4/21/2003 Newsletter

Contents:

  • Fed Med Redux
  • Class Action Lawsuit
  • Copwatch

FED MED REDUX
This past Friday, the Community Negotiating Team--of which CUAPB is part--held a press conference in which we announced that we were dropping the writ action (to bring the city to the mediation table) but that we had simultaneously filed a class action lawsuit in federal court to force changes in police policy and practices. In essence, we told the city we were all done with their games and that we will "see them in court."

We took this action because we had gotten reliable information that the city council was planning to pull out another new set of tricks, in an effort to make themselves look good without actually allowing any real change. We just weren't willing to go down that road anymore. It had become clear that they were never going to just sit down at the table with us and get the job done. The bottom line: mediating with a group of ordinary folks they could not control was bigger political suicide in these council members' minds than maintaining the police-state status quo (especially with the federation looking over their shoulders).

This is not the end of the struggle by any means. It is simply taking the issues to an arena in which the city cannot keep playing games and where the community has some shot at being on a level playing field.

The reality is this: these folks have worn out their credibility to the point that sitting down with them in mediation would be a waste of time. We wouldn't be able to take anything they said at face value. How do you mediate with folks like that?

What was pointed out at the press conference (but what was not picked up by the media) is that the original council resolution approving federal mediation stated that the final mediation agreement would have to be approved by the council. That means we could have worked for months to fashion an agreement to address the issues, only to have the council vote it down. After spending all last summer working on the CRA redesign just to watch the city flush our work down the johnny, I have no doubt this could happen again.

The ultimate irony is that they will, eventually, have to mediate with us to settle the lawsuit. The difference is that mediation will be on the judge's terms. If that mediation is unsuccessful, we will still have the option to continue the suit.

G.R. Anderson has been running a series of weblogs (blogs, for techies) on this and other topics of interest. His writing is so good, it is becoming a daily addiction. In his piece on Friday, he drew an analysis between Minneapolis and Detroit, whose police department is now under US Department of Justice control. Check it out at http://babelogue.citypages.com:8080/granderson/


ABOUT THE CLASS ACTION SUIT
The class action lawsuit we filed on Friday, like all other class actions, highlights a particular case. In this case it is Darryl Robinson.

Darryl came to us via our hotline. He was simply walking down the street when a Minneapolis police squad car stopped. They started harassing him and telling him that his designer shirt looked like "prison issue." He finally said, "why are you harassing me?" One of the officers got out of the car and severely beat him while the other one looked on and did nothing. The beating included stomping Darryl's head so hard that his eardrum was ruptured. The officer then opened a bottle of seltzer and poured it into his injured ear while shouting, "now that's harassment!" Darryl was never charged for any crime.

Darryl drove himself straight to the hospital and asked nurses there to call internal affairs. They came and took a statement from Darryl. Although this incident occurred in September 2001, to this day there has been no investigation or action on the part of internal affairs and no officer was ever disciplined. A city official advised Darryl not to follow up with internal affairs or he would be harassed. This is the exact advice we give, as we have also seen people severely harassed after going to internal affairs.

Darryl's case was chosen to highlight problems with MPD including:

  • police harassing and assaulting people who verbally criticize them
  • covering up of crimes committed by police, particularly racially-motivated assaults
  • failure to investigate and discipline police officers for misconduct
  • preventing community members from effectively complaining about police conduct, due to a pattern of harassing complainants

There are two kinds of class action suits: one type states that there are at least 23 people who have experienced a certain situation that can be remedied in court, the other type says that the numbers of people affected is so large you could never identify them and bring them all to court. We are using both standards in this suit.

We will be actively working to identify folks who fit in certain categories to add to the suit. Since the suit is about forcing change, and not about money, it won't matter how many folks we add as long as they fit in one of these categories:

  • people who were assaulted, harassed or arrested for criticizing police
  • people who were harassed for complaining about police misconduct to either internal affairs (IAD) or civilian review authority (CRA)
  • people whose complaints to IAD or CRA were not acted on
  • people whose complaints to IAD or CRA were covered up

If you know anyone who fits in these four categories, please have them call our hotline at 612-874-STOP. A trained interviewer will meet with them and give them more information about the lawsuit.

Despite concerns for his safety, Darryl Robinson has stepped forward to play an extremely important role for the community. The entire community owes this brave man a debt of gratitude. He is a hero.


COPWATCH FUNDRAISER
Copwatch is being resurrected by a joint effort of ARA and CUAPB. Copwatch is a program of putting people with video cameras in the street to monitor and document police activities. Generally, it is done in areas that are hotspots for police brutality. To raise funds for needed equipment, ARA is hosting a benefit show:

Copwatch Benefit Show
Thursday, April 24th
5:30 p.m.
Red Sea
320 Cedar Ave, Minneapolis
Sliding scale $7 to $10 ($10 donation gets a free patch)
Entertainment includes DJ K Salaam, Traditional Methods, Heads & Bodies, Punkeke


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


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