8/22/2006 Newsletter

Contents:

  • CRA Board Folds on Discipline Issue
  • Philander Jenkins Court Watch: False Reporting Charge
  • Public Hearing on Bad "Alley" Ordinance
  • Copwatch Calendar
  • 8th Circuit Upholds Police Search of 16-year-old Girl Over Curfew Violation

CRA BOARD FOLDS ON DISCIPLINE ISSUE
SAD DAY FOR POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY EFFORTS

In a move that surprised even this seasoned editor, the community members who comprise the Minneapolis Civilian Review Authority (CRA) board voted at their last meeting to support a compromise ordinance change that would no longer require the chief of police to issue discipline on sustained complaints.  The compromise essentially codifies what interim chief Dolan is doing now and what chief McManus did before him--allows them to pretend that sustained cases don't count--while also tying up this already overworked board in additional red tape.

Stand By Your Woman
If you recall, council member Betsy Hodges was the prime mover behind the original proposed ordinance change, which required the chief to issue discipline in all sustained CRA cases.  Predictably, Hodges and other supporters on the council started getting heat from the usual suspects: MPD administration, the police federation, city attorney Peter Ginder and labor relations guy Tim Giles.  Ginder, who is currently acting as legal advisor to the CRA board is hardly neutral on this issue: he issued a series of memos trying to stake the claim that the mayor's partial delegation of oversight of police to the CRA board is somehow a violation of the city charter (it's not).  Keep in mind that the city attorney's office is famous for bringing false charges against folks who get abused by cops.  That's also the office that defends the city against the waves of lawsuits when their cops get out of line.  It's an interesting issue all by itself that a guy with this much skin in the game gets to advise the city council and the CRA on the legalities of an ordinance change that could hold the cops accountable.

It was sad to hear Hodges describe during the CRA board meeting how she had met with these different parties over what they would "accept" in a proposed ordinance change and how she rewrote her ordinance proposal to comply with their demands.  Her rationale?  She didn't think she could get enough votes on the council for the original wording.  It was even sadder to watch the CRA board fold like a house of cards and vote to endorse this badly-worded proposal in some mistaken gesture of loyalty to Hodges.  This board, whose responsibility in part is to defend the CRA, became willing participants in their own disempowerment and in so doing betrayed the community.

What's so bad about the new proposal?  Hodges' new wording states that if the CRA board sustains a complaint, the chief can take one of four actions:
*impose discipline
*deny discipline
*ask the CRA to reconsider its finding
*ask for a 30 day extension to take one of the other actions
If the chief denies discipline, the CRA board can request that he or she come to a board meeting to explain the decision. 
If the chief requests a reconsideration of the suspension, he or she appears before the board to present the reasons why.  If the case is sustained again, the chief can impose discipline, not impose discipline or ask for a 30 day extension.

There is some meaningless drivel in the proposed ordinance about how the CRA ruling is the final word.  However, allowing the chief to demand that the CRA board reconsider its sustained cases and still not discipline them renders that wording meaningless.  Moreover, it's this editor's prediction that should this proposal become law, the chief will simply remand every sustained case back to the CRA for reconsideration and then refuse to issue discipline--essentially the same situation we have today but with an elaborate new mechanism for tying up the CRA board.

The CRA Work Group, which is packed to the eyeballs with city and police officials but has no representation from the community, will hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance changes:

Wednesday, August 30, 2006, 7 p.m.
Brian Coyle Center, 420 15th Ave S, Minneapolis
For more information, contact Natalie Collins, 612-673-3301, natalie.collins@ci.minneapolis.mn.us

Normally, we would be urging people to attend this hearing and the upcoming hearings at the city council.  However, after the easy surrender of the CRA board, it appears this whole thing is a done deal--as we predicted would happen when this work group was formed without community representation.

We'll continue to follow and report on this process but now that the solution to the problem the work group was trying to fix--the chief's refusal to issue discipline in sustained cases--is off the table, there is probably little else exciting or worthwhile to expect out of this work group.


PHILANDER JENKINS BACK IN COURT
FALSE REPORTING CHARGE ON TRIAL

Philander Jenkins heads back to court this week for trial on charges that he falsely reported being brutalized by jail guards.  Regular readers of this newsletter know that Philander was caught up on an MPD raid on a house just five minutes after arriving there.  He was beaten and had his face stomped so badly that his jaw was fractured in multiple places.  He was then taken to the Hennepin County jail and held for 10 days with no medical care.  When his mother was able to raise the funds to bail him out, he was taken straight to the hospital and straight into surgery to have plates implanted in his jaw.

What followed after was a series of arrests and trials on false charges in order to dirty up Philander and prevent a lawsuit for his injuries and lack of medical care.  While in jail awaiting one of the trials, Philander was assaulted by deputies, who smashed his head into the wall then pulled his pants down and inserted a hard object into his rectum.  One of the deputies commented that they were getting him ready for prison life.

Philander was able to get word out to his mother of the assault and we swung into immediate action to get him a medical exam.  He was seen at Hennepin County Medical Center and although they indicated that Philander had been sexually assaulted, we did not feel that the exam was thorough enough and his attorney petitioned the courts for an independent exam, which was initially granted.  Deputies had other ideas though, and Philander was whisked away from Fairview Riverside Hospital just before a doctor could see him.  Judge Katherian Roe, who granted the initial order, turned icy and refused a second order for an exam.  Because of all of the delays, the opportunity for a real exam was lost.

A bogus BCA investigation followed, in which the inmate witnesses were never interviewed, Philander was given a hostile and limited interview and other key pieces of evidence were ignored.  After the BCA predictably reported its findings of no wrongdoing by the deputies, Philander was charged with falsely reporting the attack. 

There's two things wrong with this scenario: Philander never reported the attack to law enforcement officials (it was jail officials who reported it) and the attack actually happened.  The county's case is all wet but they feel an obligation to go through the motions in yet another effort to avoid legal responsibility for the actions of their people.

Come to court this week to see dynamic duo super-attorneys Jill Clark and Jill Waite in action.  Jury selection should conclude today and the trial should start in earnest tomorrow.

Philander Jenkins
Hennepin County Government Center
300 S 6th Street, Minneapolis
Hearing convenes daily at 9:00 a.m.
Check with the court information booth for courtroom number.
Check with our hotline 612-874-7867 for status of the trial.


PUBLIC HEARING ON ALLEY ORDINANCE

Minneapolis City Council's Public Safety and Regulatory Services committee will hold a hearing on a proposed ordinance to control access to alleyways by pedestrians.  If passed, this ordinance would turn alleyways into protected zones where anyone using them would have to prove they belonged there.  This is akin to the pass system blacks were subjected to by whites during apartheid in the Republic of South Africa and sets up a situation that is ripe for abuse and selective enforcement.

This editor spoke to the originator of the proposed alleyway ordinance, councilman Robert Lilligren, and he stated that he had experienced various petty crimes behind his home.  Granted, no one wants crimes to happen around their home but the point is these things were crimes whether they happened in the alley behind his house or on the sidewalk in front of his house.  Police can act on the crimes without this oppressive alleyway ordinance.  If the cops fail to deal with the crimes, that's another issue and this ordinance would not help.

Public Hearing on Proposed Alleyway Ordinance
Wednesday, August 23rd
1:30pm
City Hall, Room 317
350 S 5th Street, Minneapolis

We encourage you to attend and lend your voice to defeating this oppressive, unnecessary proposed ordinance.  To get a look at the wording of the ordinance, go to http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/council/2006-meetings/20060901/PSRS20060823agenda.asp#TopOfPage and scroll down to item #5.


COP WATCH CALENDAR
Cop watch continues throughout the summer and fall.  Next dates: September 9 and September 23. 

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.

Given the lack of willingness to hold cops accountable by every major institution in the city, this is one way the people can take on this role ourselves.  Join us.


JUSTICE STRIPPED BARE
Really Bad 8th Circuit Decision
On August 9, the Eighth Circuit upheld the strip search of a 16-year-old girl detained for nothing more than a curfew violation, despite the fact that law enforcement officials had absolutely no reason to believe that the girl possessed anything dangerous. Responsible for blasting this hole in the Fourth Amendment's privacy protections was a trio of Bush II appointees - Steven Colloton, Duane Benton and Michael Melloy.

The police in Sioux Falls, South Dakota arrested Jodie Smook on August 8, 1999 for staying out past 11:00 p.m. When they took her to the juvenile detention facility for processing, Minnehaha County officials forced her to remove all of her clothes except her underwear. The strip search was conducted under a blanket policy that didn't require officials to make any individualized assessment of whether a search was justified and didn't even draw broader distinctions between juveniles arrested for the most serious offenses and those arrested for, well, curfew violations.

To read more, follow this link: http://www.afj.org/2006/08/stripping-justice-bare.html

Smook v. Minnehaha County, slip op., No. 05-1363 (8th Cir. Aug. 9, 2006) For the opinion, follow this link: http://www.ca8.uscourts.gov/opndir/06/08/051363P.pdf


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


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