radio Station KMOJ. Smith was Tased by five police officers, killing him. One of the officers involved is the same cop who Tased Smith in a previous incident and who Smith had an active lawsuit against at the time of his death. Witnesses have stated that Smith was not doing anything to justify cops electrocuting him to death.

There are a number of factors at play in these latest deaths, which both occurred to men of color on the Northside. The current police chief, Tim Dolan, is a cops' cop who fails to take seriously complaints against his cops and uses discipline not to reign in misconduct but as a political tool against officers of color and others he doesn't like. He was inspector of the Fourth precinct during several high profile police brutality incidents including the shootings of Terrell Oliver and Julius Powell. As chief, he's made sure all major incidents of brutality get swept under the rug.

Another factor is a lack of policies. The MPD was supposed to have a stringent Taser policy. The city council ordered them to adopt a relatively strong policy. However, that policy has disappeared. Police administration claims the policy was moved to training--to make the policy manual shorter--but at a CRA board meeting a few months ago, MPD Taser trainer Adam Grobove stated that the only policy they train about is that cops are supposed to holster their Taser on the side opposite their firearm and they aren't supposed to use it around flammable vapors. In other words, it's a no-rules free-for-all.

Finally, the community has not stepped up as it should to show our outrage over these deaths at the hands of police. That lack of response shows the cops they can get away with these actions. Yes, it's winter and yes, it's cold outside but that hasn't stopped cops from killing our brothers and sisters and they must not get a free pass on these outrages! We need a real response from the community. That's where you come in. Join us for a rally and memorial at the site of Ahmed Guled's death. We will follow this action with a community meeting (information to follow) to plan actions that will bring about real change. Be there!

COPS LIE, PEOPLE DIE, FAMILIES CRY. WE SAY "NO MORE!"


MINNEAPOLIS HIDES POLICE COMPLAINT STATUS; CUAPB SUES CRA AND CITY

CUAPB initiated a lawsuit on Tuesday against the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority (CRA) challenging their position that the status of complaints against police officers is no longer public data.

In the past, the CRA routinely released information on complaints in response to requests under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. CUAPB, members of the media and the general public were permitted to know of the existence of a complaint, the status of the complaint anywhere along the process, whether the complaint was sustained or not sustained, whether the complaint was referred to the chief of police for discipline and, once the complaint has reached final disposition, any discipline imposed.

However, on May 2, 2007, the Minneapolis city attorney’s office issued a memo directing the CRA staff and board to cease releasing status information on cases. The CRA immediately reclassified all cases, including sustained cases from years ago as “closed” with no indication as to how the case was actually handled.

“People who make the effort to file complaints get the feeling their complaints have fallen into a black hole,” stated Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality. “The lack of information makes people feel their complaints are not being heard and deprives the public of any real accountability.”

The city ordinance that created the CRA also allows the complainant the right to request reconsideration of non-sustained complaints. However, Gross points out, “If the complainant cannot know the status of his or her complaint, that right is meaningless.”

“We must restore transparency in the CRA complaint process,” stated Gross. She continued, “An open process engenders accountability and trust, the cornerstones of good police-community relations. We hope our lawsuit will restore the openness that allows people to trust the process.”

The CRA board was all set last week to ask the city council to change the ordinance so that complainants would no longer have the right to request reconsideration of non-sustained complaints. By initiating this lawsuit, we hoped to stop any potential ordinance change and it appears that we have done so at this time.

The current CRA board, with a few exceptions, is way too friendly with the city and MPD and too easily cowed by the whims of the city attorney (who, for all intents and purposes, does the bidding of the police federation). The new chair, Don Bellfield, is rude and openly hostile to any community input while constantly deferring to city staff. The board was given every opportunity to address this data issue in a manner that would preserve the power of the CRA as well as the rights of community members but when they failed to do so, CUAPB was forced to take on this role. Interestingly, at their meeting last week, some board members acted offended that we have sued. They need to realize that CUAPB serves the community and this lawsuit is about standing up for what the community needs. They should be thanking us for taking this action.

We'll keep you informed of our progress with this lawsuit, which is all about restoring important provisions of the Minnesota Data Practices Act as well as the rights of complainants.


WHY WE DO COPWATCH:

City Pays $169,500 after would-be nightclub patrons get arrested, roughed up

Minneapolis Star Tribune
February 6th, 2009
By James Shiffer

[NOTE: This case is identical to a number of cases we've worked with and shows the reason we do copwatch at clubs on Friday and Saturday nights, when many of these kinds of incidents occur. Just last summer we had two cases back to back in which people sustained broken ankles when they didn't run away fast enough from the club during closing time and were trampled by horses ridden by Minneapolis cops. To see the actual settlement document from the city, go to http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/council/2009-meetings/20090206/Docs/Otieno_Walton_Wong_RCA.pdf]

This afternoon, the Minneapolis City Council approved a $169,500 settlement ending a federal lawsuit that claimed two off-duty city police officers harassed and mishandled three people who tried to get into a Warehouse District nightclub in September 2007. Anna Otieno, Kyle Walton and Meghan Wong were part of a group trying to get into Drink at 5th Street and 1st Avenue North, only to be turned away at the door because one of them didn't meet the dress code.

That's when things got ugly. The bar staff called two off-duty officers for help, David Michael Hanson and Michael J. Meath. The confrontation continued down the block to the sidewalk, and by the time it was over, Otieno and Walton were on their way to jail, and Wong had a laceration on her chin that took stitches to close. The charges against Otieno and Walton were dropped, and the three filed a federal lawsuit against the two officers and the city in April, saying they were targeted and mistreated because of their race (Otieno and Walton are African-American, Wong is Asian-American). The city's response acknowledged that Otieno was moved away from Drink by force, but denied that the officers roughed up either Otieno or Walton or that the officers felt free to mistreat or abuse people because of their race.

"We believe that the negotiated settlement is fair, reasonable and takes into account fees and costs challenged by the City," the city's attorneys wrote in their presentation to the council. The council approved the settlement without discussion.


ST PAUL SETTLES SUIT WITH RNC PROTESTER

By RANDY FURST, Star Tribune
February 6, 2009
http://www.startribune.com/local/stpaul/39226432.html?elr=KArks:DCiUHc3E7_V_nDaycUiacyKUUr

[NOTE: The first of many such victories!]

A war protester will be paid $5,000 by the city of St. Paul to settle a federal suit he filed after he was detained by police last June for handing out leaflets outside the Xcel Energy Center.

Mick Kelly, 51, of Minneapolis was distributing fliers promoting a march on the Republican National Convention that took place three months later. He was stopped by St. Paul police, put in a squad car, driven 10 blocks away from the Xcel center, issued a citation and released. He then walked back and continued to hand out leaflets.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota protested the arrest, and Kelly told his story to the news media. Police investigated and announced the next day that he had been improperly detained and that the citation would be dropped and Kelly would be issued an apology. Mayor Chris Coleman called the arrest a "mistake." Kelly nonetheless filed suit in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.

Ted Dooley, one of Kelly's attorneys, said the city of St. Paul does not admit wrongdoing in the settlement. But he said he still considered it a victory.

Noting that police had confiscated 100 fliers, he said, "They just paid $5,000 -- that's $50 a sheet. You cannot prevent or prohibit people from passing out political information on the streets of St. Paul, not today, not tomorrow, not ever."

Said Kelly, "The fact they are paying me $5,000 speaks volumes." He said he will give the money "to movements for peace, justice and equality."

However, St. Paul City Attorney John Choi said, "I'm not sure what the plaintiff doesn't understand about the language in the agreement that states, 'The city admits no wrongdoing,' but $5,000 in the world of civil litigation is nominal and says everything about the weakness of the plaintiff's case against the city. Any lawyer should know that. The settlement is a great outcome for the city."

Randy Furst • 612-673-7382


Letters to the editor for Saturday, Feb. 7 Star-Tribune

RNC CONVENTION TRIAL
Why the full-court press to convict McKay?

My interest in the Star Tribune's articles about the trial of David McKay, arrested during the 2008 Republican National Convention, stems partly from having participated in demonstrations during the convention, but mostly because I was a member of the group that Michael Moore featured in his movie "Fahrenheit 911" -- Peace Fresno.

In October 2003, our group was infiltrated by Aaron Kilner, a deputy sheriff assigned to the local Joint Terrorism Task Force. It was the first documented case after passage of the Patriot Act of the federal government spying on a domestic peace group.

As I read about the young defendant McKay and FBI informant Brandon Darby, I thought of Kilner, who spied on our group of kind, gentle and hard working Americans, and I wonder what he felt. Did Kilner think his was a noble cause, as Darby testified? Or did he spy in the hope of persuading someone in the group to do something illegal so his Sheriff's Department could get more money from Homeland Security? In the California case, Fresno's law enforcement received $7 million to combat nonexistent terrorism in central California as a result of infiltration.

What budget enhancements will the Minnesota FBI get if they win the McKay case? Why is the district's top prosecutor assigned to this case? Is he looking for justice, or is he looking for justification for all the riot gear, spying and millions of dollars spent to turn St. Paul into a four-day police state during the RNC?

ANN GALLOWAY, MINNEAPOLIS


AND ELSEWHERE...
LOS ANGELES PAYS $12.85 MILLION TO MAY DAY MARCHERS AND BYSTANDERS

February 4, 2009
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/02/los-angeles-pay.html

Members of the Los Angeles City Council agreed unanimously today to pay $12.85 million to immigration demonstrators and bystanders who sued the city claiming they were injured or mistreated by police officers during the May Day 2007 melee in MacArthur Park. The payout will settle nine lawsuits against the city.

The settlement is another blow to the city's treasury related to LAPD misconduct in the midst of serious budgetary problems. The settlement of the May Day cases comes on the heels of the council's approval last week of a $20.5-million payout to four current and former police officers who claimed they were falsely arrested and mistreated in the wake of the scandal involving the police department's Rampart Division.

The council still faces other legal troubles related to the May Day incident--there were 27 pending cases related to the demonstration before today's settlement, according to officials with the city attorney. Only one case involving a broken camera had been settled.

Forty-two people, including nine journalists, were injured as a pro-immigration march wound down in MacArthur Park on May 1. LAPD officials said the scuffle was set off by a group of agitators who threw bottles and other objects at police. The department's Metro Division used batons and fired rubber bullets to disperse what was a predominantly peaceful gathering.

Chief William J. Bratton said the fracas was an aberration for the department, but promised it would lead to changes in policy and training. He called the decision of his officers to use that level of force a "command and control breakdown."

In response to the incident, Bratton announced that he was disciplining 11 officers and calling for the termination of four. In another step toward preventing a recurrence, Bratton set up a new bureau known as the Critical Incident Management Bureau that overseas major events and protests.


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