8/6/2008 Newsletter

Contents:

  • Come to Copwatch Training
  • Thank You to the Community
  • TC Daily Planet: Cop Watcher Arrested, Alleges Police Brutality
  • When Official Truth Collides with Cheap Digital Technology
  • For Sheer Arrogance, It's Hard to Beat the MPD

COME TO COPWATCH TRAINING

Whether we're at the shelters, outside the clubs during closing time or out at Critical Mass or other protest events, we've shown time and again that copwatch is a valuable service that helps to prevent police brutality and that provides important case documentation for people who are brutalized or falsely arrested. In the run up to the RNC, we've seen increased attacks on homeless people in an effort to shove them out of sight. Now that the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington city councils have given free reign to their police to abuse protesters, we know copwatch will be even more important when the elephant show finally arrives.

WE NEED LOTS OF TRAINED COPWATCHERS! Come to a copwatch training to learn about your rights in general and about your rights while documenting police conduct. You'll also learn how to correctly document what you see in the streets. We'll spend some time together in a classroom then go out into the streets to practice your new skills.

Please attend one of these dates:

Saturday, August 9, 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Saturday, August 16, 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Both trainings will be held at Walker Church, 3100 16th Ave S, Minneapolis.

Depending on demand, we may add other dates. If a group is interested in setting up a separate date, please let us know.


THANKS!

CUAPB wants to give a great big THANKS to the large number of people who showed up last Friday night for copwatch to take a stand against the brutal attack on copwatcher and CUAPB vice president Darryl Robinson. Your spirit was inspiring. It was great to see four green-hatted legal observers with the National Lawyers Guild.

Darryl is recovering from his injuries and had his first appearance in court yesterday. Our thanks to the many people who showed up for court watch yesterday. These efforts make a real difference in ensuring justice. It's also educational--many in the courtroom with us were appalled at the large number of people there on trespassing, loitering, public urination and other bogus charges. One observer noted, "there was only one REAL case the whole time we were there." People are also astounded to see the very clear race and class divide in the court system, with mostly white court officers, lawyers, and mostly people of color being on the receiving end of the "justice" stick. Seeing the "deals" offered to people for these bogus charges is also appalling and allows us to see how people get sucked into the system on minor infractions.


ARTICLE: COP WATCHER ARRESTED, ALLEGES POLICE BRUTALITY

By Sheila Regan , TC Daily Planet
August 03, 2008
http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/article/2008/08/01/cop-watcher-arrested-alleges-police-brutality.html#

Police brutality is alleged after a July 20 arrest of Darryl Robinson, vice president of the Minneapolis-based Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB). Robinson was a successful plaintiff in a 2003 civil rights lawsuit against the Minneapolis Police Department.

Describing the latest incident, Robinson says: “I was down there doin’ cop watching, The police rolled up in the area. They were telling people to move out of the area.” Robinson says he was with a group of people known as “copwatchers”, an assembly of people armed with video cameras, whose goal it is to monitor police brutality.

The arrest took place in the area of 10th Street and 1st Avenue in Minneapolis, near the Greyhound bus station. There are several homeless shelters in the neighborhood and, according to Robinson, the police have been monitoring the neighborhood heavily in recent weeks.

“I was on my cell phone,” Robinson explains. “They told us we had to move. I told them we were doing cop watching. Police said ‘come here’. I had stuff in my hand­cell phone, video camera­they smashed it to the ground. They told me to turn around. They put cuffs on me. They choked me. They put me in arm locks. They rolled me to the ground. I got knocked out.”

According to the police report, Robinson was arrested for obstructing the sidewalk, obstructing legal process, and failing to obey a police order. According to Sgt. Palmer, Robinson was loitering with “a couple of people that were known as chronic offenders” near a construction barrier.

According to Robinson, when he came back to consciousness, the police still had him in arm locks. “They asked me ‘who was I.’ I told them I was the vice president of the Communities United Against Police Brutality.”

Robinson says they told him “We don’t give a fuck who you are.”

The arresting officers were James Archer and Mark Lanasa. They could not be reached for comment due to MPD’s policy that officers involved in arrests do not speak with the media. All information is channeled through the public information department.

Sgt. William Palmer, Public Information Officer for the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) denies that there is a specific operation targeting homeless people in that area, although he says it is common for the police to pick up people in downtown for “livability crimes,” such as urination in public, drug paraphernalia, and loitering.

Sgt. Palmer also denies that the police choked Robinson, although he does admit that they had him in a headlock. Palmer’s version of this exchange is slightly different. (Palmer was not present at the time of the arrest, and the officers who were present were not allowed to discuss the case.) He says that Robinson said to the police: “You don’t know who I am but you are about to find out.” According to Palmer, the fact that Robinson was cop watching “does not exempt him from the law.”

Sgt. Palmer says that Robinson was confrontational. “He wanted a confrontation, and he got what he wanted,” Palmer states.

Robinson claims he did not fight back. “Why would I fight back?” he asks.

Robinson does say that after he regained consciousness, he started screaming, because he was disoriented. “That riled them up more,” he says. “They kneed me in the head. They told me to get up. I had cuffs on. I told them I could not get back up. They choked me back up. They told me to get in the back of the van. They pushed me in there.”

Robinson says the abuse continued when he was at the jail. He says he was pushed against the walls by one of the deputies, who also pulled his hair.

The incident on July 20 was not Robinson’s first experience with police brutality. On September 11, 2001, (yes that September 11) he was assaulted by police officers. That incident involved, according to Robinson, getting his eardrum broken by a cop’s combat boot. He subsequently was involved in a federal, multi-plaintiff lawsuit that lasted from 2003 to 2006.

Robinson won a settlement of $150,000 as part of the multi plaintiff lawsuit against the police department, according to his lawyer, Jill Clark.

Since the filing of the 2003 lawsuit, Robinson has been arrested at least 15 times. According to Clark, the arrests were an act of retaliation by the police for the lawsuit. Clark explains the arrests as “death of a thousand cuts,” a term which describes a number of arrests for apparently no reason at all acquired cumulatively in order to take Robinson’s credibility away.

“I was constantly being pulled over,” says Robinson. “”They were all different kinds of tickets. I was given a ticket for walking down the street. They took my wallet, never gave it back. I got two tickets for rollerblading.”

Although there is no crime in “rollerblading” or “walking down the street”, there is for “obstructing the sidewalk” and “loitering,” two citations that police frequently used to arrest Robinson. These citations did not result in convictions.

He was also accused of more serious crimes as well, which were thrown out in court for lack of evidence. Once he was accused of “drug paraphernalia” which ended up being a nail clipper, according to Clark.

Clark says that the charges were overwhelmingly dismissed. She says there were only two convictions: one for not wearing a seatbelt, and one for not registering a new vehicle within thirty days.

“If police get accused of brutality, they attack the person in the media,” Clark says, explaining the “thousand cuts” tactic. “They smear the plaintiff. That was a very common tactic.”

When members of the CUAPB posted Robinson’s bail on July 20th, they took pictures of Robinson’s wounds, which Robinson says included huge bumps on his head and swelling around his neck, and road rash on his elbows. After they took the pictures, the CUAPB members took Robinson to the county hospital.

Robinson declined to comment on whether he would pursue a new lawsuit over the July 20 incident. When asked why the police would assault such a prominent member of the community, Robinson responds: “I’m just too visible. There’s a lot goin’ on out there. The shelter’s a hotbed. It was a way to remove me.”

Sheila Regan is a theater artist based in Minneapolis. When not performing or writing, she serves as educational coordinator for Teatro del Pueblo.


WHEN OFFICIAL TRUTH COLLIDES WITH CHEAP DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY

By JIM DWYER
July 30, 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/30/nyregion/30about.html

Around 9:30 on Friday night, a bicyclist pedaling down Seventh Avenue veered to the left, trying to avoid hitting a police officer who was in the middle of the street.

But the officer, Patrick Pogan, took a few quick steps toward the biker, Christopher Long, braced himself and drove his upper body into Mr. Long.

Officer Pogan, an all-star football player in high school, hit Mr. Long as if he were a halfback running along the sidelines, and sent him flying.

As of Tuesday evening, a videotape of the encounter had been viewed about 400,000 times on YouTube. “I can’t explain why it happened,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said on Tuesday. “I have no understanding as to why that would happen.”

But this episode was not just a powerful crash between one bicyclist and a police officer. It may turn out to be yet another head-on collision between false stories told by some police officers in criminal court cases and documentary evidence that directly contradicts them. And while in many instances the inaccurate stories have been tolerated by police superiors and prosecutors, Officer Pogan’s account is getting high-level scrutiny.

Later that night, Officer Pogan composed a story of his encounter with Mr. Long. It bore no resemblance to the events seen on the videotape. Based on the sworn complaint, Mr. Long was held for 26 hours on charges of attempted assault and disorderly conduct.

Over the weekend, though, the videotape, made by a tourist in Times Square with his family, fell into the hands of people involved with Critical Mass, the monthly bicycle rally that Mr. Long had been riding in.

The availability of cheap digital technology ­ video cameras, digital cameras, cellphone cameras ­ has ended a monopoly on the history of public gatherings that was limited to the official narratives, like the sworn documents created by police officers and prosecutors. The digital age has brought in free-range history.

Hundreds of cases against people arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention collapsed under an avalanche of videotaped evidence that either completely contradicted police accounts, or raised significant questions about their reliability. The videotapes were made by people involved in the protests, bystanders, tourists and police officers.

At the New York Public Library, a small group holding a banner against one of the stone lions was arrested and charged with blocking traffic in the middle of 42nd Street, although video showed they were on the steps, and nowhere near the street.

In another case at the library, a police officer testified that he and three other officers had to carry one protester, Dennis Kyne, by his hands and feet down the library steps. Videotape showed that Mr. Kyne walked down the steps under his own power, and that the officer who testified against him had no role in his arrest. The charges were dismissed; the Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to bring perjury charges against the officer who gave the testimony.

Dozens of complaints were sworn by police officers who said they had witnessed people violating the law on Fulton Street and near Union Square, but later admitted under oath that their only involvement was to process the arrests, and that they had not actually seen the disorderly conduct that was charged.

An assistant to District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau wrote to the Police Department to stress the importance of officers’ not swearing to things they had not seen for themselves. The prosecutors said the confusion surrounding mass arrests made it hard to bring perjury charges.

The case of Christopher Long and Officer Pogan is shaping up as another example of an official narrative being directly challenged by videotape.

In a criminal court complaint, Officer Pogan wrote that Mr. Long deliberately attacked him with the bike ­ although the videotape shows Mr. Long veering away from Officer Pogan, who pursues him toward the curb.

The officer said he was knocked to the ground by Mr. Long. Throughout the tape, though, he remains on his feet, even after banging into Mr. Long.

The police officer wrote that Mr. Long had been “weaving” in and out of traffic, “thereby forcing multiple vehicles to stop abruptly or change their direction in order to avoid hitting” Mr. Long. However, in the videotape, it appears that there are no cars on the street.

Mr. Long is due back in court in early September. By then, most of Mr. Long’s bruises are likely to have healed. The prognosis for the truth is not so clear.


FOR SHEER ARROGANCE, IT'S HARD TO BEAT THE MPD

What other department awards officers who terrorize a family through a monumental screw up, putting the whole family and themselves at risk? Of course, this is the same department that gave a medal to Dan May for murdering Tycel Nelson.

Minneapolis police: A mistake, an apology and then medals

By RODRIGO ZAMITH, Star Tribune
July 30, 2008
http://www.startribune.com/local/26083024.html?location_refer=Homepage:

First, the city apologized. Then it gave awards.

Eight Minneapolis officers received medals in City Hall Monday for their valor in a botched raid that the city apologized for last year. That isn't sitting well with the family shot at multiple times by the officers.

"I'm shocked that they're receiving awards for that night," said Yee Moua. "My family is a mess right now. My [9-year-old] son, who saw the shooting, still has nightmares and has needed therapy. They've ruined a life, and I don't understand why they would get rewarded for that."

The awards stemmed from a high-risk search in December. The eight officers -- who had SWAT training -- entered the house expecting to find a violent gang member. Instead, they found Vang Khang, a 35-year-old homeowner who thought he was being robbed. Khang shot through his bedroom door at the officers until he understood who they were.

In the midst of the shootout were Moua, who is Khang's wife, and their six children, who range in age from 3 to 15. Moua said her family has since abandoned the house and can no longer afford to keep it.

Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. William Palmer said Tuesday the department has acknowledged the raid was a mistake and has apologized to the family. But he said the officers "performed very bravely under gunfire and made smart decisions."

Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan said that he knew giving the award might get negative attention but that "we've never not recognized an officer shot in the line of duty."

Three officers received shrapnel damage to body armor and their ballistic helmets, Palmer said.

Dolan said he did not speak with the family prior to the award ceremony, but he did speak with Hmong community leaders in north Minneapolis who were "mostly understanding."

"I can understand [Moua's] feelings, but the officers didn't make any mistakes and they were able to stop things from getting worse," Dolan said. "Like the old maxim says, 'You don't punish your officers for the mistake of the general.'"

'We almost died that night'

Police said they acted on bad information from an informant, who reportedly was a victim of a crime at a house in the 1300 block of Logan Avenue N. Police said they had no reason to believe the information was inaccurate and they had the right address on the warrant, but the house wasn't occupied by anybody they wanted.

The raid was part of an investigation by the department's Violent Offender Task Force, which typically goes after the most violent gang members and drug dealers. Officers had retrieved guns in searches connected with the case before the raid.

According to police, officers entered the home without knocking -- a standard procedure in cases where officers expected to find weapons -- and called out, "Police!" as they searched the home's first floor. They didn't find anybody, so went to the second floor. At a small landing at the top of the stairs, they again shouted, "Police!"

Shots then came through the walls and doors as officers searched two bedrooms, police said. It was Khang shooting from a third bedroom.

Authorities said there were children in the other bedrooms, and the officers quickly realized there was a language barrier. The older children were able to communicate to their father that police were in the house and to stop shooting.

"As soon as they started taking fire, [officers] got in front of the kids and used their body as a shield," Palmer said. "They used great restraint and shot precisely at where the bullets were coming back from."

Moua disputed the police account.

"They never identified themselves; we thought they were a whole bunch of drunk, crazy guys," she said. "We didn't know anything until my oldest son yelled, 'Dad, it's the police!'"

She also said the officers did not try to protect her children, but rather hid themselves behind furniture and shot back indiscriminately. She said officers treated her and her husband roughly, and did not explain the situation after the two surrendered.

"They stepped on my husband, and we kept asking, 'Where are the bad guys?'" she said. "We were just trying to protect ours kids. We almost died that night."

Lawsuit against the city

Sgt. Jesse Garcia said the city conducted an internal affairs investigation after the raid and the SWAT team was cleared of any wrongdoing. He said no other details were available because the investigation was still open.

Casper Hill, a spokesman for the city of Minneapolis, said the city has reimbursed the Khang family $7,500 for "miscellaneous expenses."

The family's lawyer, Thomas Heffelfinger, said that he has had ongoing conversations with the city attorney's office and that there will be a lawsuit if they cannot reach a resolution.

"They fired 22 rounds with 9 millimeter automatic weapons into a room with two adults and four children," Heffelfinger said. "That's not protecting kids. They were firing at a room they couldn't see into. They fired with the intent to kill the person on the other side of the door.

"To give these men awards for that behavior is nothing more than an attempt to sanitize their conduct."

Heffelfinger also said the family had lived at the house for four years and had no history of wrongdoing. He said police "failed to do their homework" and "acted outrageously once they got there."

Officers receiving medals of commendation included Sgt. Nicholas Torborg and officers Steven Blackwell, Matthew Kaminski, Ricardo Muro and Craig Taylor. Sgt. Michael Young and officers John Sheneman and Alan Williams received medals of valor.

"We knew there might be political implications with this," Palmer said. "We're not passing judgment today on the rest of what happened there. But those officers were shot in the line of duty, and there isn't an appropriate level of award for that."

Staff writer Abby Simons contributed to this report. Rodrigo Zamith • 612-673-4895


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