11/7/2003 Newsletter


  • FBI Issues Mamby-Pamby Report on Jones Case Tapes
  • Spokesman Recorder: Modern Police Function Like Slave Patrols

FBI ISSUES MAMBY-PAMBY REPORT ON JONES CASE TAPES--Does this predict future of other FBI investigations in Minneapolis?
Not wanting to upset the delicate structure of white supremacy and oppression within our local "justice" system, the FBI issued a wishy-washy, legalistic report on their analysis of the videotapes in the Rickey Jones tape. We've obtained a copy of the report and although it is only two short paragraphs in length, the phrase "appears to be" is laced throughout. Well, it APPEARS to us that the FBI was afraid to take on and expose the city attorney's office and/or cops.

You'll recall that Judge Philip Bush ordered the FBI to examine videotapes in the Rickey Jones case after Rickey's lawyer, Jill Clark, saw one version of the tape at the city attorney's office but was sent an altered version (with the incriminating parts removed) after much resistance from that office. Eventually, there ended up being four different versions of the tape. The various versions of the videotape were shown in court and differences in them were visible to the naked eye. An expert who had previously examined one of the versions said that there had been crude editing done on two portions of the tape. For this reason, Ms. Clark asked that the tapes be examined by an expert. The city attorney's office fought tooth and nail against it but eventually Judge Bush ordered an examination by the FBI.

Judge Bush sent in two of the versions for examination. The FBI stated (sort of) in their report that the two tapes were substantially the same and had the same content. However, in their own report they noted that one tape was 4 minutes, 27 seconds long and the other tape was 6 minutes, 7 seconds long. Yet, they are claiming the tapes have the same content--how is this possible? One of the parts of the tapes that is in contention is the end, the part where a tangle of cops are whaling on Rickey as he lay on the floor. That part was missing from Ms. Clark's tape. Are we to believe that two tapes have the exact same content but one of them is two minutes longer than the other?

This report claims that the VHS-C tape they received (that's the small camcorder tape before it is converted to a regular videotape) APPEARS to be the original. However, that tape is TDK brand and remember that Rickey testified that he always uses only Sony brand VHS-C tapes. All of the other VHS-C tapes in his camera bag were Sony brand. The TDK tape was also not labeled in the way he labels his tapes.

The report is shot full of legalistic mumbo-jumbo and APPEARS to be more of an effort to cover hineys than an actual report of technical testing. It APPEARS that the FBI did a mediocre job with the testing and did not do some of the testing they were asked to do. An expert we consulted yesterday agreed that the tapes may not have been tested thoroughly and/or the results not reported in adequate detail. Rickey Jones' attorneys filed a motion yesterday to obtain all of the videotapes and they will be sent to an expert for a more definitive analysis, including a frame by frame comparison and an audio tracking (something completely missing from the FBI analysis).

During the proceedings, it was implied that the FBI is "the best in the business" in video analysis. We've learned since that video experts around the country don't hold them in that high regard. Moreover, the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys has sued the FBI labs for shoddy work. So apparently they aren't "all that" after all. If this report is any indication of their work, it APPEARS they are more interested in not upsetting the prevailing social order than in exposing injustice.

The credibility of the FBI is a matter of great concern to this community, as the results of the Stephen Porter case and other key cases rest on FBI investigations. Their willingness (or lack thereof) to take on our local "justice" system will have a huge impact on the community's ability to hold police accountable for their actions. However, the FBI has a long, sordid history of crushing liberation movements and suppressing dissent. Let's not forget that under the COINTELPRO** program they wiped out the Black Panther Party, decimated the American Indian Movement, and clamped down on other movements for social justice. With that kind of history, excuse us if we are a bit cynical about the role they are playing in this community.

As a result of the FBI report, Judge Bush ruled yesterday "I find no evidence to support the claim that the tape was altered" and that the trial against Rickey Jones will proceed. Rickey's next hearing, a pretrial conference, will be on November 17th at 2:00 p.m. in Judge Bush's courtroom, 759-C. Although this is only a scheduling hearing, it would be a good idea for people to be in the courtroom, as it seems anything can happen in this case. Trial is scheduled to start February 2, 2004.

**There is very good documentation on COINTELPRO on the web. Two sites in particular give a good rundown. See http://www.dickshovel.com/coin.html or http://www.derechos.net/paulwolf/cointelpropapers/coinwcar3.htm

By: Pauline Thomas
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder
Originally posted 11/5/2003

As many of you know, I have considered it a responsibility and a privilege to use this column to expose injustice in the criminal justice system. Many people in my community are outraged and disillusioned when they have a bad encounter with police. Others have had bad experiences since they were young, and have come to expect it.

In this column I hope to trace some of the history of policing in America, so that communities of color can better understand the way that the White power structure thinks, and how they use police to "control" us. Unless we start to get at the roots of these problems, I don’t think we stand a chance of real reform. During the era of slavery in this country, patterrollers (also known as patrollers and slave patrols), or "slave catchers," were White men who served on local patrols organized throughout the South to control the movement of slaves outside their home plantations. Patrollers policed their neighborhoods by challenging any slave whom they suspected of being away from home to produce a written "pass," or authorization, from his or her master.

Slaves found without a pass were subject to arrests, beatings, or other forms of violence, some of which led to death. The average White citizen was expected to do their part in the effort to control slaves by informing on them and generally assisting the patrollers when requested.

Soon, "slave codes" (laws that regulated the behavior of slaves) were enacted. Among other acts, the codes prohibited slaves from gathering in groups, possessing weapons, leaving the plantations without passes, resisting punishment, and striking a White person. The slave patrols’ job was to enforce these slave codes.

By 1750, every Southern colony had a slave patrol. Slave patrols were the first truly American police system. In the South, policing was closely related to slavery and organized and operated as paramilitary organizations. Patrols provided a source of comfort and confidence for Whites in Southern society’s ability to safely and effectively continue its reliance on the institution of slavery. Whites also relied on the slave patrols to help them feel "safe" from the "wild" immigrants from Africa.

The point of establishing slave patrols was to maintain White supremacy and privilege. Patrollers had specific "beats," and were given the authority to stop, search, whip, maim, and even kill any slave who violated the slave codes. Although urban patrollers sometimes had additional duties, patrollers generally had three principal duties: searching slave quarters, dispersing slave gatherings, and safeguarding communities by patrolling the roads.

Unfortunately, most Minneapolis police still see this as their role.

It is not difficult to see the parallels between the slave patrols and modern-day Minneapolis police (and police in general, but here I will focus on Minneapolis). Let’s compare.

Patrollers stopped slaves upon suspicion that they were off their plantation. Minneapolis police stop Blacks and others of color to ask why they are in a certain neighborhood or why they are walking or just standing somewhere. (Haven’t you heard that Blacks get hassled by police even for standing at a bus stop?)

Slave codes prohibited slaves from gathering in groups. Blacks congregating in groups seem to be one of the chief irritations of Minneapolis police. Even if Blacks are peacefully congregated, Minneapolis police feel justified in rushing them, beating them, and arresting them. Many police officers still think that they have been given the authority by the White power structure to beat and maim Blacks who are "off the plantation." Have they been given this authority?

Slave codes outlawed the possession of weapons by Blacks. Today, with the help of the media (which for many years had the agenda of scaring us with pictures and stories of "violent" Black men, while all the time the Enron executives were looting pension funds of multi-millions), police and prosecutors go after Black men with guns with a vengeance. Just say the word "gun" in a criminal prosecution against a Black man, and he is going down. Yet meanwhile, the state legislature passed a law allowing Whites throughout the state to carry concealed weapons.

Slave codes outlawed Blacks "resisting punishment." This is like our modern-day criminal statute called "obstructing legal process." Some call it "obstructing justice," but "resisting punishment" is really a better word, even for the modern-day law. Because usually the obstructing charge results from a Black man who was first beaten by police.

What, Blacks are just supposed to take this--take our "punishment" for being Black? This Minnesota criminal code allows police to merely allege that someone struggled while being arrested (even make claims like "he went limp," even if the Black man went limp to try to avoid a charge of obstructing) and send a Black man all the way through the criminal process and likely to jail.

Why to jail? Because in the true spirit of the patroller system in the South during slavery, White suburbanites put on jury duty usually do their "part" in helping to "control" Blacks--they listen to the testimony of a White police officer and a Black man, and usually believe the White man and send the Black to jail. After all of the indoctrination from the media, these people can’t wait to put these Blacks behind bars.

And of course the slave codes outlawed striking a White person. This is what police use now under the name of "assault on a police officer." White juries are so fearful when they hear of even the possibility that a Black man has struck a White police officer that they convict the Black man.

Now, mind you, I am not saying that every Black man arrested is innocent. But you need to travel down to the Hennepin County Government Center and look at who is arrested for these crimes. Just like in the days of slavery, it is overwhelmingly Whites arresting Blacks. They changed the names of the slave codes, but the same thing is still going on.

I wouldn’t have a problem if these Blacks had really committed crimes. But what people of color know (and Whites need to try to understand) is that police lie to get these convictions. Often, the police officer is the aggressor and the criminal. But they play the system to take down the Black man--you know, use it as a system of "control."

We can see how the officers protect their own hides. But here’s the harder question: are these officers merely doing the bidding of White society? Does White society believe that the abuses against Blacks are justified by the overriding principle that White supremacy must be defended at all costs?

These are difficult questions, but we need to start asking them. I ask each one of you to consider these questions, particularly those who have positions in the criminal "justice" system. Why do you have that job? What are your core beliefs about Blacks and the role we should have in this society? Do you support these modern-day slave codes?

Let’s get real here, people. The 21st century is a good time to outlaw slavery once and for all.

"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." Henry David Thoreau

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

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