1/5/2010 Newsletter


  • Happy New Year: 2009 Was Busy in CUAPB Land
  • Courtwatch: Robert Palmer Free Speech Case
  • CRA Community Forum on Assessing the Performance of Chief Dolan
  • Irish Ceili to Benefit the RNC 8
  • Free Speech: Pittsburgh Man Gives Cop Middle Finger, Gets $50,000
  • Privacy Rights: Cellphone Searches
  • Shades of Post RNC: DC Agrees to Pay $13M Over Arrests of Protesters
  • Sick Cop: Court Says Mpls. Officer Went Too Far in Fondling During Prostitution Sting
  • Colbert Makes Comic Fodder of Minneapolis Cops in Recent Taser Incident


2009 was certainly a busy year in CUAPB land, with the filing of our lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis for withholding CRA complaint data, the huge and technically challenging project of obtaining and cataloging RNC film footage from the City of St. Paul, supporting a record number of cases through our hotline, working for justice in the Fong Lee, Quincy Smith, Brandon Rodriguez and other cases. 2010 looks to be even busier. We'll begin airing a monthly cable access TV show soon and we're in the middle of launching other important initiatives that we're not quite ready to talk about yet. Let's just say that we think the work we will be doing should have a real impact on reducing levels of police brutality and increasing police accountability in our area. These have always been our twin goals and we look forward to working with you toward achieve them this year.


Robert Palmer Court Hearing
1/6/10 at 1:30 p.m.
Dakota County Courthouse
14955 West Galaxie Avenue, Apple Valley

Here's Robert's story: On June 30, 2009 I honked my truck horn for peace while waiting for the light to change for a left hand turn at the intersection of Burnsville Parkway and Nicollet Avenue in Burnsville, Minnesota. Police were monitoring our peace vigil and they videotaped me while I was in the turn lane honking. Last year in response to other people getting ticketed for honking as they passed our vigil, the ACLU went to Court for one ticketed person and obtained a consent decree with the city of Burnsville. The consent decree stated that people would not be ticketed for honking at our vigil unless there was a safety issue. I was confident that by honking my horn and exercising my free speech I was not likely to be challenged by police. However, because in late June a car had struck a pedestrian several blocks away and an hour earlier than our vigil, the police Chief was now claiming that we were causing a safety hazard. I received a ticket in the mail. The ACLU agreed to represent me and ACLU attorney Howard Bass is handling my case. I invite persons who believe in free speech to come to show their support for our Constitutional right to express ourselves with free speech and horns.

1/6/10 at 7:00 p.m.
Minneapolis City Hall, 350 S 5th Street, Room 319

Here's a rundown of this event by CRA board member Dave Bicking: The CRA faces many challenges, not the least of which is a refusal of the Police Chief to impose meaningful discipline in most cases where we have substantiated charges of police misconduct. Tomorrow night's forum will address that issue, and other ways in which Chief Dolan's performance has impacted the ability of the CRA to carry out its mission. We have issued a report on the Chief's performance in areas important to the CRA. We will be presenting that report, discussing its implications, and soliciting questions and suggestions from those who come. I encourage you to come - to find out more about the relationship between the CRA and the Police Chief, and to help support the CRA, and the overall goal of accountability through civilian oversight of the police. Copies of the document will be available at the meeting. It can also be found online, at: http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/cra/docs/CRA-Board_Chief-Dolan_review_2009.pdf

At this point, the mission of the CRA is in serious jeopardy. If we are to provide the service that is expected of us, we need better performance from the Police Chief. We can't leave it up to the Police to police the Police. The city ordinance that governs the CRA gives us the duty and power to participate in the performance review of the Chief of Police. That is what we have done, and we hope that our conclusions will be listened to.

Police Chief Dolan is up for re-appointment this January. There will be at least one public hearing on his re-appointment to another 3 year term. I hope you will also participate in that, and that this report and this forum will help inform you and others about the issue.

1/16/10 at 7:00 p.m.
TC Friends Meeting House
1725 Grand Ave, St. Paul
Suggested donation $5 - $15
Leave it to the RNC 8 to find another really fun way to raise funds. Long-time activist Mike Whalen will teach traditional Irish dancing and The Blackbirds will provide the tunes. Polish up you dance shoes and mark your calendar for this all-ages event. Come on out to rock your rear for this really great cause. Defend the RNC 8! Dissent is not a crime!

FREE SPEECH: Pittsburgh Man Gives Cop Middle Finger, Gets $50,000


PITTSBURGH (Associated Press) -- Pittsburgh City Council has tentatively approved paying $50,000 to settle a free speech lawsuit filed by a man cited for giving a city police officer the middle finger.

Thirty-five-year-old David Hackbart, of Butler, made the gesture at a driver in April 2006, then did it again when someone yelled at him -- realizing only later the second person was a police officer.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued saying Hackbart's gesture was constitutionally protected speech. A federal judge postponed a September trial indefinitely at the request of attorneys on both sides.

Council gave initial approval to the settlement Tuesday, but must vote again next week to finally approve the payment.

No court documents settling the case have been filed.

PRIVACY RIGHTS: Cellphone Searches

December 26, 2009

The Ohio Supreme Court has struck an important blow for privacy rights, ruling that the police need a warrant to search a cellphone. The court rightly recognized that cellphones today are a lot more than just telephones, that they hold a wealth of personal information and that the privacy interest in them is considerable. This was the first such ruling from a state supreme court. It is a model for other courts to follow.

Searches generally require warrants, but courts have carved out limited categories in which they are not needed. One of these is that police officers are allowed, when they arrest people, to search them and the area immediately surrounding them, as well as some kinds of containers in their possession.

When the police arrested Antwaun Smith on drug charges they seized his cellphone and searched it, examining his call records. The police did not have a warrant or the consent of Mr. Smith.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled this month, by a 4-to-3 vote, that the search violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Rather than seeing a cellphone as a simple closed container, the majority noted that modern cellphones ­ especially ones that permit Internet access ­ are “capable of storing a wealth of digitized information.”

This is information, the court said, for which people reasonably have a high expectation of privacy, and under established Fourth Amendment principles, police officers must get a search warrant before they can look through call logs or examine other data. The court wisely decided that it made no sense to try to distinguish among various kinds of cellphones based on what specific functions they have. All cellphones, the court said, fall under the search warrant requirement.

Few federal courts have considered the issue of cellphone searches, and they have disagreed about whether a warrant should be required. The Ohio ruling eloquently makes the case for why the very personal information that new forms of technology aggregate must be accorded a significant degree of privacy.

SHADES OF POST RNC: DC agrees to pay $13M over arrests of protesters

By Sarah Karush
Associated Press

WASHINGTON ­ The District of Columbia said Monday it has agreed to pay more than $13 million to settle a lawsuit by protesters arrested during demonstrations nine years ago.

The preliminary agreement includes a maximum payment of $18,000 to each of the 680 people who were arrested at the April 2000 protests tied to meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said the maximum payout, including attorneys' fees is $13.3 million. However, because of the cap on individual payouts, the total could be less, depending on how many people come forward.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, of the Partnership for Civil Justice, said that in addition to the $13.3 million for the class, there are some additional payments for specific plaintiffs who claim they were beaten, bringing the total to $13.7 million. Verheyden-Hilliard's group represented the plaintiffs.

According to the class-action lawsuit, protesters and bystanders were trapped on all sides by police and then arrested in a calculated attempt to disrupt days of planned protests. Many people were held for hours without access to food, water and restrooms, and some were held in stress positions, the plaintiffs alleged.

As part of the settlement, D.C. police assigned to demonstrations and officers from partner agencies will receive enhanced training, said Verheyden-Hilliard.

But Nickles said the police department has already changed significantly since the time of the mass arrests in 2000 and 2002.

"I'm committed to try to get this chapter of sound and fury closed with respect to these demonstration cases," Nickles said.

Earlier this month, the city settled a lawsuit with eight anti-war protesters arrested in 2002, agreeing to pay $450,000.

Verheyden-Hilliard said Monday's announcement sends an important message: "People are willing to spend as long as it takes to vindicate their rights."

The case is known as Becker et al. v. District of Columbia. It's named after Benjamin Becker. Now 25, Becker was a 16-year-old from Baltimore when he came to Washington to protest "against the broad, neoliberal, globalization agenda" with his father, who helped organize the demonstration.

After the arrests, Becker was separated from his father and taken to a juvenile facility.

His father, Brian Becker, ended up being held for hours in a stress position, with his right hand tied to his left foot, the elder Becker recalled. He refused to pay a fine and was the only demonstrator arrested that day who was brought to trial. He was acquitted of disorderly conduct and refusal to obey.

SICK COP: Court says Mpls. officer went too far in fondling during prostitution sting

[Editor's note: Despite this ruling from the courts, the officer has yet to be disciplined by his boss, Tim Dolan.]

Last update: November 24, 2009 - 9:51 PM

An undercover Minneapolis police officer engaged in outrageous conduct when he fondled a masseuse who was the target of a prostitution investigation, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday in a decision that could open the door for criminal defendants in other sting investigations.

The police officer, David Pleoger, violated Betsy Burkland's right to due process when he initiated the sexual contact with her and allowed it to escalate, Judge Wilhelmina Wright wrote in a decision for a three-judge panel that also included Judges Terri Stoneburner and Larry Stauber.

Burkland was appealing her conviction in a lower court. Her attorney said he believes the decision marks the first time an appellate court in the United States has ruled that an officer's sexual conduct in a prostitution sting violated due process.

The ruling said that the officer went to Peaceful Image Tanning and Bodyworks in 2008 after receiving a tip about prostitution. He met Burkland, arranged a one-hour massage for $70 and then took off his clothes in a massage room. When Burkland entered the room, she offered to perform the massage topless for an extra $30 and the officer accepted.

After a while, Burkland asked the officer to turn onto his back, and he asked if he could touch her breasts, the court said. She put oil on her hands and rubbed his genitals. He asked if the "release" was included in the $100 fee and she said yes.

Through her lawyer, Jeffrey Dean, Burkland said that she is thankful for the decision. "I hope this will deter the police from treating other similarly situated women in such a manner."

Said Dean: "The proper way to conduct a prostitution sting is for the officer to get a verbal agreement of sex for money and then make the arrest. The evidence is the words of the agreement. The police are not free to go on and sport with the suspected prostitute."

He called Pleoger's conduct "outrageous and abusive."

The court's decision said that to prove prostitution, an officer had to show that Burkland "agreed to engage" in sexual contact for money.

Wright wrote that Pleoger could have obtained the information needed for a conviction by inquiring about the "release" at any point in the conversation.

The officer's initiation of sexual contact met the threshold for outrageous governmental conduct and reversal of the convictions, the court determined. The state Supreme Court has previously ruled that an undercover officer can expose himself to a prostitute at her insistence to avoid being discovered as law enforcement.

"There is no evidence in the record, nor did the officer contend, that Burkland's conduct was necessary to dispel a suspicion that he was a police officer," Wright wrote.

Reaction to verdict

Twin Cities defense attorney Ryan Pacyga said the case signals that the court is willing to restrict police conduct, noting that the touching of the breasts was enough to get the case thrown out. He said a similar defense could be used in drug and fraud investigations. "To me it's an exciting defense. You can bet that I'm going to try it," Pacyga said.

The case was initially heard by Hennepin County Judge Charles Porter.

Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal said the city is disappointed. "This case went to trial, and the District Court ruled that the officer's conduct was in line with constitutional standards for a criminal investigation," she said. "This was an investigation triggered by complaints about the operation of a massage parlor."

She said the city is reviewing the decision and considering whether to appeal.

Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan said only that he is asking for an internal inquiry into how the investigation was handled.

Pacyga said he expects the city to appeal.

The current state Supreme Court has recently issued decisions showing a willingness to restrict defendants' options, including a ruling that bong water is a controlled substance and that sentencing juveniles to life without the possibility of release isn't cruel or unusual.

Pleoger, who is assigned to the Third Precinct in south Minneapolis, didn't return a call.

Rochelle Olson 612-673-1747

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE: Colbert Makes Comic Fodder of Minneapolis Cops

Check out the hilarious video of Stephen Colbert taking on one of Minneapolis' recent Taser incidents: http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/255218/november-10-2009/current-events---latest-police-tasings---taser-xrep As he says, "An officer uses a Minnesota man as human jumper cables, and the Taser XREP lets you tase people from the comfort of your clock tower. Don't forget to play our home game."

Get our Newsletter or Volunteer Donate Contact Us


get updates