E-DEMOCRACY | St. Paul Police Brutality


From: NickColeman 

Date: Aug 29 18:56 CDT 

As I Tweeted earlier, I love ST PAUL COPS but these guys better have a good explanation…plus, would someone please explain to all city workers: You Are on Camera Now.


From: Jon Gorder 

Date: Aug 29 23:23 CDT 

This is grievous assault. No room here for police talk about complicating shadows that simple civilians can’t possibly understand, that’s just plain assault. What a man it takes to inspire his extremely courageous armed self and dare to kick a handcuffed victim who had the nerve to ask what the hell was going on. What’s this super dudes badge number and name?  I’m a Minneapolis born guy and I’ve always thought the St. Paul cops were leagues beyond the wretch and brutality that stains the Minneapolis system. Hey, what do ya know?   


From: Kathleen Murphy 

Date: 01:23 CDT 

Hmm.  I have to disagree here a bit folks.  I think an investigation IS warranted.  I agree that the kick in the chest/chin seems unwarranted, but my understanding is that the cop asked him to shut up and lie down 5 times. Hightower was on his side while coughing, looking as if he could get up. If there’s any indication that this person could be dangerous (prior arrests, criminal history, etc), then it’s the officer’s prerogative to subdue him until his backup arrives. 

Now the slamming him on the hood of the car certainly looks provoked to me.  When the other cop arrives and they get him on his feet, you can blatantly see that he shouted something or spit on the original officer.  That kind of behavior gets you thrown against a car or a wall or wherever they are going to put you to search you for weapons, etc. 

Again, I’m not saying that the officer’s actions weren’t somewhat excessive.  But I do agree with Titus that city officials, and maybe some of the rest of us, should hold comment until some basic information from an investigation is released.


From: Melvin Carter 

Date: 09:00 CDT 

Add my voice to those calling for an investigation.  The behavior shown in this video does NOT at all meet the high standards of professionalism I expect from every SPPD officer. The officers involved must be held accountable for their actions.  Melvin W. Carter III Saint Paul City Council, Ward 1


From: Steven Clift 

Date: 09:09 CDT 

Here is the Mayor’s statement from:  http://stpaul.gov/DocumentCenter/View/59129 

Statement from Mayor Chris Coleman regarding the recently posted video of Saint Paul Police: 

The video of a Saint Paul Police officer striking a suspect raises serious questions about the conduct of the officer.  I spoke to Police Chief Tom Smith and he has begun a full investigation. 

I grew up in Saint Paul having full confidence in the Saint Paul Police Department.  I have high expectations for the department and its employees.  We will fully investigate and take appropriate action.


From: Charlie Quimby 

Date: 09:38 CDT 

Interesting and disheartening to read the mostly extreme comments on this video at YouTube. With so many racist and police-killing statements left up, it makes me wonder what it took to get a few comments deleted. 

Most commenters see the incidents in black and white, based on their own perspectives. But few things in life are so clear cut. 

For example, to me, Hightower doesn’t look all that willing or able to jump up from the position he’s in, but then a blubbery NFL lineman out of pads may not look very athletic, either, and a cop is trained not to make assumptions that’ll make him vulnerable when working alone. Kicking a man on the ground is not cool to us, but I expect the cop is trained in various techniques to subdue people, and a kick has the advantage of surprise, force and keeping the rest of the officer’s body out of the victim’s grasp. 

Mr. Hightower may not be Mr. Clean and the video shows nothing of what happened before he was on the ground. We don’t know if his claims about not having any warrants are true, and we don’t know what police were taking out of his pockets. We also know police make mistakes and the force has bad apples like any other line of work. 

I don’t like what I saw, but I don’t know what happened, either. Tempting as it is for us to be film critics, we have to leave the job to investigators and hope they can see outside their own blinders.


From: Mona Langston 

Date: 09:44 CDT 

Yes its pretty clear to me anyway… is that the way they were taught to subdue a reluctant arrestee?  And next thing theyll be asking the community to trust them. Im so tired of seeing this all over the place…not just here but everywhere…enuf is enuf the person was laying down not trying to escape u could tell the person was talking to the cop then wham a kick in the face…wow thats just plain assault no justification for it whatsoever…but ill bet theyll find a way.  Sadly.  


From: Andrew Hine 

Date: 10:01 CDT 

Of course an investigation is warranted.  But some things are already crystal clear: 

1)  Hightower (EH) was with a friend, the cameraman, who seems as nice as can be.

2)  The park was “filled” with children and adults.

3)  EH was on the sidewalk and posing little to no threat, regardless of what he had said the previous hour or day or week or month or year.

4)  People were watching the whole thing unfold.

5)  Zilge (JZ, ironically), was laughing.

6)  JZ did not appear to be afraid.

7)  It is unclear what JZ’s partner was doing until he helped to lift EH from the sidewalk.  Maybe he didn’t have a partner…

8)  Several cops “protected” the squad onto which EH’s face was smashed.  They were facing “the crowd” as if to ward them off.

9)  There is nothing “apparent” about EH’s hair getting pulled.

10) If I were EH, I would have been extremely upset and emotional to feel as though I were living in a Police State.

11) If we are to treat the police as innocent until proven guilty, so shall EH be treated.

12) No officers appeared to try to mellow out any other officers.

14) Judging by the number of officers who were on the scene (after EH was handcuffed), they either wanted a piece of the action, were concerned about a potential riot, or had nothing better to do.  I suspect they knew what they were doing was wrong, and that they feared a backlash.

15) We should be able to learn more about JZ’s personal life, and to know if he is affiliated with any hate groups.  He is a public employee, with “issues.”

16) Six to 8 officers were very near the car as they put EH into the car, but not before throwing him to the boulevard first.

17) In the end (of the video), there were at least 5 squad cars, probably 6, and possibly more.

18) Children are seen viewing what appears to be complete overkill to apprehend one of their neighbors. 

Whether you support the police in this incident or not, they have lost my respect.  Many are complicit, also.  I met an asshole cop the other month, and I overheard one off-duty talking to another guy about how they don’t have to live in Saint Paul.  It’s as if they are going to battle each day, not protecting and serving – it’s not their home.


From: Tom Goldstein 

Date: 15:59 CDT 

I disagree with the majority of Kathleen’s comments. Unfortunately, the notion that if you lip off and don’t comply with an officer’s commands then “you’re asking for it,” is very much a theme that seems to reflect widely held attitudes of cops and I suspect a fair number of St. Paul citizens as well. And while I agree with Charlie Quimby that we shouldn’t necessarily let one video be our sole source of information regarding the incident that took place in the park, if the action by the police that is very clearly depicted on the video is seen as justified by this community–something that Kathleen suggests might be the case–then it will only confirm that excessive force, particularly toward black suspects, is as acceptable in St. Paul as it is in places like Chicago, L.A., New York, and many other communities that have been accused of widespread racism among their police officers.  

This is not to suggest that the suspect was a “good” actor. His previous record, which the officer certainly must have (or should have) known, indicated that he’s not a great guy and that he’s had previous run-ins with the police. And the allegations against him, reported in today’s paper (aggravated stalking, making terroristic threats, 4th degree criminal damage to property) don’t paint a flattering picture, either. So it’s certainly possible that the officer was justified in using mace (something that nobody has yet questioned on this listserv) if he attempted to take the suspect into custody and the suspect became violent or otherwise resisted arrest. Everything beyond that, however, was excessive force–plain and simple. As the video shows, while the suspect was lying on the ground and coughing, the officer kicked him in the upper chest area, knowing full well that backup was on the way. (Sirens can be heard about 15 seconds later on the video; a second officer appears in about 45 seconds to help lift the suspect off the ground.) There was no threat to the officer, there was no risk of flight, and an arrest was imminent.  

One can only speculate as to why the officer at that moment decided to behave in this fashion, as an arrest could obviously be accomplished much easier with the help of another officer and without resorting to the actions shown on the tape. That both officers then proceeded to slam a handcuffed suspect onto the hood of a squad car served no purpose other than to send a message to the suspect that he was in their control and they could do with him as they pleased. This is at the root of all unnecessary police violence, which is why excessive force has such a corrosive effect on the community, especially among those who have witnessed such behavior time and again.  

It is understandable that cops might lose patience with known offenders, repeat criminals, or suspects who might be lipping off as this suspect was clearly doing. (As he is being lifted off the ground, he appears to utter the words “fuck you” to the officer who arrested him.) And I’m sure there are many in the community who believe this guy got what he deserved, that if you tell a cop to “fuck off” that you might get a nightstick to the head or your face slammed into the hood of a police cruiser. But aren’t the cops supposed to be the ones who are trained to tolerate such verbal abuse? Sure cops are human like the rest of us, but when they are wearing a uniform and carrying a gun, society expects more of them, particularly in situations where confrontations take place in broad daylight on our neighborhood streets (as opposed to some dark alley at midnight where a suspect might be hiding behind a door and considered armed and dangerous.) Clearly the cops involved in this arrest didn’t care what the public observed. The question now is whether the rest of us will let the community or the police department define the boundaries of acceptable behavior.  

I have known my share of St. Paul cops over the years, most of whom I consider to be highly professional and whom I believe would not have behaved as the officers in this videotape. However, I’ve also witnessed instances of unacceptable behavior by white cops toward black individuals, including profanity, intimidation, shoving, overreaction, and basic disrespect–and these were cases in which no arrests were made. I applaud the mayor’s call for an investigation, but it should be only the start of a much wider conversation about policing in St. Paul, including the lackluster commitment to diversity and what I believe is a longstanding case of disparate treatment toward communities of color


From: Jeanne Weigum 

Date: 16:28 CDT 

I would like to add two comments: 

Having spent 2+ decades in corrections I identify pretty strongly with anyone in law enforcement.  Any time “one of us” behaved badly, it reflected badly on all of us.  I felt shame that I was part of an organization that could mistreat people or ignore their needs.  My worst experience was the suicide of a man who had repeatedly asked for medical help and was turned away because the nurse on duty thought he was “faking”.  In that case there were few if any consequences to the nurse or the medical team.  I believe that the fact that the man was accused of a sex offense and was not in the US legally made it possible to ignore our reprehensible behavior.  We will see and here more of these excuses in the days to come, I predict. 

The second issue relates to the use of the irritating spray.  Unless you have been sprayed or been close to people who have been sprayed you may not know just how awful that stuff can be.  According to the newspaper the man was not given access to anything to wash off the spray for hours.  The spray can affect people differently but most people experience coughing and all body orifices can feel like they are on fire.  In my past there were certainly times when we needed to use a chemical spray to bring a situation under control but our policy and practice was to get the person to a shower immediately that they were tractable so they could wash the stuff off and put out the fire.  If, as the newspaper reports, this man was not allowed access to a shower, that would be on the jail staff and would have undoubtedly led to unnecessary pain and suffering. 


From: Elizabeth KARRE 

Date: 17:33 CDT 

Hear, hear, Tom–you delineated the issues nicely.  I’m particularly troubled by statements like this from Kathleen: “When the other cop arrives and they get him on his feet, you can blatantly see that he shouted something or spit on the original officer. That kind of behavior gets you thrown against a car or a wall…” 

Why should “that kind of behavior” get you rough treatment? Cursing or spitting is not the same as physically struggling–it’s not harming the officer (and Hightower was handcuffed already anyway). It’s rude, it’s provocative, it makes it harder for the officer, but I agree that we expect police officers to be more professional. Makes me wonder if Hightower had been calmly asking questions or singing a protest song if this would also be seen as justification for slamming him around after he was handcuffed.   

See thread here.

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