Whenever a new case of police brutality comes to light, people in the community must respond politically to ensure justice for the victim. These actions must be timely to be truly effective. We need an organization in place that can mobilize people quickly, organize demonstrations and other actions, defend the victim, challenge the "police version" of incidents in the media, and that can build an ongoing climate of resistance to police brutality in all its forms. CUAPB™ is that organization.
As police brutality increases, more and more victims are left behind to suffer through what is likely one of the greatest emotional crises in their lives. Often they are unsure of where to turn for help. We offer a 24-hour crisis line (612-874-STOP) that people can call to report instances of abuse. We help people document their cases, secure videos and other evidence, investigate incidents, take photos and statements and offer immediate assistance. We follow up with legal, medical and psychological referrals and other advocacy as needed. We also bring together families and survivors in a local network to provide ongoing support and empowerment for people suffering from their encounter with police brutality. Police brutality cases are legally difficult. Many attorneys simply don’t take them on. However, CUAPB™ maintains a referral list of lawyers. We also provide Court Watch to support people in the courts and help them deal with the legal process. Another ongoing part of our advocacy is our Copwatch program. We take video cameras into the street in areas where police activity has been problematic. Copwatch documents police activity in particular incidents and, more importantly, serves as a deterrent to police misconduct.
Although many people may hear about the more extreme cases of police brutality in the media, it's the obscure day-to-day police abuses that create the hostile and racially charged environment that allows the more extreme cases to occur–cases that can ultimately result in death or permanent injury. One of the goals of our organization is to mobilize public awareness about the causes and effects of racial profiling and police brutality. We accomplish this through the media, public service announcements, community meetings and public forums, workshops in schools and colleges and through this website. To help protect people in their encounters with police, we provide age- and population-specific Know Your Rights training and teach Copwatch to schools, neighborhood organizations, and other groups and individuals.
LEGISLATIVE AND POLICY ACTION
We research trends in police brutality, racial profiling and other areas of police misconduct and present our findings to the public and to elected officials, to help them understand the issue and enact new laws that address police brutality. Currently, a Minnesota law determines circumstances under which a police officer can legally use deadly force in the line of duty. In other words, used properly, this law was designed to provide legal protection for police officers who kill or injure suspects in self-defense or to protect others from death or great bodily harm. This statue is known as Minnesota Deadly Force Statute 609.066. However, there is no counterbalancing law that protects the public from police officers who illegally use excessive or deadly force when it is not required. Because there is no specific law that provides for criminal punishment for officers who misuse excessive or deadly force, officers tend to hide behind the technicalities of the one-sided, police-friendly Deadly Force law to get away with the cold-blooded murder of unarmed citizens. Because police are licensed by the government to carry guns and to use them while performing their duties, the government must be held responsible for protecting people from the terror of abusive, trigger-happy police. Since there are no laws that protect us from police misconduct, brutality and murder, and because public officials responsible for police oversight don't take complaints about police misconduct seriously, our goals include:
- Petitioning the Minnesota legislature to enact new and more effective laws that will protect the public from police brutality, and that mandate prosecution of officers who use excessive force.
- Demanding independent investigations of police brutality incidents and prosecution of the officers involved.
- Minneapolis City Charter changes that require police officers to purchase their own professional liability insurance so that police themselves—and not the public—are responsible for the costs of police brutality lawsuits, and thus have an incentive to change their behavior. This Minneapolis City Charter Amendment Campaign is gaining momentum. See the Committee for Professional Policing website for more information.