The Minneapolis Police Department has made national headlines recently for a few separate incidents of police misconduct.
The Minneapolis Police Department has made national headlines recently for a few separate incidents of police misconduct, specifically those involving racial slurs. Currently five officers are the subjects of Internal Affairs investigations.
In one incident this past June, two White officers used a racial slur after an altercation with a group of Black men, called officers of a Wisconsin police department a “clown show” and said the city of Green Bay was “too n****r friendly.”
The officers were also reportedly upset that their names were taken by the police, saying “We have a lesbian f***ing chief that’s looking to fire people for any reason.”
Video footage from the police squad cars and the lobby of the Green Bay police station has been used by law enforcement to investigate the incident as well as local news stations reporting on the ordeal. However the video footage appears to only further incriminate the officers.
The other incident occurred last year in Apple Valley, Minn., and involved three White MPD officers who followed a group of Black men into a bar parking lot and beat one of the men to the ground.
Incident number one
The Green Bay ordeal began June 29, when MPD officers Brian Thole and Shawn Powell reportedly went out for drinks to a bar in Green Bay, Wisc. According to the Star Tribune, Powell used to work for the Green Bay police department, but both were in town for personal reasons.
When they left an establishment around 1 a.m. on foot, the two reportedly passed a group of nine Black men. A report from the GBPD says that one of the Black men bumped into one of the MPD officers, who responded with some harsh words to the group. In response, one of the Black men approached the officers and shared harsh words of his own.
Claiming he feared for his own safety, one of the MPD officers then punched the man in the face. Green Bay officers reported to the scene and noted that the MPD officers were agitated and complaining that the local police were not doing enough to find the Black men involved.
“We’re police officers,” one of the men said, adding that he punched one of the men in the face and was willing to do it again. The two MPD officers said the Black men “were doing their monkey thing,” and reportedly “expected preferential treatment” and pointed out “several times that they were full-time SWAT officers.”
The Green Bay police officers told the two MPD officers to go back to their hotel, and when the two left they told the Green Bay officers to “f**k off” and gave the officers the finger.
About an hour later Thole and Powell returned to the police station and complained about their treatment to the shift commander. The two said that they were victims, and that the police had not done anything to help them.
But according to the police report, Green Bay Police Lt. Steve Mahoney told the Minneapolis officers that if anyone was going to be charged, it would be them for disorderly conduct.
In response one of the MPD officers said that was “bullshit” and said he had a First Amendment right to use a racial slur. According to the police report the discussion became very heated and Lt. Mahoney became concerned it would escalate into a physical altercation, but Thole and Powell left the station and once again went back to their hotel.
Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau, the city’s first gay police chief, issued a statement last Friday saying that the two officers had been suspended pending an internal affairs investigation, but has not publicly commented on the incident.
While both Thole and Powell are military veterans who have received department awards and praise for their service to the force, they both have had misconduct suits filed against them before this incident.
Last September Thole was one of seven MPD officers who were sued over a “no-knock” warrant at a home in Minneapolis. He also was disciplined in 2010 after he was arrested for a DWI.
Powell was one of six officers sued in 2009 in relation to the officer-involved shooting of Ahmed Mohamed Guled, whose family says officers used “excessive, unreasonable and deadly force.”
In addition to the wrongful death lawsuit, Powell was involved in a videotaped beating of Minneapolis resident Derryl Jenkins. In February Jenkins filed a lawsuit claiming when he was pulled over a year ago in north Minneapolis for speeding, he was punched, kicked and Tasered by at least six officers. The Minneapolis City Council later agreed to a $235,000 settlement with Jenkins.
Incident number two
Last year in Apple Valley, Minn., three White officers, William C. Woodis, Christopher J. Bennett and Andrew R. Allen, were with a group of other White men at local bar Bogart’s Place when they decided to follow a group of Black men into the bar’s parking lot.
Security camera footage shows the off-duty officers follow the Black men into the parking lot, but the men quickly move out of the camera’s view. However, one of the men, Rodney Spann, who identified himself as a victim, said the group of White men shouted racial slurs while beating his uncle, Mike Spann.
Rodney Spann, 29, said they slammed his uncle against two vehicles in the parking lot and knocked Mike Spann to the ground where they kicked and punched him. Spann says he tried to break up the fight but was hit in the face himself.
Jon Bjork is a witness who called the Apple Valley police after seeing the incident. He says “The White guys were on the attack,” and told the Star Tribune he didn’t know anyone in either group.
While the incident was first reported in the local media after it occurred last November, it wasn’t known until this past week that three of the White men involved were from the Minneapolis Police Department.
The Star Tribune reported that Woodis, 47, and Bennett, 38, pleaded guilty June 3 in Dakota County court to disorderly conduct, and the charges against 28-year-old Allen were dropped.
Spann said he had planned to testify in court, but on the day he was to testify he was informed that the case had been settled. Spann says he is upset the officers were convicted of misdemeanors and says they should have been charged with a hate crime.
“You’re supposed to protect and serve whether you’re on duty or off duty,” he said. “I’m scared of police officers now.”
But the officers say that the Black men had been causing problems and “came up to them for no reason and tried to shake their hands. Woodis said the White men decided to leave the bar but the Black men followed them and began swinging.
According to the police report, Woodis smelled of alcohol and became “verbally aggressive” while he was being questioned.
While the Minneapolis Police Department finds itself making headlines recently, the issue of police brutality and police misconduct is a national one that affects every police department in the U.S.
Last month for example, ANSWER — an advocacy group that asks the public to Act Now to Stop War and End Racism — held a demonstration in Anaheim, Calif., to honor those who have died as a result of an officer-involved shootings.
The July 21 demonstration was held on the anniversary of the deaths of two Anaheim residents, whose deaths sparked national protests.
As Mint Press News previously reported, thousands of claims of police misconduct are made every year. According to the CATO Institute’s National Police Misconduct Reporting Project, there were 4,861 unique reports of police misconduct involving 6,613 sworn officers and 6,826 alleged victims in 2010.
The CATO Institute also updates a blog almost daily with reports of police brutality from across the U.S.