4/24/2005 Newsletter

Contents:

  • Shocking--Tasers in St. Paul Schools
  • Dress Rehearsal for the Police State? Police Handcuff, Arrest 5-Year-Old Girl
  • Chris Anderson--Death in MPD Custody
  • Alicia Smith Case Update
  • Bloomington Covers for MPD Cop Who Kicked Jhontez Watson
  • Bloomington Covers for SPPD Cop Who Beat 85-Year-Old Man Beaten in Traffic Stop

SHOCKING--TASERS IN ST. PAUL SCHOOLS!  Help Get Them Out NOW!
The St. Paul Police Department provides security for St. Paul public schools.  A few months ago, school officers added Tasers to their arsenal.

The amazing thing is that no incidents brought about the need for these potentially lethal weapons.  They just magically showed up in the schools.  As justification, St. Paul police chief John Harrington made the ludicrous claim that students wanted the cops to have Tasers.

Hidden Dangers

Taser International, the company that makes and sells Tasers has consistently held that Tasers are not dangerous.  They bolster this claim by noting that in most cases of death after Tasering, no evidence exists on autopsy that could link to death directly to the Tasering.  This mega-corporation then adds insult to injury by implying that the people who have died, about 150 to date, are at fault in their own deaths either because of pre-existing heart disease or because of drug use.

However, newer studies show that the mechanism of death after Tasering is most likely cardiac fibrillation.  This is a life-threatening loss of normal heart rhythm in which parts of the heart are all beating --but out of sync--so that blood is not being pumped.  A person experiencing fibrillation will die within just 3-4 minutes if the condition is not corrected.  Electrocution is one cause of fibrillation.  Death by fibrillation cannot be detected by autopsy.

Tasers deliver 50,000 volts of electricity.  For most healthy adults under optimal conditions, this will cause pain and immediate paralysis of skeletal muscles that will drop a person to the ground.  However, if a person is sweaty and has bare skin touching the ground, the electrical resistance in their body can be reduced as much as 10-fold, allowing much more electricity to pass through their body and making them far more susceptible to the effects of Tasering.  In those folks, fibrillation can occur at as little as 10,000 volts.  This explains the danger of Tasers in routine law enforcement situations, where people are sweaty and may be Tasered while barefoot or laying on the ground.  For more information on the effects of electricity on the body, see http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/electric/shock.html#c2

Children are even more susceptible to the effects of electric shock, including that delivered by Tasers, as their smaller bodies have even less electrical resistance.  It is important to note that the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association both warn against the use of defibrillators (which also work by delivering an electrical shock) on children or anyone under 75 pounds.  Clearly, Taser use is even more dangerous to children.  For that reason, use of Tasers on children is banned in Canada and a number of other countries.

What Kind of Schools Do We Want?

Tasers were originally sold to the police and to the public as a "less lethal" alternative.  However, they are now widely used in situations in which lethal force would never be contemplated.  In a previous newsletter, we told you about a situation in Miami in which a 6-year-old child was Tasered in school for picking up a piece of broken glass.  Surely, cops would never shoot a child under those circumstances (and, we have to ask, why were cops brought in to deal with a 6-year-old kid in the first place?).

Recently, in another Florida town, police arrived on the scene of a school-yard brawl at a junior high school (that's middle school to us Midwesterners).  Instead of asking the crowd around the brawl to move, one police officer "Tasered" his way into the middle by shocking kids along the way.  And, in early March, Roseville police Tasered 15-year-old Devorrah Mack when she arrived at school.  She was never told she had been suspended and when the school cop ordered her off the premises, she asked why.  Police claim this as justification for delivering at least three shocks.

When police bring potentially lethal weapons into our schools and use them as a show of force on young people who question their authority or refuse to comply unquestioningly to their commands, we have to ask what kind of education these youth are getting.  Are they learning to be responsible, free thinking citizens of the world or are they learning to be compliant members of the emerging police state?

With so much danger posed by these weapons--and their negative societal ramifications--what possible justification can there be for having them in our schools?

Under public pressure, the Chicago Police Department suspended the use of Tasers after a 15-year-old student went into a coma after Tasering followed later that week by the Taser-relared death of a 53-year-old man.  If the folks in Chicago can get rid of Tasers we can, too. 

Get those Tasers OUT of our Schools!

CUAPB has teamed up with the St. Paul NAACP to get Tasers out of the St. Paul schools.  So far, the St. Paul school board has taken the position that they can't tell the cops in their schools what to do.  We don't buy that excuse and you shouldn't either.  We're asking folks to come to a public meeting to learn about the issue, to contact the St. Paul school board to demand they exercise their oversight and remove Tasers from their schools and, finally, to attend a St. Paul school board meeting in which the NAACP will present the community's concerns to the school board.  We expect police to have a strong presence at that school board meeting so members of the public need to be there, too.

Action Steps:
1) Call the St. Paul school board at 651-767-8149 or write them at 360 Colborne, St. Paul, MN 55102 to express your concerns about Tasers in school.

2) Come to a community meeting on Tasers in schools:
Community Meeting
Thursday, April 28
7:00 p.m.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center
270 N Kent Street, St. Paul

3) Support the community at the St. Paul school board meeting:
St. Paul School Board Meeting
Tuesday, May 3rd
6:30 p.m.
360 Colborne, St. Paul

Most folks agree--there is just no reason for Tasers to be in schools.  We can win this struggle but we need your help to do it.  Even if you don't have kids in St. Paul schools, you need to be on board with this--to keep it out of your own kids' schools and to protect all of our children.


DRESS REHEARSAL FOR THE POLICE STATE?
For as long as compulsory public education has existed, school staff have had to deal with unruly kids.  Somehow they've always been able to control students without the use of police. Can someone explain WHY the adults at that school could not figure out a better way to deal with a 5-year-old child than turning her over to the tender mercies of the police?  In the video that was shown on television, the child had calmed down and was sitting quietly in a chair when two police officers ripped her out of the chair, bent her over a table and handcuffed her.  Perhaps this was their idea of a dress rehearsal for her expected role, as an African American youth, in the criminal justice system.  I suppose we should be grateful she wasn't Tasered into a coma like that student in Chicago.

Police Handcuff, Arrest 5-Year-Old Girl
THE PAN-AFRICAN RESEARCH AND DOCUMENTATION CENTER
03/18/05 13:45 EST

'I Don't Want to Go to Jail,' Says Young Student

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 18) - A 5-year-old girl was arrested, cuffed and put in back of a police cruiser after an outburst at school where she threw books and boxes, kicked a teacher in the shins, smashed a candy dish, hit an assistant principal in the stomach and drew on the walls.

The students were counting jelly beans as part of a math exercise at Fairmount Park Elementary School when the little girl began acting silly. That's when her teacher took away her jelly beans, outraging the child.

Minutes later, the 40-pound girl was in the back of a police cruiser, under arrest for battery. Her hands were bound with plastic ties, her ankles in handcuffs.

"I don't want to go to jail," she said moments after her arrest Monday.

No charges were filed and the girl went home with her mother.

While police say their actions were proper, school officials were not pleased with the outcome.

"We never want to have 5-year-old children arrested," said Michael Bessette, the district's Area III superintendent.

The district's campus police should have been called to help and not local police, he said.

Bessette said campus police routinely deal with children and are trained to calm them in such situations.

Under the district's code of student conduct, students are to be suspended for 10 days and recommended for expulsion for unprovoked attacks, even if they don't result in serious injury. But district spokesman Ron Stone said that rule wouldn't apply to kindergartners.

"She's been appropriately disciplined under the circumstances," he said.

The girl's mother, Inda Akins, said she is consulting an attorney.

"She's never going back to that school," Akins said. "They set my baby up."


ANOTHER WALTER BURKS CASE?
You might be aware that CUAPB has prepared a detailed analysis of a case that is eerily similar to this new case, in which a man named Chris Anderson died in custody a week ago.  To see that analysis, go to http://www.charityadvantage.com/CUAPB/images/burks.pdf

No word in the article on whether this man was Tasered or if chemical irritant was used during his arrest.  CUAPB will be conducting our own investigation and will report back to the community in a future edition of this newsletter.

Police investigating death of man held down by bar patrons
Published April 22, 2005
http://www.startribune.com/stories/462/5363051.html

Minneapolis police are investigating the death of a 33-year-old man who suffered respiratory and cardiac arrest after he was arrested on suspicion of assaulting people at a bar.

Chris Anderson of Minneapolis entered Lyle's bar at 2021 Hennepin Av. S. about 5:30 p.m. Saturday and was hassling customers, said Capt. Rich Stanek. After he assaulted a bartender, at least four customers held Anderson down until police arrived.

While in handcuffs, he started having medical problems. Police removed the handcuffs, but he went into cardiac arrest. Paramedics revived him and took him to Hennepin County Medical Center, police said. Anderson died Monday afternoon.

The medical examiner's office hasn't ruled on the cause of death. Stanek said police are investigating the death as suspicious.

David Chanen
Copyright 2005 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.


ALICIA SMITH--CASE UPDATE

As regular readers of this newsletter know, we have been closely watching the Alicia Smith case as it moved through the court system, with court watchers posted in the court room all the way through her trial.  To remind you, this is the case of the young woman whose head was bashed through the back window of a police squad car after she was audacious enough to run to a police car asking for help when she was being attacked during a domestic assault.  As a result, she was charged with FELONY obstructing legal process and with assaulting an officer.  During trial, it came out that the officer was en route to a call when Alicia stopped him.  However, it also came out that the call he was on his way to was--Alicia's.  How, pray tell, can she have obstructed the officer when all she did was bring the call to him?

On April 6th, the jury got the case and deliberated for the entire day.  Three times they passed notes to the judge indicating that they were deadlocked.  At the request of the attorneys, Judge Nordby asked them to continue to try to reach a consensus.  The jury came back midday on Wednesday, April 7th and by late that afternoon they announced that they had reached a verdict on the assault charge: NOT GUILTY.  This was great news.  However, they also announced that they were hopelessly deadlocked 11-1 on the obstructing legal process charge.

Judge Nordby released the jury but did not dismiss the charge or declare a mistrial.  Instead, he asked the attorneys for both sides to come back in a month with some kind of plan to resolve the charge.  This will happen in early May and we'll let you know the date so you can be there.  This has truly been one of the most fascinating--and bizarre--cases we've ever witnessed.


WHAT VIDEO TAPE WERE THEY LOOKING AT?
As one of the first people in the Twin Cities to see the videotaped attack by MPD officers on Jhontez Watson, this editor is appalled but not surprised by the determination of the Bloomington city attorney's office.  Apparently, they weren't looking at the same video I saw--in which Officer Laluzerne very clearly moved a bicycle out of the way to kick the already handcuffed and subdued Jhontez Watson in the head. 

Officers won't be charged in alleged assault caught on videotape
Published April 22, 2005
http://www.startribune.com/stories/462/5363016.html

No charges will be filed against two Minneapolis police officers who allegedly assaulted a man under arrest.

Officer John Laluzerne and Sgt. Carroll Holley were placed on paid administrative leave in September after Chief Bill McManus viewed a videotape that appeared to show that they were hurting Jhontez Watson. He was charged with resisting arrest and assault in the incident in June 2003.

The Bloomington city attorney's office, which looked into the case, said Laluzerne kicked Watson while he resisted arrest. It's unclear whether the kick was done with the intent to stun Watson into compliance, the Bloomington report said. It's also unclear from the videotape whether Watson was handcuffed during the kick.

"The police are given latitude in deciding which techniques they will employ to gain compliance. It's clear that even after being maced, Watson was not complying," the city attorney's office said.

Prosecutors didn't believe they could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Laluzerne assaulted Watson. There wasn't evidence that Holley assaulted Watson, the office said.

David Chanen
? Copyright 2005 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

 


MORE SICKENING INJUSTICE, COURTESY OF ANOTHER BLOOMINGTON AGENCY
Seems Bloomington city agencies have had a busy week denying justice to residents of both Minneapolis and St. Paul.  This is not surprising, given the lack of indictments of any cops in the Twin Cities area for assaults or even deaths of community members.  Asking a police department or city attorney's office to put the hex on another city's police department is just plain stupid--it's never gonna happen.  But, then again, maybe that was the plan from jump.  Still, this result is just so wrong and just so outrageous!

Officer cleared of wrongdoing in traffic-stop of 85-year-old
Star Tribune
Published April 23, 2005

A veteran officer was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in connection with a traffic stop last December in which an 85-year-old man claimed he was beaten, the St. Paul Police Department reported Friday.

The incident involving officer Michael Lee and motorist Leon Nins had been referred to the Bloomington Police Department and the U.S. Justice Department for review.

On Friday, St. Paul police reported that the two agencies concluded that "there is no evidence that officer Lee's actions" violated the use-of-force statutes, said Paul Schnell, the department spokesman.

Schnell said that he had spoken with Lee and that the officer would not make a statement regarding the findings. Lee, who joined the department in 1988, continued his normal duties during the investigations.

While the external reviews are done, St. Paul police will continue with an internal affairs investigation into the incident on Dec. 27, 2004, in which Nins claims Lee beat him with a baton and used a chemical spray during a routine traffic stop. Nins was on his way to visit his wife in a nursing home.

Nins said Friday he was disappointed with the outcome. "I wanted them to fire [him]. I can't hardly see out of one eye where he beat me," Nins said, adding that he plans to sue Lee and the department "for two million bucks."

Lee acknowledged using a chemical spray to control Nins, but denied hitting him with a baton, according to reports.

Lee told investigators that Nins, who was stopped for having expired license plate tabs, spit on Lee and fought with him. Nins was booked into the Ramsey County jail on fourth-degree assault charges. Schnell said police have turned that part of the investigation over to outside agencies for review to see if Nins could be charged.

News of the criminal case against Lee being dropped was unwelcome to NAACP members, who came to Nins' defense in the days after the incident.

They are disappointed but not surprised, said Nathaniel Khaliq, president of the St. Paul branch of the NAACP. "It usually ends up this way."

Khaliq said he and other black community leaders will meet with Nins and his family to discuss further actions.

"We have a lot of options," said Khaliq. "We're not going to let this rest until Mr. Nins receives justice."

Police Federation president Dave Titus said he was not surprised by the outcome and wished that Nins' supporters "would have waited for the facts to come out."

Police Chief John Harrington, who had backed Lee from the start, said Friday: "There are times when, no matter how legally ... justified an officer may be, their actions will challenge the sensibilities of some members of the public. We know that our actions will and should be questioned." He said he plans to require officers to undergo training on how to deal with combative seniors.

"I'm glad he's talking about training, but I don't think it will do much," said Robin Magee, a Hamline University law professor familiar with the Nins incident. "The police could have handled this differently."

Staff writer Delma Francis contributed to this story.
The writers are at hme@startribune.com and hpadilla@startribune.com


DESK DONATIONS NEEDED
Old office furniture sitting around collecting dust?  CUAPB is looking for two computer desks for our office.  Because they have to go up three flights of stairs, they need to be lightweight and/or modular so they can be broken down into components.  If you have any furniture like this that you would be willing to donate, we'd love to take it off your hands.  Please call our hotline at 612-874-7867 to arrange a pick up.  Thanks, as always, for your support.


Communities United Against Police Brutality
3104 16th Avenue S
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)


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