9/28/2003 Newsletter


  • CUAPB Denounces Police Attack on NAACP Members
  • Meetings Give Voice To Community About Next Police Chief
  • Racial Profiling a Huge Problem In Minnesota
  • CUAPB Testifies Before State Supreme Court Racial Bias Committee
  • Creating a Racially Fair Future for the Courts
  • St Paul Police, City Sued In Case Of Mentally Ill Man Shot Dead By Cops

Yesterday morning, police attacked NAACP member Al Flowers as he stood talking on a cell phone in front of the Urban League building on Plymouth Avenue. In front of numerous witnesses including City Councilmember Natalie Johnson Lee and State Representative Neva Walker, Mr. Flowers was handcuffed and then beaten and the crowd of witnesses were physically assaulted and verbally abused by police. The crowd of witnesses included prominent members of the Black community and at least two members of the federal mediation team. Mr. Flowers was eventually released and received treatment at the emergency room for his injuries.

KSTP is apparently the only media outlet that covered the story right away. Their report is at http://www.kstp.com/article/view/122762 . Since a reporter with the Spokesman-Recorder was also present during the attack, expect a report in that publication when it comes out this week.

The pretext for the attack was that Mr. Flowers entered the Urban League building to attend a membership meeting of the NAACP. Mr. Flowers is a paid member of the NAACP however he and a others are currently engaged in a conflict with NAACP President Rev. Al Gallmon over the chapter accepting funds for Parent Information Centers after the membership voted the funds down. Rev. Gallmon ordered Mr. Flowers to leave the meeting and either Rev. Gallmon or members of the Urban League staff called police. It was while Mr. Flowers was standing on the sidewalk outside of the building that several squad cars arrived and police officers brutalized him.

This incident points out the problem with using the police department to resolve internal organizational conflicts, family disputes, etc. We have gotten numerous complaints on the hotline in which a couple, family or some other grouping of people has called police because of a heated conflict only to have the call result in brutality (and sometimes death, as in the Chris Burns case). The problem is many cops are one-trick ponies--their way of solving problems is to bust heads and take names. While that's a questionable tactic at best for solving crimes, it is especially unhelpful for resolving conflict situations. It is truly sad that police were called into a situation involving conflict within the NAACP and sadder still (though predictable) that the call resulted in such police brutality.

CUAPB denounces in the strongest terms this vicious attack on members and leaders of the African American community and we are working with the community to deal with the situation. We strongly encourage people to phone Mayor R.T. Rybak's office at 612-673-2100 to complain about this attack. Further, we demand that this incident be fully investigated and that the officers involved be appropriately disciplined.


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.

The Institute on Race & Poverty and the Council on Crime and Justice just released a joint state-wide study of police stops and searches by race. This study confirms what we already knew--that racial profiling is a big problem around the state and that racial profiling is just plain bad policing, since whites are stopped and searched much less often, yet those stops and searches are much more likely to net contraband such as drugs, illegal weapons or stolen property.

The Strib article below gives a pretty good rundown of the study. We are amused by the sudden level of concern expressed by Public Safety Commissioner Rich Stanek, as quoted in the story. Three years ago, when we were trying to get a decent bill on racial profiling passed by the state legislature, Stanek played a key role in killing the bill. Now, maybe the state can stop spending money on studies and start getting to some solutions.
Profiling study: Cops stop whites less, find more contraband
Conrad deFiebre, Star Tribune
Published September 25, 2003

Blacks, Latinos and American Indians are more likely than whites to be stopped by police and searched but much less likely to be found with anything illegal, a study of alleged racial profiling by Minnesota law enforcers showed Wednesday.

Authors of the state-funded study of nearly 200,000 traffic stops in 2002 said it reveals a "strong likelihood" of racial bias in police policies and practices that probably extends across Minnesota.

"These numbers are certainly of concern," said state Public Safety Commissioner Rich Stanek. "They are consistent with data from other states. Still, the issue of biased policing needs our full attention."

But neither the study authors nor Stanek, on leave from his job as a Minneapolis police inspector and who as a legislator sponsored the $4.3 million appropriation for the study, offered many specific recommendations to discourage driving arrests based on race.

They agreed that strategies should be developed after a review of the findings by police officials, political leaders and community members. Already, 150 police agencies have participated in anti-profiling training that was also authorized by Stanek's law.

Another part of it called for individual complaints of racial profiling to be received via a toll-free telephone number at the attorney general's office. Stanek said that of 44 such complaints, none has been sustained.

Leslie Sandberg, spokeswoman for Attorney General Mike Hatch, said his office only sends out complaint forms, which are evaluated by the targeted officers' own departments.

Former Hennepin County Attorney Thomas Johnson, who now leads the Council on Crime and Justice, one of the study's conductors, said collection of race data on police stops should be continued to measure progress in combating profiling. But few, if any, departments did so after the state funding ran out in December, he acknowledged.

In addition to the council, the Institute on Race & Poverty at the University of Minnesota Law School produced the study. In exchange for voluntary participation in the yearlong study, police and sheriffs' departments got $1.7 million in state grants to buy video cameras for squad cars.

Among the agencies that did not join the study were the State Patrol, St. Paul police and the Hennepin and Washington county sheriffs. Those that participated include the Minneapolis, St. Cloud and Rochester police, as well as the Anoka, Dakota, Ramsey and Scott county sheriffs. The study's 65 jurisdictions are home to 2 million of Minnesota's 5 million residents.

Understated findings?

Arresting officers themselves recorded information about stops without cross-checks against dispatch logs. So the findings may understate disparities in treatment of white and minority suspects, Johnson said.

From Akeley (population 411) to the major Twin Cities-area jurisdictions, those disparities were remarkably consistent. Whites were stopped at a higher rate than their share of the local driving-age population in only eight of the 60 areas with enough stops to determine statistical significance. Blacks were overstopped in every jurisdiction but one, Latinos in all but five.

Overall, 23.5 percent of discretionary police searches of white suspects yielded illegal drugs, weapons or stolen property, compared with 19.7 percent for Indians, 11 percent for blacks and 9 percent for Latinos. But blacks were subjected to searches at a higher rate than whites in all but two of the 37 jurisdictions where both races were searched. Data on Indians were more varied, but they were three times more likely than whites to be searched.

In Minneapolis alone, equal police treatment of the races would have resulted in blacks being stopped 12,804 fewer times and searched 1,053 fewer times, the study's authors said.

'Fishing expeditions'

Bill Gillespie, executive director of the 7,000-member Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, said the study proves that white and minority suspects are handled differently but doesn't show why. He called the search findings the most disturbing.

"That tells me some of those stops of minorities are fishing expeditions," he said. "That needs to be further explored."
Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson said he wasn't surprised by the findings. "They're not much different from what we did two years ago," he said. "I was glad to see that our disparities aren't as high as in the suburbs."

Only a handful of suburban police departments -- Fridley, New Hope, Plymouth, Savage and St. Cloud's Sauk Rapids -- participated in the study. But police in those cities stopped blacks four times more than average and searched them twice as often.

Olson also said the study did not fully account for variables such as the 150,000 nonresidents who come into Minneapolis daily or the increased presence of police patrols in the low-income, high-crime areas typically inhabited by minority groups. But the study authors noted that blacks were more likely than whites to be stopped in every Minneapolis census tract but one.

"Taken together, these patterns warrant serious examination," the study's authors said. "It is fair to conclude that the problems that they suggest are not isolated to a handful of jurisdictions."

Conrad deFiebre is at [email protected].

Members of CUAPB and others representing the community made presentations to the State Supreme Court's Implementation Committee on Multicultural Diversity and Racial Fairness in the Courts. This committee (known in shorthand as the "Implementation Committee") has worked for ten years to study causes of racial disparity within the justice system and to put in place solutions. We were asked to provide the community's perspective on the reasons for the disparities. While we had their attention, we also proposed some solutions of our own.

For our part, we discussed how pretext charges bring a disproportionate number of people of color into the system. Pretext charges are charges that are put on people to cover police brutality. It is our experience that almost everyone who is beaten by police gets charged with one or more of these three charges: obstructing legal process, disorderly conduct or, if the beating was severe, 4th degree assault against a police officer. These charges are the gateway for a lot of people, especially people of color, into the system. We pointed out that people are railroaded through the system like widgets and pressured to plead guilty just to keep the system moving and to cover for criminal acts by police. We also discussed retaliation taken against people who refuse to plead guilty or who ask for a copy of their complaint or otherwise try to assert their rights (they often have other charges piled on). We talked about how, with everything moving so fast, there is really no place in the system for people to be heard.

Pauline Thomas, Executive Director of Community Collaborative, presented results from her survey of Hennepin County judges. She also gave stirring testimony of the effects of disparate treatment on the families of people of color and the community as a whole. She called for a complaint mechanism to be made available so the community could give feedback about unfair treatment by judges.

Civil rights attorneys Jill Clark and Jill Waite presented a number of solutions including better screening of complaints by the prosecutor's office and having a special courtroom just to hear pretext complaints.

The presentation was well received and we've already gotten some feedback from members of the committee that they will be making changes based on our information. We are hoping to continue to work with this committee. In this vein, we want to let you know about a public event in which you can hear more about the work of this committee and rub elbows with some its members:

October 24, 2003
8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Hamline University Law and Conference Center
St. Paul
Registration is free and lunch is provided, but space is limited. Please call 651-205-4790 or email [email protected] by October 15th to reserve your space.

Welcome Address - Justice Alan Page
History of the 1993 Race Bias Task Force Report - Retired Justice Rosalee Wahl
Traffic Stops by Race in 2002 - Tom Johnson, President, Council on Crime and Justice
Court Filings by Race in 2002 - Deb Dailey, MN Supreme Court Research and Evaluation
Future of Affirmative Action - Mark Rotenberg, UofM General Council
Envisioning a Racially Fair Future for the Courts - Panel Discussion
Where Do We Go From Here? - Don Samuels, Minneapolis City Councilmember

[Just in case anyone thinks Minneapolis has the lock on poor treatment of mentally ill people--editor]

Herón Márquez Estrada, Star Tribune
Published September 26, 2003

The family of a mentally ill man who a year ago was shot to death by St. Paul police sued the department and city in federal court Thursday.

Ki Yang, 46, had a history of schizophrenia, his family said. He was shot to death Sept. 27, 2002, in his home after he ignored orders from officer Michael Tharalson to drop a BB gun that resembled a rifle and a sickle-like blade about 20 inches long.

Instead, he charged at Tharalson, who fired six shots as Yang kept advancing.

The family maintains that the officers and the department did not have sufficient training in how to deal with people with mental illness.

In the suit, filed in Minneapolis, the family claims that officers at the scene "treated Ki no different than if he had been a belligerent drunk" even though "they knew Ki was mentally ill."

The family also claims, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, that police discriminated against Ki by refusing to help him and by sending away paramedics from the scene.

Officer Paul Schnell, the department's spokesman, said the department would not comment Thursday.

"The department has not had a chance to review the suit," he said.

The monetary amounts for damages were not spelled out in the suit.

Yang's death was the second fatal shooting by St. Paul police in less than a month. On Sept. 2, 2002, three officers killed a 19-year-old man on the East Side after he punctured the lung of an officer with a samurai-style sword while being handcuffed.

After Yang's death, Police Chief William Finney ordered additional training for officers.

Finney has noted that St. Paul police handle more than 900 calls annually for service involving mentally ill people and deadly force is almost never used.

The department also has a psychologist, Sgt. Dennis Conroy, to train officers and advise Finney on procedures for handling mentally ill suspects.

Herón Márquez Estrada is at [email protected]

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

  • Michelle Gross
    published this page in 2003 Newsletters 2016-09-17 12:38:03 -0500

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