3/7/2004 Newsletter


  • Delmonico's Agenda
  • CUAPB Caucus Resolution
  • William Alsaker Court Watch
  • Wayne Heskett Court Watch
  • Carol Knox Court Watch
  • Philander Jenkins Court Watch
  • Al Flowers and Alissa Clemons Court Watch
  • Lucius Rex Court Watch
  • Racial Profiling is Wrong! Support the Perkins Family!
  • Raymond Siegler Death and MPD Use of Tasers

For the past few days, Minneapolis Police Federation president John Delmonico has been circulating an open letter to members of the police chief selection committee. In it, he criticizes Mayor Rybak over his supposed failure to disclose that the EEOC issued a ruling of probable cause in a complaint against the City of Dayton filed by Maj. Barbara Temple over pay discrimination. The pay issue existed prior to McManus' tenure as chief. Months later, Maj. Temple was later fired by Chief McManus over a different issue. Delmonico draws a parallel with McManus' suspension of Lucy Gerold and seems to imply that Chief McManus habitually discriminates against women. He's pushing an agenda here, but what is it and why?

McManus was brought into Dayton as a reformer, just as he was here. One condition he made for taking the position in Dayton was that he would be able to hire his own command staff. These are the folks in the upper echelon of the organization--his inner circle. This is akin to the US President deciding his or her own cabinet members or a CEO deciding his or her own senior vice presents, etc.

Months after coming to Dayton, McManus says he found this particular major (Dayton's equivalent to our deputy chief) to be working at cross purposes with his efforts and philosophy so he asked her to resign. She refused so he fired her. She sued about the discharge but the suit was dropped on summary judgement. According to an article in the Star Tribune (3/5/04), "The suit said Temple's claim failed because she isn't a member of a protected class and her firing didn't allow for hiring or retention of someone not in a protected class." In other words, no discrimination. Temple is appealing.

So people understand: The EEOC is an administrative body. They review cases and if they find probable cause, the person can use that finding to take their case to court. The courts, though, have the final say--their rulings trump EEOC findings.

In implying that Chief McManus discriminates against women, Delmonico and his cheerleaders on the Minneapolis city council don't have a leg to stand on. They forget to mention the women, including a number of women of color, Chief McManus moved into command staff positions. This "amnesia" about these women calls into question the federation's agenda for raising this issue.

Let's look at that agenda: Chief McManus learns of possible criminal activity on the part of some police higher-ups. Rather than having them arrested and carted off to jail (as would happen to any of us regular folk if we were suspected of criminal activity), he has these three people in leadership suspended (put on paid vacation) while the situation is investigated. What's the prob? Isn't that standard procedure when cops may be involved in wrongdoing? If anything, we think that's some very lenient treatment in light of what would happen to the rest of us under similar circumstances.

So why would Delmonico, paid representative of the MPD rank and file, give a tinker's damn about the fortunes of a member of MPD management? Here's the real deal: Certain people within MPD have been Teflon-coated for a long, long time. No matter what happens, nothing sticks. We're working with one person who, for example, filed a complaint about Deputy Chief Sharon Lubinsky. The complaint was dismissed with the note: "we do not have an employee by the name of Sharon Lubensky." Oh, give us a break! Things have been entirely too cozy for certain members of the MPD for entirely too long. All that, though, is about to change.

By stepping out boldly on the Duy Ngo case, Chief McManus is setting the tone that he runs the show. The cozy days are over. This isn't about knocking out rivals, as was implied in the Strib article on this issue. If it was, how come McManus didn't suspend Lubinsky, who was the front runner among internal candidates? McManus is just doing what any reformer would--he's doing a bit of house cleaning.

It's this house cleaning that has these folks in a dither. Before becoming chief, McManus told people at no less than two public meetings that police officers with 3 or 4 complaints needed to be watched. We've gone through and documented a huge number of cops with 5 or more complaints. One guy even has 26 separate allegations against him, 10 of which were upheld by the CRA--and he's still working for MPD! If he meant what he said, McManus will have to watch a giant chunk of cops. If McManus is into cleaning the house, we're all for it. And it makes sense for him to start with the dirtiest corners first.

We hope McManus will keep up his reform efforts and that he will begin to direct them toward cases in which community members have not received justice. There are, as you know, thousands of such cases to chose from. As we've said before, it's still our job to hold McManus' feet to the fire so he'll do the right thing. Let us begin that process now.

We got word from a number of people who took our caucus resolution to their precinct caucuses that they were able to get the resolution passed. In one case, it passed resoundingly without even a peep of discussion. This means that parties have now been asked to oppose bills that would criminalize reporting of police brutality incidents. Hopefully, these parties will boldly take this stand as part of their platforms.

Thanks for all who got the resolutions on the front burner at your precinct caucus. This is an excellent way to educate and involve a broad range of people in our work.

We have quite a number of court hearings coming up--sometimes more than one on the same day. If you can spare even a little time to make it to one of the hearings, please come. To find a case, go to the court information desk and give them the name of the person involved--they will give you the courtroom number. Court watch can make all the difference in getting folks getting fair treatment by the courts--please help if you can. You can check the status of any case by in the Hennepin County system by calling 612-348-2612. Since court dates change frequently, save yourself a trip by calling first.

1:15 p.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
William Alsaker: William is bipolar and was having an episode when approached by police. He fled briefly but laid down on the street and was handcuffed. Police then kicked and beat him so badly that the jail refused to accept him. He was taken to HCMC, where he had facial reconstructive surgery as a result of his injuries. He is charged with fleeing and obstructing legal process. Confirmed on court calendar.

1:30 p.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
Wayne Heskett: Wayne is a business owner who has experienced ongoing harassment by police including destruction of some of his business property after he reported that the neighboring business, a cab company, was blocking access to his parking lot on a regular basis. Turns out one of the owners of the cab company is a cop. Wayne faces concocted charges.

9:00 a.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
Carol Knox: Carol has a seizure disorder. She had a seizure on 12/12/03 and awoke handcuffed in an ambulance. Although a neighbor explained to police that she was having a seizure, Carol was apparently arrested during the event. Her kids, ages 11 and 7, were left at home alone. Carol was taken to HCMC, treated for the seizure and a broken finger, and was released. A few days later, she got a ticket in the mail saying that she is being charged with 3rd degree assault on a police officer.

9:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
Philander Jenkins: The last cases in the ongoing saga. This young man was originally beaten during a raid on a house he was visiting. His jaw was broken in three places. Despite this, he was held in the Hennepin County jail for 10 days with no medical care. When he was released, he required multiple plates to repair his shattered jaw. After that, he became a target of ongoing police harassment including charging him with serious offenses. During his arrest for one of the charges, he was physically and sexually assaulted by sheriff's deputies in the Hennepin County jail. We are hoping to see Philander get justice in these cases and be able to move on with his life.

9:00 a.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
Al Flowers and Alissa Clemons: Continuation of hearing. Al Flowers was attacked by Minneapolis police outside of the Urban League building while attempting to attend an NAACP meeting. He and his sister, Alissa Clemons, a former Minneapolis police officer, have both been charged in this incident, which was witnessed by many people including council member Natalie Johnson Lee and state rep Neva Walker. Even with those witnesses, prosecutors are still going after these people to cover police brutality.

10:30 a.m.
Hennepin County Juvenile Court
Park Avenue and 6th Street
Lucius Rex: Continuation of hearing. Most charges were dropped against this young man who was beaten after driving a neighbor's car a short distance. The neighbor's son was also in the car at the time. Admittedly, he was too young to be driving but he did not deserve the severe beating he experienced at the hands of the Minneapolis police.

When Edwin Perkins retired from the Chicago fire department after an injury ended his 26-year career, he and his wife decided to sell their home and move to Chaska, MN to be closer to their grand kids. This hard-working African American family had no idea what was in store for them in the nearly all-white suburb of Minneapolis.

Since moving to Chaska, Edwin, his wife and grown children have all experienced frequent police stops and other harassment. His son-in-law, Hardy, is stopped several times a week--so often that he now knows the names of almost every Chaska cop.

On November 28, 2003, Edwin received a call that police had pulled his daughter over for a traffic stop right in front of her sister's house and that she needed assistance. Edwin rushed over. When he arrived, he was ordered out of his car by an armed Chaska police officer. When Edwin moved to close the car door to prevent the family dog from jumping out of the car, police grabbed him, beat and tasered him repeatedly. He spent three nights in jail and, despite being injured, was denied medical treatment. He is charged with obstructing legal process and 4th degree assault against a police officer, the favorite charges used by cops to cover their own brutality.

Edwin goes to trial on March 24th and he and his family need our support. This ain't the '50s!--we need to let the Chaska police know that the days of "whites only" water fountains and Jim Crow laws are over. Folks ought to be able to live where they want to, without racist harassment and brutalization by the local cops.

Rally Against Racial Profiling
Tuesday, March 23
5:00 p.m.
Carver County Courthouse
604 East 4th Street, Chaska
Meet at the CUAPB office at 2104 Stevens Avenue in Minneapolis at 3:45 p.m. to carpool to Chaska.

Court Support for Edwin Perkins
Wednesday, March 24
1:30 p.m.
Carver County Courthouse
604 East 4th Street, Chaska
Meet at the CUAPB office at 2104 Stevens Avenue in Minneapolis at 12:15 p.m. to carpool to Chaska.

In light of the recent death of Raymond Siegler from heart failure after being tasered by Minneapolis police, this article raises interesting questions. One note: The article refers to taser marks as looking like "small bee stings." We've seen people who have been tasered by Minneapolis police--the marks we've seen are large, deep, painful burns that are at least an inch across.

As Shocks Replace Police Bullets, Deaths Drop but Questions Arise
By Sarah Kershaw
The New York Times
March 7, 2004

SEATTLE: The police here have had their share of high-profile violent or deadly run-ins with protesters, mentally ill suspects and other lawbreakers. But in 2003, for the first time in 15 years, no one here was shot and killed by the police.

Miami, a city with a long history of police shootings and ensuing civil unrest, had no police shootings last year, fatal or otherwise, for the first time in 14 years. In Phoenix, where such shootings reached a level over the last several years that far outpaced the rate of much larger cities, deadly police shootings fell sharply in 2003, to their lowest rate in 14 years.

In these cities and in a fast-growing number of the nation's police departments, officers are carrying a slick new weapon, the Taser gun, which looks a lot like a pistol but does not shoot to kill.

Though officials say the Taser gun, which fires a stunning jolt of electricity, is not solely responsible for a decline in police killings, many departments say it has made a huge difference. Its supporters say the Taser is saving lives, protecting officers and suspects in standoffs that might otherwise have left someone dead or seriously injured.

"This is 100 percent more humane," said Officer Tom Burns, who has carried a Taser gun for the past two and a half years on bicycle patrol in Seattle.

But as the Taser spreads rapidly, it is raising questions about whether the weapon, which can also be applied directly to the skin as a stun gun, could be abused by the police. The Taser zaps suspects with 50,000 volts of electricity, disabling them for five seconds at a time. Critics say the weapon is ripe for abuse because the shock leaves no obvious mark, other than what looks like a small bee sting. Human rights groups in the United States and abroad have called Tasers potential instruments of torture.

They are now being used by more than 4,000 police departments. Roughly 170 new departments are buying the high-tech electro-shock guns every month, and the Army has begun using them in Iraq, according to Taser International, the Arizona company that makes them. More than one-third of Seattle's 600 patrol officers carry Tasers. In Miami, Phoenix and a growing number of cities, every officer has one.

Tasers have often been introduced in the wake of public outcry over deadly police shootings. That was the case in Seattle, Denver, Austin, Tex., and Portland, Ore., as part of an effort to reduce killings through the use of training programs and "less lethal" weapons.

"You have to think about the alternatives," said Officer Burns, who also carries pepper spray and a .40-caliber Glock pistol. He said he had used the Taser five times on suspects who seemed eager to attack or were difficult to control. "And without this technology you might have to break it down to very brutal methods."

Officer Burns was on the scene in 2000 when the police here shot and killed a mentally ill man, a widely publicized incident that led to soul-searching in the department and a plan that among other things involved the purchase of Tasers.

The newest Tasers are an advanced version of technology that was developed in the 1970's but was not considered by the police to be effective until recently, The electrical pulses travel from the gun through two 21-foot-long wires that look like a stretched-out Slinky tipped with barbed probes. If the probes pierce skin or a layer of clothing two inches thick or less, the jolt contracts the muscles and throws the suspect off balance. It makes the suspect unable to move, and gives the police a full five seconds with every "tasing" to handcuff the suspect. The police say that 50,000 volts is a safe amount of electricity to absorb and that suspects shot with a Taser recover immediately.

But critics and watchdog groups say the Taser could be used to torture suspects and prison inmates to extract confessions or taunt them, and Amnesty International has called for a ban on their use pending studies on their long-term effects. Human rights and civil liberties groups are also questioning whether the electro-shocks that Tasers deliver are potentially deadly.

"Surely it's better than being killed," said Dan Handelman, a founder of Portland Copwatch, a group that has been critical of that city's growing use of Tasers over the last year. "But it's not necessarily an acceptable replacement because it's not being used -- at least in Portland -- in place of lethal force, it's being used for compliance."

Across the country in recent months, several suspects who were shot with Tasers, sometimes repeatedly, have died. But officials said other health problems, like heart conditions and drug overdoses, were the cause.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado urged the Denver Police Department two weeks ago to limit its use of Tasers. The group cited a rising number of deaths nationally, saying 16 suspects in custody had died after being subdued with Tasers or stun guns in 2003, up from 10 in 2002 and 3 in 2001. But none of the deaths were officially attributed to the effect of the weapons.

In Las Vegas, William Lomax, 26, died last month after being arrested and, according to witnesses and the police, shot with a Taser four or five times, which critics of the Police Department said was an excessive use of force. Investigators said that Mr. Lomax had been under the influence of drugs, but that the cause of death was still under investigation.

Marsha Bell, 22, said she saw Mr. Lomax, her cousin, arrested on Feb. 21 at her apartment complex, where he often visited his family. After he had a run-in with security guards, the police were called.

"He was on the ground," Ms. Bell said in a telephone interview. "He had two pairs of handcuffs on him, and I didn't know the Taser was being used until I heard him screaming. He kept screaming and screaming, saying, 'Oh God, Jesus, please no.' He was screaming in pain, he was hurt and he didn't resist."

Lt. Tom Monahan of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which bought several hundred Tasers last year, said that Mr. Lomax had struggled with officers, security guards and paramedics, and that the Taser was used while officers were trying to handcuff him.

Officer Thomas Miller, who conducts Taser training for the Las Vegas department, said that there were clear guidelines on when Tasers should be used.

"In the past, an officer would have to fight," Officer Miller said. "Now we have an option to stop that before it gets to that point, greatly reducing the risk to the officer and the suspect."

The police do say that a Taser would never replace lethal weapons if an officer felt his life was in imminent danger, like when a suspect is wielding a knife or a gun at close proximity, or when no other officer is available to provide "lethal cover" for an officer using the Taser. Most departments allow officers on the scene to make that judgment call.

In the New York City Police Department, supervisors and members of the large Emergency Service Unit, which helps patrol officers in violent situations, carry Tasers, but patrol officers do not, the police said.

The newest models cost $799 each, according to Taser International, the leading producer of the weapons. But company officials, who have seen their stock skyrocket over the last year, say the savings to police departments that might otherwise be sued over violent confrontations or shootings is potentially huge.

The police and other supporters of the new technology also say there are built-in safeguards to prevent abuse of the guns. Each Taser, which is powered by batteries, has a data port that records each shock and is used by police departments when they prepare incident reports, allowing supervisors to count how many times a Taser was fired.

Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser International, which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., said the company continually reviewed data and had found few instances among about 70,000 uses so far of abuse or inappropriate use.

"If there's a bad apple out there, the technology we made will catch that bad apple," Mr. Tuttle said. "We've won the lottery in terms of great success, stock market-wise, but with that comes much more scrutiny."

Officer Burns of the Seattle department said the police could not deny that a misguided officer could abuse any weapon. But he said that there had been numerous instances in Seattle where officers had used the Taser instead of fists, nightsticks, guns or pepper spray, which can have much longer effects than Taser shocks, and that suspects had recovered immediately.

"Shooting someone is not a badge of honor," Officer Burns said. "It's something no one wants to do. No police officer in the world is paid to die, no police officer in the world is paid to get hurt."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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

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