3/28/2004 Newsletter


  • Ngo Case: Can We Talk About the Real Issues?
  • Senate Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee Approves "False Reporting" Bill
  • Chaska: Success and What's Next'
  • Important Know Your Rights Case

As readers of the local fish wrappers know, Police Federation prez John Delmonico has been running around demanding that Minneapolis police chief William McManus be investigated for having the chutzpa to suspend three members of police leadership while possible misconduct was investigated and for possible comments he made during this affair.

Let's get this straight: Charlie Storlie, a cop who previously gunned down an unarmed teen, pulls an MP-5 machine gun from the front seat of his car (in violation of a host of police policies) and guns down a man on his hands and knees in an alleyway, who turns out to be a fellow police officer who had already been shot by an unknown assailant. Investigators botch the crime scene, the bullet-proof vest and other evidence. No effort is made to find the original gunman but top brass allow rumors to float that the cop shot himself. They release Ngo's photo in violation of state laws but not Storlie's photo. The case sits downtown for a whole year with no action while the taxpayers face funding a huge legal pay out for this fiasco. AND WE'RE SUPPOSED TO INVESTIGATE THE CHIEF FOR DOING HIS JOB AND MAYBE MAKING SOME OUT OF SCHOOL COMMENTS??

Granted, Storlie is somewhere overseas using his overactive trigger finger in service of the empire so he's unavailable for now. Still, how about a serious examination of how the rest of the crew (mis)handled this sentinel event? Not to mention the handling of the cases of Chris Burns, Walter Burks, Anthony Williams, Raymond Siegler and others who have died recently at the hands of the MPD. And then there's the myriad of cases of folks who have been brutalized. Judging from the steady volume of calls to our hotline, the problem of police brutality isn't exactly going away. WHY ISN'T DELMONICO DEMANDING INVESTIGATIONS INTO ANY OF THESE ISSUES?

The obvious answer is that Delmonico can't make political hay by trying to solve the real problems of the MPD. He can't try to gain the upper hand over a new chief by talking about the real issues. Instead, with the help of the local dailies, he's stretched a nonissue (almost a manufactured issue) into a political brouhaha.

We don't have to go along with this foolishness. We'll be continuing our efforts to get justice for the people who call our hotline. And next week, we'll be releasing an analysis on the MPD mishandling of the case of Walter Burks, a sad and preventable death. We're gonna push like hell to get this chief and the city council back on track, dealing with the real problems. We need you to push along with us. You can start by contacting your city council member and telling them to get off this he said/she said roller coaster and get about the business of solving problems. Stay tuned for other actions you can take.

The Senate Crime Prevention and Public Safety committee held a hearing this past Monday on SF 1727, a bill that would amend state statute 609.505. This statute already makes it a crime to lie to cops. The amendment would criminalize reporting police misconduct that can't be proven true.

We spoke at that hearing and pointed out that police misconduct reports are rarely upheld by reporting agencies, despite the merits of the case. We also pointed out that there is no countervailing law to criminalize false police reports and testilying in court.

Our treatment by members of the committee was a predictor of how they would be voting on the bill. First, we were made to wait three hours while every other bill on their agenda was dealt with. While we were waiting, the homophobes against gay marriage were holding a rally on the floor above and we could clearly hear the foot stomping and chanting in the meeting room, which was directly below the rotunda. Next thing you know, the mob showed up at the four doors of the meeting room and starting banging at the glass, making it impossible to hear the meeting. This went on for about half an hour with capitol security nowhere to be found.

The committee finally got around to talking about SF 1727. They brought up three cop supporters of the bill, who jawboned about two mythical cases of fake reports of police misconduct. No real facts such as the names of the people, etc. were given so the reports could be checked out. Even though they couldn't answer any of the questions by committee members, these guys were allowed to ramble on for over 30 minutes (we had been told our panel of three people would have to share 10 minutes total). Then the chairman announced that the meeting was over and that we'd have to come back on Friday if we wanted to speak. Our representative stood up and respectfully demanded the right to speak, pointing out that while the legislators and cops were paid to be there, she had taken the day off of work and would not be able to come back on Friday. Jill Clark also needed to speak, as she would be in a trial on Friday. The chair agreed to hear us, but told us basically to "make it snappy" while half the committee members left the room. The ones who remained behind seemed unable to even look us in the eye.

In the midst of this, our folks in the meeting silently held up small signs saying 'NO on SF 1727'. The same capitol security that allowed a full-blown mob riot earlier rushed into the room screaming "put the signs down--no signs allowed!" to our folks. Tells you something about their priorities.

The hearing was continued to Friday, when the third speaker on the panel, Gregory Gray of the Urban League, spoke. The committee went back and forth over various amendments but ultimately voted to pass an amended version of a bill out of their committee and on to the Finance committee. Let's hope someone THERE has the courage to put the kybosh on this ridiculous and unnecessary legislation.

PLEASE TAKE A MINUTE and contact the Finance committee members. Urge them to say NO to this bad bill:
Chair: Richard J. Cohen (651) 296-5931
Vice chair: Satveer Chaudhary (651) 296-4334 [email protected]
Linda Berglin (651) 296-4261
Steve Dille (651) 296-4131 [email protected]
Michelle L. Fischbach (651) 296-2084 [email protected]
Dennis R. Frederickson (651) 296-8138 [email protected]
John C. Hottinger (651) 296-6153 [email protected]
Bob Kierlin (651) 296-5649 [email protected]
David L. Knutson (651) 296-4120 [email protected]
Keith Langseth (651) 296-3205 [email protected]
Cal Larson (651) 296-5655 [email protected]
Steve Murphy (651) 296-4264
Thomas M. Neuville (651) 296-1279 [email protected]
Mark Ourada (651) 296-5981 [email protected]
Sandra L. Pappas (651) 296-1802
Pat Pariseau (651) 296-5252 [email protected]
Jane B. Ranum (651) 297-8061 [email protected]
Dallas C. Sams (651) 297-8063
Wesley J. Skoglund (651) 296-4274 [email protected]
LeRoy A. Stumpf (651) 296-8660
Charles W. "Chuck" Wiger (651) 296-6820 [email protected]

This past Tuesday, March 23rd, we held a very successful rally in Chaska in support of Edwin Perkins and against racial profiling. We brought eleven people from Minneapolis and were joined by about 20 local people. We rallied at a main intersection and held signs and chanted from all four corners. Many people honked their support and some youth and others joined us on the spot. When we marched to the police station next to the library, more youth came from the library and joined in.

The next day, we packed the courtroom for Edwin's pretrial. When the judge called Edwin's name, we all stood up and it was an impressive sight. The high school students we had met at the rally the day before were there. It is very gratifying to see the level of support for Edwin among the Chaska residents. After court, we were mobbed by even more people, who wanted to tell us about their incidents with Chaska police and who wanted our hotline information.

Edwin's trial starts at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, May 17th. We'll be there, of course. But to keep the momentum up until then, plans are in the works for a Know Your Rights workshop for the good people of Chaska. We are also asking that people contact the prosecutor, Carver County Attorney Mike Fahey, at 952-361-1400, fax 952-361-1413. Tell him to drop the charges on Edwin Perkins and prosecute the police (Chaska PD officers Personius and Lorenz) who beat him up.

Supreme Court Hears Case of Man Who Withheld ID
March 23, 2004
The New York Times

WASHINGTON, March 22 A Nevada rancher's refusal four years ago to tell a deputy sheriff his name led to a Supreme Court argument on Monday on a question that, surprisingly, the justices have never resolved: whether people can be required to identify themselves when the police have some basis for suspicion but lack the probable cause necessary for an arrest.

The answer, in a case that has drawn intense interest from those who fear increased government intrusion on personal privacy, appeared elusive.

"A name itself is a neutral fact" that is neither incriminating nor an undue invasion of privacy, Conrad Hafen, Nevada's senior deputy attorney general, told the court in defense of a state statute that requires people to identify themselves to the police if stopped "under circumstances which reasonably indicate that the person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime."

"It's a neutral fact that I'm wearing a pinstripe suit," Justice David H. Souter told Mr. Hafen. But if someone who had just robbed a bank was reported to be wearing a pinstripe suit, that fact if reported to the police might no longer be so neutral, Justice Souter added.

The Bush administration joined the state in defending the statute.

Lawyers for Larry D. Hiibel, who is appealing his conviction for violating the Nevada law, raised two constitutional challenges to the identification requirement: that it amounts to an illegal search under the Fourth Amendment and that it compels self-incrimination in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

The Nevada Supreme Court upheld Mr. Hiibel's conviction, a misdemeanor, and rejected his constitutional challenge to the state law.

Standing by his pick-up truck on a rural road, he had been approached by a deputy sheriff who was investigating a passing motorist's report that a man in the truck had been hitting a woman. Mr. Hiibel's adult daughter was in the cab of the truck.

The deputy, Lee Dove, asked Mr. Hiibel 11 times for identification. Mr. Hiibel, saying he had done nothing wrong, refused to give his name and challenged Deputy Dove to arrest him. Eventually, the deputy did arrest him. A videotape of the incident, captured by a camera in the squad car, is on Mr. Hiibel's Web site, www.hiibel.com. Mr. Hiibel was never charged with any criminal offense beyond his refusal to identify himself.

A landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1968, Terry v. Ohio, gave the police the authority to briefly detain, question and conduct a pat-down search of someone whose activities--casing a Cleveland storefront, in that case--gave rise to "reasonable suspicion," short of probable cause for a formal arrest. There is no dispute that the encounter between Mr. Hiibel and Deputy Dove was a "Terry stop" within the meaning of that decision. The dispute in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court, No. 03-5554, is over Mr. Hiibel's response, or lack of response.

Robert E. Dolan, Nevada's deputy state public defender, told the justices that while the deputy "certainly had the right to ask" Mr. Hiibel for his name, "equally so, Mr. Hiibel had the right not to respond."

Justice Antonin Scalia was openly skeptical. "What is the meaning of Terry?" he asked. Did Mr. Dolan mean that the police were "allowed to ask questions but shouldn't expect answers?"

Yes, the public defender replied; the state should not be permitted to criminalize silence or to "extract data from a person."

Justice Stephen G. Breyer appeared to agree, suggesting a rule under which the police can ask but the citizen does not have to answer. "Everyone can understand that," Justice Breyer said, adding, "Why complicate this thing?" Several Supreme Court decisions over the years have suggested such a rule, but there has never been a formal opinion to that effect.

One of the Fourth Amendment questions in the case is whether a person's refusal to answer a seemingly benign identity question can convert a police officer's "reasonable suspicion" into probable cause to make an arrest. Only Justice Scalia appeared to endorse that prospect. "I would think any reasonable citizen would answer," he observed.

One of the many wrinkles in the case is that once a person is arrested, the right to remain silent is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. To that extent, a person who falls under a lesser degree of suspicion might be seen as having less constitutional protection. Another wrinkle is that there is no claim that the police cannot run a check on a license tag or--if the suspect is driving--ask to see the driver's license. In this case, Mr. Hiibel's daughter was behind the wheel, Mr. Hiibel was outside the truck, and the case was not treated as a traffic investigation.

As a matter of Fifth Amendment analysis, one question is whether giving one's name is sufficiently "testimonial" to invoke the constitutional protection against self-incrimination. "The question, it seems to me, is whether a name itself has intrinsic testimonial consequences," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy told Mr. Dolan, the public defender.

If it did not, Mr. Dolan replied, "the government could require name tags."

In briefs filed with the court, civil liberties groups warned that a rejection of Mr. Hiibel's claim to privacy could open the door to such measures as national identification cards. One group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said that government databases were now of such "extraordinary scope" that "systems of mass public surveillance" could result from a ruling that authorized "coerced disclosure of identity."

But the justices appeared eager to avoid a broad ruling and to confine their eventual decision to the specific context of a suspected crime. "We're all concerned about national ID cards and all that kind of stuff," Justice John Paul Stevens said at one point.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Communities United Against Police Brutality
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