9/13/2003 Newsletter


  • Jones Case Tapes to be Examined by Expert
  • Chief Search: CUAPB Brings Community to the Table
  • Spokesman Recorder: Heffern Must Act To Reform City Prosecutors

The Rickey Jones case was back on court on Thursday, September 11 for the final day of the evidentiary hearing on how videotapes in the case were doctored and by whom. Once again the fur was flying!

Throughout the entire evidentiary hearing, the city attorney's office followed a two-prong strategy to defend itself:
1) Witness after witness denied they altered the tapes because they "like their job too much" or "it would be wrong" (picture Polly Purebread batting her eyelids innocently). So are we just supposed to buy this line from folks who get paid to railroad innocent people to off to jail and who are well-known for doing whatever it takes to get a conviction? Get real! It was even funnier when the two brute cops tried to run that line--kind of like watching Atilla the Hun doing the maypole dance--just hilarious!

2) Various people testified that the city attorney's office has no procedures and/or no security to protect tapes in their possession, so theoretically anybody could have gotten to the tape and "how would we ever know who?" This is alternately known as the "if our butts are gonna be in a sling, we'll make the sling big enough so anyone's butt will fit in it" defense--and it ain't gonna fly either. What kind of prosecutor's office has no means for protecting the evidence in their possession? What if they had a videotape of a murder--do you suppose they would leave that out on top of a file cabinet or in someone's unlocked desk drawer for days on end? The bottom line is that the prosecutor is ultimately responsible for everything surrounding a case--and in this case that's Lois Conroy. The sling is not "one size fits all"--it would seem to be tailor-made for Conroy's petite tush.

The real motivation behind the whole prosecution and ongoing harassment of Rickey came out when police officer Kevin Lazarchic snarlingly testified, "I don't particularly like him," and admitted it is because Rickey has caught cops brutalizing people on film. He claimed that this is interfering with the cops "doing their jobs." Well, right on Rickey! If things were right in this town, you'd get an award, not prosecution, for your actions!

In the end, Judge Philip Bush ruled that the various versions of the videotape will be sent to the FBI laboratory in Quantico, VA for analysis. While we have our jitters about the role of the FBI in other cases, we've been told that their videotape unit is the best in the business, that they are unlikely to give a rip about covering for corrupt local prosecutors and that they have played a key role in busting out corrupt prosecutors in other places. So, for now, we'll reserve judgement and wait for the report.

Judge Bush has scheduled the next court hearing on October 30th, provided the FBI report is available by then. Sounds like a Halloween treat! We'll let you know the particulars on the hearing closer to the date. You won't want to miss the high drama of this hearing!

This past Wednesday, Mayor R.T. Rybak graciously set aside one hour from his busy schedule to hold a public hearing on community standards regarding selecting the next chief. Well, not really. He was late to the hearing AND although it was sparsely attended, he only allowed speakers two minutes each. He had a henchman sitting in the front seat cutting people off. When civil rights attorney Jill Clark spoke, and what she said was not to his liking, he tried to cut her off well before her two minutes was up. Apparently, efficiency is more important than hearing what the people think. Things went so fast that the hearing was over 10 minutes early!

Three members of CUAPB spoke. Here are our prepared comments:

Communities United Against Police Brutality has a keen interest in the outcome of the search for a new police chief for Minneapolis. The police chief is probably the most important unelected position in the city. The individual who accepts this position will oversee the work of 1100 people, control a large portion of the city's budget ($100 million) and will set policy and oversee practices that contribute greatly toward the quality of life for people in this city.

As such, we make the following recommendations for chief of police. These recommendations are culled from our discussions with the community in preparation for federal mediation and through other communications:

* We would like to see the city employ a police chief who understands how to attract and keep a diverse workforce and who will adopt zero-tolerance policies against racism, sexism, homophobia and other types of discrimination.

* We want a police chief who understands community expectations for policing, who is willing to be accountable to the reasonable concerns of the community and who, especially, will not announce the “police version” of incidents prior to investigation.

* We want a police chief who acknowledges that police brutality, misconduct and abuse of authority are serious issues that undermine community confidence and cooperation with the department and who will partner with the community and officers on the force to combat these problems.

* We want a police chief who treats officers on the force fairly and in an unbiased manner but who understands and applies appropriate discipline and other management tools to reduce incidents of police brutality, misconduct and use of authority.

* We want a police chief who will routinely review and update department policies and procedures consistent with best policing practices.

* We want a police chief who will eliminate the "crime containment zones" that plague certain neighborhoods under the current police administration.

*We want a police chief who is a good financial steward of the funds entrusted to him or her to run the department and who knows how to live within a budget.

*Finally, we want and deserve a police chief who understands organizational culture, who understands his/her role in creating and maintaining that culture and who uses that knowledge to recreate the culture of the current department in a way that benefits the officers and employees of the department and the community as a whole.

Currently, the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department is one in which brutality, misconduct, poor community relations, racism and other forms of discrimination are tolerated if not outright facilitated. The culture of this organization is badly in need of revamping.

For this reason, it is our strong recommendation that the city look outside of this police department for new leadership that will champion reform and will work diligently to change the organizational culture from the ground up. It would be a serious mistake to install someone who has been part of maintaining this culture. As the saying goes, we need a new broom to sweep out old dirt.

Finally, Mr. Mayor, we need to express our concern with the process for including community input into selection of the next chief. While it is true that with the "weak mayor" system our city operates under, the duty of selecting a new police chief is one of your most significant powers. Nonetheless, it is important that you recognize that we are the people who will have to live for at least three years with the results of your decision. Some two months ago, we urged you to find ways to seek input from a broad spectrum of the community.

We have concerns that this one-hour event is the only city-sponsored community forum for you to hear what the people say and that you have set a deadline of September 12th for community input (if the reports in various newspapers are correct). We urge you to remain open to community input throughout the entirety of this process, especially as candidates are brought forward and lists are narrowed. To that end, our organization is holding two community meetings in early October to seek further community input. We invite you to attend these forums and, especially, urge you to consider the information that is brought out at these events.
As we told the mayor, we will hold two community meetings to give the community opportunities for real input throughout the process:

Thursday, October 2nd
6:30 p.m.
North Regional Library
1315 Lowry Avenue North

Thursday, October 9
6:30 p.m.
Hosmer Library
347 E 36th Street

Have something to say about who will be the next chief? Have other concerns on your mind? Make your plans now to attend these events.

Heffern Must Act To Reform City Prosecutors
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder
September 4, 2003
By Pauline Thomas

You have read my past columns about the way Minneapolis city prosecutors press criminal charges against Blacks and other people of color to cover up police brutality. Why is it that the city attorney is not getting involved with what the prosecutors are doing?

The Minnesota Supreme Court says that prosecutors are supposed to seek justice, not convictions. That means it's not about them winning at all costs, such as by sending an innocent person to jail. It's about doing what's best for the people of Minnesota. I have not talked to one single person who thinks that it is okay to send innocent people to jail.

Here is what is happening now: Police officers beat a Black man or Black woman. Now, the police officers know that assaulting someone without provocation is criminal conduct, not to mention unconstitutional use of force and a violation of Minneapolis police policy. So the officer, in an attempt to evade punishment, slaps a criminal charge on the Black person, saying that he committed a crime against the police officer.

Police are in the criminal justice system every day, so they know how to use the system against people. They know that the Minneapolis city prosecutors will vehemently prosecute this Black man.

Why do Minneapolis prosecutors go after the innocent man in order to cover up crimes by police? For several reasons. Because for the Minneapolis prosecutors, its not about justice. It stopped being about justice a long time ago. It's about "winning," that is, taking Black men down on crimes. That pumps up their egos and makes them feel tough.

It's also about protecting the City of Minneapolis from civil liability. They understand being convicted of a crime means that the Black man can't bring a successful civil lawsuit to enforce his civil rights. Why do prosecutors think that they get to violate the law every day, and then haul a Black man to jail for a broken taillight?

Well, the police love the Minneapolis prosecutors because they are willing to break the law to cover up police abuse. And everybody is happy, right? Wrong. Innocent Black men are serving time in jail because police and prosecutors are unwilling to obey the law. When you allow innocent people to be sent to jail just out of ego, or a desire to protect a crime committed by someone else, something is terribly wrong in the system.

So who is the Top Dog of the Minneapolis City Attorney's Office? Jay Heffern, reappointed by current Mayor R.T. Rybak after serving under former Mayor Sharon Sayes-Belton, is the current city attorney and the head of the Minneapolis City Attorney's Office. He is over both the civil and criminal divisions. He is the man responsible for the goings-on in that office, and it is time that he stepped up to the plate and took responsibility for the way the law is being violated every day in those offices. In the past, the second in command in that office had a lot of responsibility. But then he retired. Now Heffern stands alone at the top of the management. What is he doing to reform that office?

In the past he has acted like if he delegates it, he can't be responsible for everything that is done. But that attitude is bogus and has to change. Jay Heffern, you are responsible for everything that is done (or not done) in your office. That's what it means to be a department head. That's what it means to be a public official in charge. If you can't take responsibility, and you don't start to reform your office, then you do not deserve to hold it.

Why aren't you getting involved with what your prosecutors are doing? Have you formed a Chinese wall between the civil and criminal? Or do you allow prosecutors to violate the Constitution by seeking criminal convictions just to try to save the City money in civil lawsuits?

Do you think it is fair that Black men are going to jail for crimes that they did not commit in order to cover up crimes by police? What have you done to address this issue? Do you think it is fair that innocent Black men are facing criminal charges today just because you won't take any responsibility for your department? Is your own personal comfort more important then the lives of Blacks?

And why, Mr. Heffern, do you think that you don't have to do anything about it? If you can't take the heat, then get out of the job. But if you are going to continue to draw public funds, and sit in a fancy office at taxpayers' expense (yes, we Blacks pay taxes, too), then you have to do something. And you need to do it now. Lives are at stake.

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

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