MPD: On the north side, ‘anything goes’ policing may be getting more common

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Before the memory of the episode grows too dim, we should maybe stop and ask whether last month’s bullet-riddled MPD raid on a home where an innocent family lay sleeping was the horrible anomaly it was made out to be or a more-public-than-usual token of an evolving approach to policing the north side of Minneapolis. There is some additional anecdotal evidence from that very week that points toward the latter.

Consider two other incidents that occurred within a three-day period preceding the much-reported December 16 raid on Logan Avenue. Two days earlier, as reported only at the Mole to date, police who were executing a warrant in a robbery/burglary case went to the Thomas Avenue North home of one suspect’s mother–a place where underage children lived–and allegedly did their best to make the place uninhabitable by cutting phone lines, cable, the electrical cord to the family’s refrigerator, and destroying the thermostat that controlled the house’s heating.

As I reported at the time, an MPD sergeant who took part in the raid said he’d seen no such thing and couldn’t believe police had done it. He allowed that it had been “a rough search;” he went on to emphasize how heinous the crime behind the raid warrant had been–a 93-year-old woman was robbed and knocked down in a church parking lot, and her home was later burglarized–and how many police calls there had been at the address since 2001. In any case, Minneapolis PCRC co-chair Ron Edwards visited the home and verified that the damage alleged by the occupants had indeed been done by someone.

That happened two days before the wrong-house raid on Logan Avenue; more recently, the Daily Mole has seen police files on another incident that occurred three days before the Logan raid. Unlike the first two incidents, this one did not involve a raid team, though it eventually did bring multiple backup units to the scene.

According to those files, the December 13 incident started with a run-in between new neighbors in the north side’s Folwell neighborhood. On that day, several members of a black family were hauling their belongings from a moving truck parked in the alley into a house they’d rented. Before long they found themselves in a verbal dispute with a new neighbor, who claimed they were blocking access to his garage.

The neighbor called the police. The family that was moving in called the police, too. Almost an hour later, around 9 pm, a squad car arrived at the scene. In short order all hell broke loose; within 10 minutes an additional six squad cars were sent racing to the scene.

The accounts of police and of the family agree on this much: One man helping the family move did not pay due deference to the police when they arrived, and he wound up forcibly subdued and under arrest on felony charges of assaulting a police officer.

According to the version of events officers describe in their reports, a male relative of the woman who placed the 911 call became belligerent with police, telling them “It’s over with–you pussies can leave. We don’t fucking need you here now.” When one cop tried to place this man under arrest for obstructing justice, he allegedly began physically assaulting the officer. By the time this man was subdued, another male relative in the moving party had joined in punching and kicking police, and he too was forcibly subdued and arrested. There is no suggestion that either man was intoxicated, or mentally disturbed.

A police investigator reviewing the incident received a very different account from the woman who originally placed the 911 call:

“She stated that her nephew told her, ‘[we] don’t need the fucking police.’ She stated that she told the officers not to pay attention to him, that she called. She stated that they immediately went over and pulled him out of the truck. She stated that they rammed his head into the side of the truck several times and then handcuffed him. She stated that the [shorter] officer came around to the yard and began yelling fucking niggers. She stated that she began trying to get everyone into the house and then they tackled her son-in-law as he was going into the house. She stated that they began beating on him and kicking him. She stated that she got everyone else into the house and called 911 again to get someone else out to stop the assaults…

“She stated that the officers who responded were racist… She stated that the officers’ actions were uncalled for considering the situation as she saw it. She stated that her sons did not do anything toward being beaten the way they were beat. She stated that as everyone was going inside, officers hit her 11-year-old son in the head with a flashlight and told him to shut the fuck up…”

So here we have not one but two other incidents involving claims of what might be called cowboy-style policing during the same week as the much-publicized shoot-’em-up raid on Logan Avenue last month. Neither has made the mainstream media, and neither is likely to; claims of police misconduct very rarely make the news unless they end up spawning a lawsuit.

And of course it’s possible that police are telling the whole unvarnished truth in both instances. It’s possible that the family living in the Thomas Avenue house that was raided on December 14 cut off their own phone, cable, refrigeration, and furnace in a bid to win “attention,” as an MPD sergeant speculated to me at the time. But from whom? They have not contacted the media, or, as far I know, an attorney.

Likewise, it’s possible that the two men helping their family move on December 13 decided to take their lives into their own hands by not only verbally but physically assaulting two armed and uniformed Minneapolis cops. It’s possible, but how likely is it?

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