- Video 1: MPD Cop Victor Mills: Slap Heard 'Round the Town (Joel Matos Ramos Case)
- Video 2: MPD Cop Kicks Man When He's Down (Jhontez Watson Case)
- Cops as Carnivors: Lt. Kevin Stoll Offers Steak Dinner to "Take Down" Al Flowers
- Henn Cty Atty Anita Jehl Goes Down in Defeat Again in Philander Jenkins Case
- Henn Cty Gov Ctr Staff Afraid of First Amendment
- Pawlenty Attacks MPD/ICE Separation Ordinance
- Know Your Rights Training
HOLY COW--WHAT A WEEK!
This past week or so has been one of the busiest for police brutality and accountability issues in a long, long time. Here's a rundown of the week's events and their meaning for members of our community.
Video 1: The Slap Heard Round the Town
A little over a week ago, Fox 9 news came out with a video showing MPD cop Victor Mills slamming Latino community member Joel Matos Ramos painfully into the trunk of a squad car and then whacking him in the face with a gloved hand. Initially, the police officer was unidentified in media reports but we knew something was up when a reporter called our hotline asking for clarification on the complaint records of this cop on our website.
Although Mills' lawyer has tried to explain away the slap with allegations that Ramos was spitting, Chief McManus wisely acted fast to suspend Mills and met with the Latino community and others. Sadly, though, all he offered the community were vague promises. On Monday, Latino community leaders hosted a meeting with McManus and we were asked to attend. McManus stated the case would be referred for possible prosecution. When asked who would do the prosecuting, he said "the city attorney, the county attorney, whatever" and when it was pointed out that the city would have a financial stake in the outcome, he stated he thought the county was independent enough to do the job. (This is fallacy for reasons we've discussed in past newsletters. Our recommendation: appoint a truly independent special prosecutor not on city or county payroll for ALL police cases.)
At the meeting, we took the opportunity to point out to Chief McManus that back on April 29, 2004 we met with him and gave him a list of all police officers with 5 or more complaints against them. McManus had stated in community meetings prior to his confirmation that officers having 3-4 complaints was a red flag. Since so many MPD officers have so many complaints, we decided to make it easier for him to know who they were and we asked him to take action on the list and let us know what he had done.
Officer Victor Mills is on that list of 171 officers with 5 or more complaints and we can't help thinking that if McManus had acted when we gave him the list, this incident may not have occurred. By the way, the guy with the most allegations against him (26, with 10 upheld by the CRA), Officer James Bulleigh, still works for the force. We continue to get complaints about him through our hotline. If you want to get a look at our list, go to http://www.charityadvantage.com/CUAPB/images/MPD%20Cops%20with%20Most%20CRA%20Complaints.pdf or go to our website at www.CUAPB.org and click on the Reports and Documents tab.
We also raised our concerns with McManus over his efforts, in league with the Police Federation, to gut the Civilian Review Authority. Right now, the CRA has a 44% sustain rate--probably the highest in the whole country. (The sustain rate is a bit stilted by the fact that they are still hearing old cases that were too egregious for the previous director to throw out, but clearly they are taking their mandate seriously.) The last thing that needs to happen in light of recent incidents is to shut down the only legitimate city agency for community member complaints.
Video 2: Kick Him When He's Down
As this editor was leaving that meeting, I was ushered around the corner by a Channel 5 reporter and asked to view a second video of a handcuffed man being abused by Minneapolis police. It was sickening but not new to see a police officer walk up on the scene and move a bicycle out of the way just to be able to kick that man in the face. Clearly, kicking someone who is on the ground and handcuffed and who posed no danger to you at all is excessive force. Cops are now trying to rationalize by saying the kick was a "soft kick." It doesn't matter. Force is only supposed to be used to get a situation under control and then only if the person poses a danger to the police officer or others. Anyway you cut it, the kick did not meet that standard. Besides, how "soft" do you think that kick was to the recipient of it?
We now know the man in that video was Jhontez Watson and we are working with his mother to help him get an attorney and get other support. Mr. Watson has been vilified in the media as having a "criminal record"--in fact, his charges stemmed from this and a previous police brutality incident. Bear in mind that he was charged with Obstructing Legal Process, the hallmark charge given to cover police brutality. He goes to court on that charge on September 21st and we'll be there with him. We'll give the particulars closer to the date.
Considering all the posturing to justify what was caught on video, dollars to donuts the cops involved, Officer John Laluzerne and Sgt. Carroll Holley, never experience a single repercussion for their actions. We hate to be pessimists but it would be nice if some of these cases did not just fade into oblivion.
Cops as Carnivors: What Some Would Do for Steak Dinner
In addition to brutality, the corrupt underbelly of the MPD was exposed this week when it came out in the papers that Minneapolis Lt. Kevin Stoll announced during a roll call that he would buy a steak dinner for any cop who "took down" community member Al Flowers. This announcement was the culmination of a full-scale campaign of harassment and intimidation against the Flowers family that included several nights of cops shining lights into the family home, banging on the doors in the middle of the night, an alert issued that falsely identified the family home as a gang/drug house, etc. This campaign appears to have continued even after police leadership ordered it stopped.
Why are the cops after Al Flowers and his family? Flowers was viciously brutalized and arrested by park police and MPD as he stood outside of the Minneapolis Urban League talking on a cell phone. He had been forced to leave a meeting of the NAACP, of which he was a member, when he questioned certain financial transactions by the leadership. (That leadership was eventually forced to resign and the chapter placed under national receivership as a result of those transactions.)
The incident with Flowers was witnessed by many prominent Black community members and was also caught on tape. The tape clearly shows there was no provocation for police arresting him in the first place, let alone choking and beating him while he was handcuffed. Despite this, the city has moved forward with what can only be described as vindictive prosecution against Flowers and his sister, former Minneapolis police officer Alissa Clemons, who have been charged with the usual cover charges for police brutality. The intimidation campaign was a lead-up to the trial on these charges, which was supposed to have started last Monday but was postponed. As a result of the harassment, the family is in hiding. They've petitioned the state supreme court for a restraining order and their attorneys have petitioned the court to drop all charges due to witness intimidation by police. Decisions on these petitions are expected soon and we will report more as this situation develops. Certainly we'll continue to be in court with the Flowers family if the case ever goes to trial.
Lt. Stoll has not been suspended and local media have even gone to great pains to make him look like a model cop. None have mentioned that Internal Affairs sustained a code of ethics violation against him in 2002. Apparently, the TV media have to play the video of a cop doing something wrong before the cop gets suspended these days.
Now the Good News: HC Prosecutor Goes Down in Defeat (Again)
The last bit of news of the week is good. Judge Charles Porter ruled against Hennepin County prosecutor Anita Jehl's attempt to reinstate charges against Philander Jenkins that had resulted in a mistrial (see the 7/29/04 and 8/6/04 newsletters on our website at www.CUAPB.org). He also ruled that the actions of MPD Sgt. Nancy Murphy constituted prosecutorial misconduct and that the case was so tainted that to allow the state to recharge Philander would be double jeopardy.
Unfortunately, in their unseemly attempt to blame Philander for the beating inflicted on him by the cops (which resulted in a shattered jaw and other injuries) and the subsequent attack and molestation he endured while in jail, the Hennepin County prosecutors office announced they will appeal Judge Porter's ruling. Let's hope the state appeals court judge is as courageous and willing to uphold justice as Judge Porter has shown himself to be. We'll let you know about the next court support opportunity in this case.
FEAR OF FIRST AMENDMENT DRIVES SOME HCGC EMPLOYEES
We were at the Hennepin County Government Center a little over a week ago for a hearing in the Philander Jenkins case. We decided to bring some attention to the case by holding a rally at the fountain on the main (service) level. We held up our banner and some signs but remained silent, except when speaking to interested people.
In short order, several Hennepin County sheriff's deputies and security folks showed up. At first, they tried to get on us about our banner, until we proved that the sticks holding it up are made of cardboard. Next, they tried to tell us we can't hand out flyers, even to people who ask for information from us. The head of security came down but couldn't figure out what rule we were supposedly breaking until she confabbed with the dozen or so gendarmes flitting around us. She eventually gave us a paper listing rules of the building, which state that you can only solicit on the first floor of the building, at the end of the building that is blocked off due to construction. Although we weren't asking for money, she interpreted the word solicit to refer to handing out flyers, even to people who ask for them, and she said that particular activity can only happen in a place where no people actually congregate because there is no access to it. Now, that's the spirit of the First Amendment in action--NOT!.
A particularly aggressive deputy named R. O'Mara stood right behind this editor, his shoulder practically touching mine, to "see what I was doing." During that time, I was speaking to an attorney and asked the attorney for one of his cards. Although we were told we could not hand out flyers even to people who asked for them, this lawyer was not threatened with arrest (as we had been) when he handed me his card. Apparently, content of the material is everything.
After getting fed up with the deputies' menacing behavior, a couple of us went to see County Commissioner Gail Dorfman. She wasn't in but her policy aide, Kerry, was. We explained the situation and Kerry made a few phone calls and got these folks to back down and go away--thank you, Kerry!
There is no doubt that we will hold future rallies at the HCGC to express our opinions and draw attention to our cause. It is our right, after all, and our tax dollars pay for the building and the people who work in it. We are not satisfied to let some mid-level manager interpret how the First Amendment applies in the building, so there is no doubt we will be pursuing the matter of flyering in this public building. We'll let you know about our next action so you can join in and witness the ongoing saga.
PAWLENTY ATTACKS INS/BICE SEPARATION ORDINANCE: TIME TO ACT!
Some months ago, a broad coalition of organizations came together under the Local Impacts of the War on Terrorism Working Group. They were successful in getting both the Minneapolis and St. Paul city councils to pass ordinances prohibiting their police officers from asking individuals about immigration status if that questioning was the sole purpose of the encounter with police. The idea was to make it safer for immigrants to request police services, i.e. a person who is the victim of a crime should not have to face the possibility of being deported for reporting the crime.
Pawlenty recently wrote a letter to the city councils of Minneapolis and St. Paul requesting they rescind these ordinances under the pretext of vague concerns over homeland security. You need to understand that at the time these ordinances were passed, Ashcroft was traveling the country brokering deals with police departments to act as extensions of INS/BICE and these ordinances were seen as a repudiation of Ashcroft's agenda. Pawlenty is the head of the state Republican Party. He's probably been told to get the renegade parts of our state back in line under Ashcroft.
For everyone who resists Ashcroft's agenda of fear and scapegoating, there will be a meeting held to consider strategies for making sure the city councils maintain these important ordinances. Here's the announcement of the meeting:
Supporters of the Separation Ordinances: As you probably know, Governor Pawlenty's recent attack on the Separation Ordinances calls us to action. What actions will we take? It is clearly time for us to re-convene:
What: Meeting to gain clarity and develop collective direction. Information: What is the nature & status of the Governor's initiative to-date?
Evaluation: What are the projected consequences of the Governor's initiative?
Strategy: What are appropriate community responses?
Date: Wednesday September 8, 2004
Location: Community Room of Sagrado Corazon de Jesus/Incarnation Church, 3814 Pleasant Avenue South (on the southwest corner of 38th Street and Pleasant) Minneapolis
I look forward to seeing you at this important meeting.
Peter Brown, MN Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and member of the Local Impacts of the War on Terrorism Work Group
DO YOU KNOW YOUR RIGHTS WHEN DEALING WITH POLICE?
Come to a community training session to learn the best ways to handle
· Traffic stops
· Street/sidewalk stops
· Home visits
· Other encounters with police
PROTECT YOURSELF! Learn what to say (and not say) to a police officer, your rights regarding searches, your rights regarding ID cards, what to do (and not do) if arrested, your rights as an immigrant, and more.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Walker Community Church
3104 16th Avenue South
Sponsored by Communities United Against Police Brutality and Community Collaborative. For more information, directions, or if you need help dealing with a police brutality incident, call 612-874-7867.
DO YOU SUPPORT OUR WORK TO END POLICE BRUTALITY? GET ON BOARD WITH TEAM CUAPB!
CUAPB is participating in the Headwaters Walk for Justice to raise funds for our important work. Please support us. Go to the CUAPB team page. It literally takes about a minute to donate online or you can print a form and mail in a donation. Money raised will go toward our class action lawsuit against the Minneapolis police department and toward keeping our hotline going. Thanks for supporting our work!
If your email program does not support hyperlinks, copy and paste this URL to get to our team page: https://www.kintera.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=52922&lis=1&kntae52922=9C11F2AC22D94E04A8042D1B943CFD9F&supId=0&team=477147&cj=Y
C'mon now--it'll only take you a minute and you'll feel great knowing you are supporting a great cause.
Communities United Against Police Brutality
2104 Stevens Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)