3/1/2003 Newsletter


  • Mediate or Litigate
  • Indian Uprising Show on KFAI

Police Chief Olson has been dinking around for two and a half months about sitting down with the community for federal mediation. Members of the community negotiating team (CNT) brought a lawsuit to try to force Olson to get off the dime. In the meantime the city council, who ostensibly employs Olson, has done nothing to get him moving. Also in the meantime, folks continue to get beat up or worse by police, there is for all intents and purposes no CRA, and we're still getting reports that folks who complain to Internal Affairs get harassed for complaining. In a thinly-veiled threat, John Delmonico, head of the Police Federation, stated that anyone who files a "false" complaint against cops will be "held accountable." (HEY, PAY ATTENTION: That's coming from a guy who is allowed to carry a gun, pepper spray and other weapons for a living and who heads up a group of lots of other folks who carry the same stuff with them and who have shown that they are more than happy to use them.)

City Council member Barb Johnson, head cheerleader for the Police Federation, wants to introduce a resolution to rescind federal mediation. Apparently, she thinks the problem is the community, not Olson or his thugs in blue. The community has shown that we're not willing to go through another sham process like the CRA redesign fiasco. This time we want real change but Olson, Rybak & Co. will do all they can to make sure that never happens, up to and including taking away our invitation to the party.

They haven't done it yet but it's coming. And in the meantime, the council is backing Olson's inaction and mediation isn't happening. So what's the community to do? Well, we've got some pretty good options:

1) We can try to FORCE them into mediation with rallies, sit-ins and other direct actions at City Hall. But then, will it be a sham process? Will the results be worth the effort? One of the provisos in the original resolution passed by the city council stated that after the mediation, any agreement would have to come back to the full council for approval. We could spend months hammering out an agreement only to have the council deep-six it later (like they did with the CRA redesign).

2) We can file a patterns and practices complaint with the US Department of Justice. This involves explaining to them the kinds of problems that happen over and over against certain groups of folks and hoping they will investigate and take action.

3) We can file our own patterns and practices lawsuit against the city in federal court. This is a pretty big deal because it would be a large, multi-class action lawsuit over a number of issues. Start to finish, it could take as long as five years. But it could result in a consent decree that would force the city to make real change. Or the judge could force the city into meaningful mediation, with a judge to monitor the results and make sure it's not a sham process.

Filing this kind of lawsuit is an expensive business, for the folks doing it and for the city. Mediation seemed like the low cost alternative. But hey, if you're trying maintain the status quo and do the bidding of the Police Federation, mediation with actual members of the community must seem pretty darned scary.

We're told that the city has a "scorched earth" policy in police brutality cases: the person has to win their case in court before the city will offer to settle. It seems that they are applying this same policy to the community as a whole: apparently they're gonna make this as hard as possible, hoping to wear us down. We're gonna have to let them know that we are serious, we can't be worn down, and that we will do what it takes to make them rein in their cops.

So the ball is now in our court. As a community, we have to decide what we want and commit to doing what's necessary to get it. This lawsuit will take lots of work, and not just by lawyers. Community members will have very important roles to play. Communities United Against Police Brutality is committed to bringing about real change. If you agree, then jump on board and let's get to it. Call us at 612-874-7867 or come to a meeting: we meet every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the IATP Building, 2104 Stevens Avenue in Minneapolis.

We can continue to respond case by case to these incidents of police brutality. We can fiddle around with piecemeal changes while the city administration practices spin control. Or we can dive in and fight hard for real change. The choice is up to us.

One of our advisory board members, Chris Spotted Eagle, has launched a new radio show on KFAI called Indian Uprising. In the aftermath of the recent Little Earth incident and other attacks on American Indians, the timing is right on.

Here's his announcement of the show:

Listen to a new Public and Cultural Affairs program on KFAI Fresh Air Radio, Indian Uprising, that started February 16th, hosted by Chris Spotted Eagle.

Our present series is about the Indian Child Welfare Law Center and their staff. The Center is a nonprofit organization in Minneapolis, created to assist Indian families and children.

Our guest for the March 2nd program is Jim Clairmont, a Kinship researcher at the Indian Child Welfare Law Center. Jim is a Lakota from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. He tells us about what he does for the Center and about his personal experience in a mission boarding school.

Indian Uprising is a one-half hour program broadcasting each Sunday from four to four-thirty in the afternoon. This program is about, by and for American Indian people bringing to you subjects of concern to Indian people and others.

To listen dial up 90.3 FM for Minneapolis and 106.7 FM for St. Paul.

KFAI welcomes your comments! You can contact Chris Spotted Eagle by email at [email protected] or by mail in care of KFAI Fresh Air Radio, Box #61, 1808 Riverside Avenue, Minneapolis MN 55454 or by calling 612-341-3144 ext 818 to leave a message.

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

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