Federal lawyers fly to Minneapolis to investigate shooting

23 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Federal Lawyers Coming To Investigate Jamar Clark Shooting.

MINNEAPOLIS — The latest in the investigation into the fatal shooting of a black man by Minneapolis police that has sparked days of demonstrations (all times local): Kenya McKnight says the service will start at noon and last an hour. US Justice Department attorneys were expected to fly to Minnesota on Sunday, to investigate the killing of an African American man that has prompted protests and calls for the two Minneapolis police officers involved to be prosecuted.

Bettie Smith stepped up to the bank of television microphones in front of the Fourth Precinct police station, her hands clasped, and made a fervent plea for justice to be served in the death of a young black man during an encounter with Minneapolis police. Her words were not only about her son, Quincy, who died of cardiac arrest in 2008 after a scuffle with police, but also Jamar Clark, killed a week ago during a confrontation with police on the city’s North Side. Mark Dayton on Saturday said he would urge federal prosecutors to investigate “any matters…that may have violated the civil rights of any Minnesota citizens.” In a statement released about an hour after Dayton made his remarks, Chief Janeé Harteau claimed that she had “never seen more professionalism from police officers” and said that she “fully” supported her officers’ actions. “I’ve been in law enforcement for 29 years, and I’ve never seen more professionalism from police officers than has been displayed in Minneapolis at the 4th Precinct this week,” said Harteau. “I fully support the actions of my officers. Federal and state authorities have resisted releasing the footage – from an ambulance, mobile police camera, public housing cameras and people’s cellphones – because they said it does not show the full incident and making the recordings public would compromise their investigations.

The circumstances around Clark’s death are murky and in deep dispute, with police union leaders saying the unarmed 24-year-old was reaching for the officer’s gun. Protesters have been demonstrating outside a Minneapolis police station since Clark was shot during a struggle with officers who were answering an assault complaint last Sunday.

Minnesota governor Mark Dayton said on Saturday that he had asked Clark’s family and representatives of the Black Lives Matter group protesting his death to meet with the federal government lawyers. “I will urge that the tapes be provided to the family and released to the public, as soon as doing so will not jeopardize the Department of Justice’s investigation,” Dayton said after meeting with the family and leaders of the protesters. Some North Side residents see Clark’s shooting — the two officers involved were white — as the latest example of the community’s strained relationship with a police force that, historically, has rarely reflected the city’s racial and ethnic makeup. We think they’re guilty, but let the court decide.” Both officers involved in the shooting, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, have been placed on standard administrative leave.

Critics have accused police of heavy-handed tactics, using pepper spray and batons to disperse the mostly peaceful protests that sprung up outside the department’s Fourth Precinct house just hours after the shooting death of the 24-year-old Clark early Sunday. Mark Dayton and influential legislators to include community and economic development measures specifically for the black community in a possible special legislative session.

A shaky video that surfaced online earlier this week appears to show an officer bending down to check on Clark, who is lying motionless on his stomach, reigniting the debate over whether the 24-year-old was handcuffed at the time he was shot. State and federal investigators said they will not release surveillance footage from the scene until the investigation is concluded, over protesters’ objections. No, no, we’ve just learned to be tolerant of each other.” Clark’s death occurred in the midst of a national debate sparked by deadly encounters between police and young black men in Baltimore, South Carolina and Ferguson, Mo. Police have said Clark, whose criminal record included a conviction for first-degree robbery, was shot in an altercation with officers after he interfered with a paramedic assisting his girlfriend, the victim of an assault.

After officers used pepper spray to drive back protesters, Council member Alondra Cano wrote the department, asking for a “‘cease-mace’ policy.” Cano and several other council members have at times joined in the protests, earning them condemnation from some of their colleagues. Despite the federal investigation, protesters have expressed skepticism and demanded more information, including the release of videos of the incident. For some longtime North Siders, Clark’s death stirred memories of the police shootings of Tycel Nelson and Terrance Franklin, whose deaths also set off protests and heightened calls for a culture change at the police department. “There’s nothing unfortunately different about this, other than the name of the victim, and the name of the perpetrator,” said Ron Edwards, a longtime civil rights activist. One department-sponsored study found nearly two-thirds of those arrested by police over the past six years were blacks, who make up less than 20 percent of the city’s population.

An American Civil Liberties Union study suggested blacks were significantly more likely than whites to be arrested for low-level crimes like marijuana possession (11.5 times more likely) and disorderly conduct (9 times). Shvonne Johnson, a college professor and lifelong North Side resident, said she joined a community group and frequently protested for police accountability after repeatedly seeing black motorists pulled over for seemingly minor traffic offenses. Of the 29 people killed by Minneapolis officers in incidents involving use of force since 2000, 18 were black, according to a Star Tribune analysis of news and police reports, and death certificate data.

Not all of those victims were unarmed, and department policy says Minneapolis officers are authorized to use deadly force when a suspect “creates a substantial risk of causing death or great bodily harm.” The city has paid out more than $6 million in alleged cases of police misconduct since 2012. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis police union, said he didn’t dispute the statistics, but asked the public not to rush to judgment in the Clark case. “What do you do to change it? As of October, 22 percent of Minneapolis’ approximately 800 officers were ethnic minorities, according to department statistics, up from 18 percent in 2011. Harteau said she has taken a hard stance on problem officers, firing six in her tenure, including two who were caught using racial slurs in Green Bay, Wis.

Ray Dunn, 54, a lifelong North Sider, traced the shift to more aggressive policing back to the 1980s and the rise of crack cocaine, which ravaged urban neighborhoods in Minneapolis and parts of the country. “It’s pervasive and you’ve gotta be blind not to know that,” Dunn said, before ducking into the Camden Mart at the corner of N. Hodges, who has been outspoken in the past about her intention to root out problem officers, said last year that she wants the department to mirror St. Paul’s “high touch” approach to community policing, “getting officers out of their cars and talking to people, building those relationships, building trust.” It’s tough, Harteau and Kroll said, because in many cases, officers are running from call to call and don’t have time to build connections with the community.

Harteau said the recent discord over Clark’s death is “a temporary setback” in community relations “and is an opportunity for us to move forward, with reinvigorated partnerships and new partnerships.”

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