8/10/2003 Newsletter


  • Rickey Jones Evidentiary Hearing
  • The Role of CUAPB
  • Local Police Abuse Worse Than Most Believe

One Court Hearing You Won't Want to Miss!
On Friday, August 15th at 9:00 a.m., an evidentiary hearing will be held in the Rickey Jones case on the issue of whether or not the city attorney's office tampered with the videotape that could prove Rickey's innocence.

The hearing will be held in the courtroom of Judge Philip Bush, on the 7th floor. Since we are expecting a bumper crop of observers from both sides, including lots of folks from the city attorney's office, you will want to get there early to get a seat. It's especially important that you be there, to counter the large number of folks from the city attorney's office and to keep pressure on the judge to do the right thing.

If the last hearing we attended is any indication, this one should be a real hoot!
See our report on the last hearing at http://www.charityadvantage.com/CUAPB/7-29-03Newsletter.asp and while you are there, check out our other newsletters for coverage of this case.

It should also, hopefully, be a rare opportunity to see the city attorney's office have to own up to the role it plays in railroading folks in the system (not that they will do it willingly!). Study after study has shown that Minnesota has THE HIGHEST RATES of overprosecution and overconviction of Blacks of any state in the union and Minneapolis is the hub. Much of the blame lies at the feet of the city attorney's office, which vigorously prosecutes Blacks for low-level offenses, including charges not justified by the facts and charges put on people to cover police brutality. There seems to be literally no screening mechanism for deciding which cases to prosecute and there seems to be a policy of going especially hard after survivors of police brutality, possibly as a way to prevent future suits against the city. In fact, one of the most common charges being prosecuted is Obstructing Legal Process, the universal charged levied by police on their brutality survivors. Moreover, when the evidence doesn't fit the police version of things, it appears that some prosecutors are willing to alter that evidence to make it more to their liking.

We don't like to brag too much but once in a while we need to tell folks about some of the good things we are doing and how you can help.

For a little over a year, we've been in our office at the IATP building on Stevens near Franklin. The office has been a god-send for lots of reasons. Besides being the place for our weekly meetings, Know Your Rights trainings, and other events, we operate our hotline out of there and have used it many times to meet with people who have called our hotline looking for help.

Recently, two of us met with a man who was severely injured by police. He was due to go to trial on bogus charges in a few days and his public defender was trying to make him take a bad deal. This single dad was very concerned about what would happen to his two children if he were sent to jail. We were able to make calls on the spot and line him up with two lawyers--one to defend him in his criminal case and one to look at a civil case for his severe injuries. By the time he left our office, he was set to meet with his lawyers. We also helped him get badly needed media coverage, which will help him get justice.

Other hotline calls have hooked us up with many families in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the surrounding area. In one case, the youth of a whole neighborhood are being harassed by police as "potential gang members" even though they have grown up together, are good students, have firm attachments to their school and church and have parents who are clearly engaged and know full well what their kids are up to and that they are NOT gang members. Police have lined up the kids and taken their pictures, raided some of their homes (and found NOTHING) and even put phony charges ("rioting for the benefit of a gang") on one of the youths--charges that were overturned in court. We are working with folks in that neighborhood to set up Know Your Rights trainings, a block party and other measures to resist these attacks on their children.

In yet another recent case, a family (mom, dad, pre-teen son) were attacked during a traffic stop. Everyone in the family was badly injured--the son even got taser burns all over his back. Besides making legal and other referrals, we were able to get a professional photographer (Rickey Jones--see above) out the same day they called us to take photos and document the injuries. We were also able to help them secure videos, witnesses and other evidence they will need to defend themselves against bogus charges and to get justice.

Because our work is becoming well known, we have been contacted by survivors from all over the state. We are working with people in a number of communities to help them form groups in their areas.

How do we do all of this as an all-volunteer organization with no paid staff and a shoe-string budget? We need two things to accomplish the important work of our organization: volunteers and funds.

There are many, many ways for folks to plug into our work. You can be a court observer, do case work, go into neighborhoods to educate people about the lawsuit and get stories, work on research and special projects, do fundraising, put together events. All you need to do is call 612-874-7867 and an opportunity to use your special skills is waiting for you.

Maintaining our office and hotline costs money. While we have scaled down to the bare bones, it costs about $500 a month for the office, the phone line and the cell phones needed to operate the hotline. We also need funds for printing flyers and holding trainings and events. We raise most of the money we need from private donations. Please help us to keep this unique organization going with a donation or monthly pledge. You can send donations to CUAPB, 2104 Stevens Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55404 or call 612-874-7867 to make a monthly pledge.

Finally, we need referrals to our hotline so that we can connect with people who need us. Call 612-874-7867 if you would like a supply of flyers or cards to hand out to neighbors, coworkers, and others.

By: Pauline Thomas
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder
Originally posted 8/7/2003

There’s an old saying that a fish doesn’t know he is swimming in water. It’s the only thing he has ever known and he is so used to it that he doesn’t realize anymore that the water surrounds him every moment of his life.

Similarly, Blacks who have grown up in Minneapolis may realize that the way Minneapolis police act is often wrong, but without anything to compare it to, perhaps they don’t realize just how bad it is.

This past weekend, some people I know from another state visited Minneapolis. They went downtown on Saturday night and later reported to me their shock and anger when they observed Minneapolis police macing Blacks all up and down the street. Not macing a fine mist over the crowd, but macing Blacks right in their eyes. Some were reportedly carrying pistols in both hands and walking up and down the streets. Now, these police know that it is against Minneapolis police policy to mace anyone in their eyes. But they still do it. Daily. And they do it often to people of color.

The out-of-town Blacks asked me, "What’s going on in Minneapolis? What kind of a city is this?" Why did it seem that Blacks were the only group being targeted by the police? Now, these are Black people who live in another major city in this country. They have grown up in the Black Experience in urban America. But they could not believe the brazenness with which Minneapolis police were openly macing Blacks who had nothing to do with any incident. People who were only trying to get food from a restaurant were being maced.

This should trouble us, that even other major cities do not have the level of police misconduct that we suffer from here. It appears that the thuggish conduct by Minneapolis police that former police chief Tony Bouza spoke about years ago is back again. The problem is that the Minneapolis police are too often out of control. Because the managers in the police department are not willing to actually supervise and discipline them, they have become even more out of control.

You can’t send an army of 900 people out into the streets with guns and mace and not supervise them. The U.S. Army doesn’t even do that during a war. If you don’t supervise, soon these people will start doing whatever they want, whenever they want. And that’s what we’ve got going on here.

Do you know that in other cities, police have to write reports about everything they do on their shifts? That’s how other police departments catch the bad actors, find out problems with their policies and determine the need for further training. But in Minneapolis, officers can show up and mace hundreds of Blacks, and never have to report it to anyone! Never do a report, never even get questioned by their supervisors, never be held accountable.

Why should the taxpayers foot an expensive tax bill for police when we can’t even tell from their records where they are going or what they are doing? Why are we so accepting in Minneapolis that we allow this army of armed people to drive around town, getting into any kind of skirmish that they want, without even having to report what they have done? Secretaries are required to keep better track of their time than that. Just like the fish swimming in water, we in Minneapolis seem to have accepted, on some level, that police can act like this. We need to get some perspective by listening to Blacks from other cities where, even though they have police brutality, they do not have the level of brutality that we suffer here.

Because police are not given any consequences for their misconduct, the problem grows worse. (Often their conduct is covered up by prosecutors who are willing to send innocent brutality victims to jail for "cover up" crimes, or police are actually rewarded for their brutality by being promoted within the department.) As the problem escalates, we need to escalate our outrage and our activity around the misconduct. What keeps us, the entire community, from expressing our outrage over police misconduct? I have asked many people these questions, and here are some responses:

*We in Minneapolis want to still think of ourselves as living in a small town. We don’t want to face the reality that we have become a major urban area with big-city problems.

*Business leaders and politicians are afraid to face the reality of their police force, because they are afraid that if we openly start talking about how bad it is, we will scare away business (conventions, sports events, tourists, etc.). So money is being valued higher than those who are victimized by the police.

*Many people in this area have no idea how bad the problem is. They assume that the isolated news stories about it are just that "isolated incidents." They have no idea that every day Blacks and other people of color are brazenly, openly beaten by police for no reason. That this kind of sadist conduct by police has reached epidemic proportions in the MPD.

I know, and have always stated, that it is not all police. But no longer can we marginalize the problem and act like there are just a "few bad apples." The "bad apples" in the MPD have driven out many of the decent officers, who have resigned and moved to other departments, or simply retired from policing. The culture, and intimidation of police officers has resulted in bad apples being the norm in the MPD, not the exception.

*Many people in this area are in denial. They hear about the abuses, but it makes them feel uncomfortable, so they reject the information. They never really let it in. They think, well, it doesn’t really affect me, so why should I get involved?

So the Minneapolis fish keep swimming in Minneapolis water, quite unaware at most times that the water has started to stink. The simple answer is that unless we--all of us (people of color who do not realize that they are treated even worse here than in other larger cities, and others who simply do not know or refuse to learn about the problems)--take charge of this situation, we will continue to silently give police permission to break the laws that they are supposed to be enforcing.

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

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