7/9/2006 Newsletter

Contents:

  • Possible Requirement for Chief to Discipline CRA Sustained Complaints
  • Copwatch: Another Form of Accountability
  • Selective "Justice" for Rapist State Trooper, Other Cops
  • Minuteman Thugs Run Out of Town
  • DOJ Reviewing Taser Deaths

POSSIBILITY FOR HUGE LEAP FORWARD IN POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY

The City of Minneapolis is on the edge of a major breakthrough in police accountability.  That's because the task force that is examining the work of the Civilian Review Authority (CRA) passed a vitally important recommendation for a change in the CRA ordinance.  If this recommendation is successful in the city council, the community will finally have a CRA with the teeth needed to hold errant cops  accountable.  It's up to us to see that it is successful.  Read on to learn why it is important and what you can do to help.

Picture this: you are beaten up (or falsely arrested, had your money stolen, called a racist name, etc.) by a Minneapolis cop.  You go to the CRA to file a complaint.  An investigator checks out your incident, talks to witnesses, gets police reports, looks at videos.  A panel hearing is conducted and your complaint is sustained.  Now you'll get some justice, right? 

Well, maybe.  For the last 2 1/2 years, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) has been doing everything possible to keep it from happening.  Once a complaint is sustained, it goes to the police chief who is supposed to issue discipline within 30 to 60 days.  However, the reality is that former chief McManus flat refused to discipline cases out of the CRA.  Instead, he sent the sustained complaints over to Internal Affairs to research and concoct reasons not to discipline them.  Some of the more outrageous cases just plain sat on his desk with no action.  Rumor has it that the current acting chief, Tim Dolan, played a role in developing this strategy--which has the dual effects of not disciplining wayward cops AND keeping these complaints out of the public eye, since only complaints that are disciplined are available to the public under the state's Data Practices Act.

It is this situation that was primarily behind the push for the current CRA Task Force.  While some of us in the movement had misgivings about the task force since it lacked community representation, it appears that some of the folks on it are taking their responsibility seriously.  Hence, the recommendation brought forward by freshman council member Betsy Hodges and pushed through with help from Cam Gordon, Ralph Remington, Don Samuels and Elizabeth Glidden.

What is this important recommendation?  It would amend Minneapolis ordinance 172.130 to say that the CRA is the final word on sustained complaints and that the chief is required to discipline all sustained CRA complaints.  It defines discipline as a verbal warning, written warning, suspension or termination--forms of discipline that make the complaints public data.  Internal affairs and all other parts of the MPD would be blocked from doing their own "investigation."

Who is the opposition? This recommendation was passed by the task force over the objections of council member Robert Lilligren, city attorney Peter Ginder, police federation attorney Jim Michels, the city's labor relations guy Tim Giles, and MPD deputy chief Sharon Lubinsky.  These are some powerful people and they are already lining up their forces within the Minneapolis city council to block passage of this vital ordinance change.  It's a shame that there are people out there who don't think the cops should answer to the same laws as the rest of us--and some of them have clout.  There will be a true battle royale over this ordinance change and the community will have to go all out to get it passed.

What happens next? The city council heard the proposed ordinance change on June 30th and referred it out to the Public Safety and Regulatory Services (PS&RS) committee and the Health, Energy and Environment (HE&E)  committee.  HE&E will take this up at their July 10th meeting and PS&RS will take this up on July 12th.  Both meetings are held at 1:30 p.m. in council chambers, room 317 of City Hall (350 S 5th Street).  From there, the proposed change will be heard back at a full City Council meeting--possibly as early as July 21.

What can you do to help? 
1) Contact your city council member to express your support for the Hodges CRA ordinance changes.  You can get your city council member's email address and phone number from http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/council/ and click on the WardFinder link if you're not sure who your council member is.
2) Call or email Betsy Hodges with your support for her courageous action bringing forth this proposed ordinance change.  Her email is http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/contact/email-form-hodges.asp and her phone number is (612) 673-2213.
3) We need to have at least seven city council members supporting this--right now, we have five.  Call or email these three council members to bring them over:
Diane Hofstede, diane.hofstede@ci.minneapolis.mn.us or (612) 673-2203
Gary Schiff, http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/contact/email-form-schiff.asp or (612) 673-2209
Robert Lilligren, robert.lilligren@ci.minneapolis.mn.us or (612) 673-2206
4) Get ready to attend the city council meeting where this will be taken up.  We don't know when that will be but we'll do our best to give you lots of notice.  Right now, it's looking like July 21 or August 4.

Folks, we can do this.  Right now, CUAPB considers this the most important piece of work the movement can do to improve police accountability.  Will it end police brutality?  Realistically, no.  But it will go a long way toward putting concrete consequences to police brutality in Minneapolis, which will help curb some of the abuses.  Next on the agenda: an investigation of MPD Internal Affairs, as recommended in Michael Browne's study of the CRA.  Bear in mind that our review of 10 years worth of sustained Internal Affairs cases showed that only two of these cases came from community members--compared to the large number of cases received from the community.  This is an agency sorely in need of some public accountability.


COP WATCH: ANOTHER FORM OF ACCOUNTABILITY
In recent months, we've been stepping up our cop watch activity.  This activity involves observing and using cameras to record activity in areas where we have gotten a lot of complaints of police misconduct.  We have been covering downtown Minneapolis but would like to build a larger group of cop watchers and extend into other areas.  If this is an area you have interest in, please come out and join us.

Upcoming cop watch dates: Friday, July 14.  Friday, July 21.  Saturday, July 29.

For all cop watch nights, the schedule is:
11:00 p.m. - Training. Walker Church, 3100 16th Ave S in Minneapolis
11:45 p.m. -  Plan route and consolidate transportation.  Walker Church, 3100 16th Ave S
12:00 p.m. - Go out on cop watch route.


SELECTIVE "JUSTICE" FOR RAPIST STATE TROOPER, OTHER COPS
Just as there are people in city government who don't think cops should be held accountable in the same way as the rest of us, there are judges who apparently feel the same way.  Washington county judge Thomas Armstrong sure went easy on a state trooper convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl, sentencing the sex offender to only one year in prison--far less than the normal 12-year sentence called for by state law.  His excuse? Although the cop denied everything right up to the last minute and called the girl a liar in his testimony, the judge said he showed "remorseful conduct" and was "amenable to treatment."

The role of the media in these situations is also pretty interesting.  Prior to the outcome of this trial, there have been a series of articles in the Strib that attempt to justify bad behavior by cops.  One talked about how the "terrible stresses" of police work cause cops to drink excessively--this one came out right after the MPD cops Lindsay Anderson and Steven Herron were popped by Columbia Heights cops during a drunken spree.  Another quoted brutal thug cop Jeffrey Jindra, who blamed increases in crime on the court system and the supposed fear the CRA creates in the minds of cops (never mind that police misconduct IS a crime!).  This article was timed to come out while Jindra is headed to court in two excessive force lawsuits.  A third article quoted Washington County prosecutor Doug Johnson--the same guy the MPD uses to routinely blow off charges against cops--saying in relationship to an allegation that a Maplewood cop kidnapped and assaulted a man, "in 33 years of prosecuting, I have never seen this type of police behavior."  Well, Doug Johnson and the rest, you must be asleep at the wheel because just about every member of certain communities in and around the twin cities can tell you it can and does happen--daily.  Time to wake up!
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Trooper sentenced to year in jail for sexual assault
Jim Adams, Star Tribune
July 07, 2006
http://www.startribune.com/467/story/538953.html

A decorated former state trooper was sentenced Friday to a year in jail, 3,000 hours of community service and 30 years probation for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl who was babysitting his son.

Scott Trautner, 41, of Woodbury, was convicted in April of first-degree criminal sexual conduct by a Washington County Judge after he waived a jury trial. He resigned from the state patrol in December.

Trautner, who faced a sentence of 12 years under state guidelines, was found amenable to treatment by Judge Thomas Armstrong. Armstrong also ordered him to get a psycho-sexual evaluation and follow all treatment recommendations, pay more than $2,900 in restitution and a $5,000 fine. He was ordered to have no contact with the victim and register as a sex offender.

Armstrong said in court Friday that he relied heavily on the opinion of psychologists who assessed Trautner and Trautners remorseful conduct since the trial.

Trautner, who had testified that the girl lied about the assault, apologized to her and her family in court and gave a glimpse into the stressful job he has had for 22 years as a state trooper who saw two suicides and responded to numerous fatal accidents.

His attorney, John Pecchia, said Trautner has been diagnosed since the assault and is receiving disability payments for post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Trautner said the stress led to a depression that he blames for assaulting the girl in his Woodbury home while his wife, also a state trooper, slept upstairs.

I thought I could deny the depression. I spiraled out of control. I never thought from what happened that I would do this to (the victim),Trautner said.

After the sentencing, Pecchia said justice had been served

The victim and her mother, who is a Minneapolis police officer, had no comment after the sentencing.

Prosecutor Peter Ivy said afterward "there is nothing happy about a case like this."
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Maplewood officer charged with kidnapping
David Chanen, Star Tribune
June 30, 2006
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/526536.html

A Maplewood police officer was charged Friday with kidnapping and assault after he allegedly threatened to beat a 21-year-old man and later dropped him off in a rural area of Washington County.

Jason Marino never told the man he was under arrest when he was handcuffed at a convenience store, according to the charges. He said he was taking him to jail.

When Marino heard the man calling 911 from his cell phone in the squad car, he uncuffed him and dropped him off about 2 a.m. on County Road 12 in rural Grant, the charges said. The man, whom authorities are not identifying, claimed that Marino hit him in the head with the handcuffs before driving off, the charges said.

Marino, 31, who has worked for Maplewood police for five years, has been on paid administrative leave since the incident was reported April 28, said Police Chief David Thomalla. Bob Malone, Marino's attorney, said Marino is a good officer who has never been in trouble.

"This guy is making up allegations against this officer," he said. "We'll get through it. We will have our day in court, and we will prevail."

Washington County Attorney Doug Johnson said there were several reasons to charge Marino. A videotape from the convenience store in Maplewood showed the man being handcuffed by Marino. And Johnson said it's rare for someone to call 911 from the back of a squad car and say he is afraid that an officer is about to beat him up.

The man was found and picked up by a Washington County sheriff deputy shortly after Marino released him, Johnson said. Marino never mentioned the incident in his daily log, he said.

"The victim was terrorized by the actions of Marino. He believed that he was going to be seriously assaulted and left by the side of the road," Johnson said.

In 33 years of prosecuting, he said he has never seen this type of police behavior. The criminal complaint said Marino threatened to beat the man up and that Marino told the man he was from the gutter and asked what drugs he was on.

When Marino dropped him off, the man said, the officer grabbed his cell phone and threw it in the weeds, the complaint said. The man said he used a lighter to find it. The man flagged down a motorist, who drove him to Stillwater.

The man said he was going to ask Marino for directions when he was handcuffed, the complaint said. Marino said the man asked for a ride, the complaint said. Thomalla said Marino might have had a previous encounter with the man, but he didn't know the details.

Marino is charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment, terroristic threats, misconduct of a public employee and fifth-degree assault. Thomalla said the allegations are disturbing, but "we need to let the court process take its course."

He said Marino has two letters of recognition and no record of disciplinary action. The department will do an internal investigation once the criminal proceeding is complete, he said.

"Unfortunately, the allegations overshadow all the good work our officers do every day, at least for the time being," Thomalla said.


MINUTEMAN THUGS RUN OUT OF TOWN
CUAPB participated in an ad hoc coalition that came together to respond to a Minuteman rally held at the state capitol on July 4th.  The Minutemen are a group of vigilantes who run armed patrols along the Southwest border of the U.S. and who promote a virulently racist anti-immigrant message.  They are on a motorcycle tour that made a stop in St. Paul.

About 220 people turned out for a spirited demonstration against the Minutecreeps.  We chanted, called out their racism, and made noise enough to block the message of the 15 people on their tour.  After about a half an hour, the Minutethugs zoomed away to the singing of "hit the road, Jack, and don't you come back no more."  All in all, a very successful event.


IT'S ABOUT TIME!
Justice Department looks into deaths of people subdued by stun guns
Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
6/13/2006
http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-06-13-stun-guns_x.htm

WASHINGTON The U.S. Justice Department is reviewing the deaths of up to 180 people who died after law enforcement officers used stun guns or other electro-shock devices to subdue them.

"These deaths raise a question in our mind that should be examined," said Glenn Schmitt, acting director of the department's National Institute of Justice. He said the review will initially focus on 30 deaths, including one from two decades ago.

Most of the deaths occurred within the past four years, corresponding with the mass deployment of stun guns to police departments throughout the country. A number of departments have re-evaluated their use of the weapons because of the fatal incidents.

More than 80 deaths since 1999 were identified in a recent analysis by The Arizona Republic. Amnesty International has identified more than 150 deaths since 2001.

The devices, marketed as alternatives to lethal force, are designed to incapacitate unruly suspects through electric shock.

Taser International, the nation's largest maker of stun guns, has supplied more than 130,000 devices to about 7,000 of the nation's 16,000 police agencies.

The company has maintained that its products are safe and have saved the lives of police officers and suspects.

"As we know, in-custody deaths are part of policing," Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said when asked about the Justice Department review. "The more we can study and understand the circumstances that lead to in-custody deaths, the more opportunities there are to develop law enforcement tactics and procedures that will help prevent these unfortunate events in the future."

According to Taser, the company is a named defendant in 49 lawsuits alleging either wrongful death or personal injury. An additional 20 lawsuits have been dismissed.

The Justice Department review, which could take up to two years, was proposed last year after law enforcement authorities expressed concern about the increasing numbers of deaths after stun guns were used to incapacitate suspects, Schmitt said.

Schmitt said the review will enlist the help of the National Association of Medical Examiners, the American College of Pathologists, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Teams of medical examiners will begin reviewing individual cases this fall.

Amnesty International called the Justice review a "good first step."

"The fact that the government is doing this is an important acknowledgement that there is a serious problem," said Dalia Hashad, director of Amnesty's USA Program. "People are dying needlessly. It's important that the federal government is taking this responsibility."

Last year, the IACP recommended that law enforcement agencies closely monitor use of the devices after noting safety concerns involving stun guns.

Schmitt said investigators are expected to examine a range of issues in each case, including ages, weight, possible physical impairments, evidence of drug use and other factors that could have contributed to the deaths.

In addition, Schmitt said, investigators will explore a phenomenon known as "excited delirium," in which a shutdown of bodily functions occurs after sensory overload.

Schmitt said the department is not urging any immediate change in the deployment of the devices.

"There is no reason to do anything different for now," he said. "We'll let the research answer the questions."


Communities United Against Police Brutality
3100 16th Avenue S
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)


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