Police Brutality and Excessive Force

On Monday, Madia Law filed suit in United States District Court on behalf of Plaintiff Tammy Liddle against Bloomington Police Officer Jeff Thibert.  Ms. Liddle’s federal lawsuit (14-CV-431-JNE/JSM) alleges unreasonable search and seizure, unlawful arrest, and excessive force.  Ms. Liddle is also in possession of squad cam video of the subject incident.

Bloomington City Hall Bloomington City Hall

 

Below is a copy of the Complaint, with some names redacted: [click to continue…]

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The ability to safely, calmly and professionally interact with the public without rage and violence is an intrinsic and basic part of law enforcement.  According to a lawsuit filed by Madia Law on behalf of Walter Tournat, an 85-year-old disabled Navy veteran who had called police to his own home, on November 16, 2013, Baxter Police Officer Trent Westerlund showed a complete lack of these essential skills and a disregard for laws of the United States.

Defendant Trent Westerlund

Mr. Tournat’s allegations indicate that Westerlund acted with an outrageous disregard for Tournat’s rights and dignity when, in an abhorrent fit of rage, Westerlund publicly assaulted Mr. Tournat, throwing him onto his back and onto pavement, where Mr. Tournat hit his head and suffered injury.  The following are the background allegations from the Complaint.   [click to continue…]

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The Stolen Lives Project determined that during the entire decade of the 1990′s, over 2000 deaths occurred at the hands of police officers.  Seven years ago, a bureau of the U.S. Department of Justice released a similar report that focused only on the years 2003 thru 2005.  That report indicated that over 2000 people died while being arrested by police officers during those three years alone, and that during each of those three years, the rate of such deaths increased by 13%.  There is also myriad evidence to indicate that police officer deaths at the hands of suspects is increasing at an alarming rate; for example, the FBI determined that from 2007 to 2008, the rate of officer deaths at the hands of suspects jumped 25%.

MInneapolis Civil Rights Attorneys

Although evidence indicates that lethal interactions between police and suspects are increasing, and although it is increasingly common for federal prosecutors to criminally target officers, it is still, overall, exceptionally rare for criminal charges to be filed against police.  Significant spikes in civil liability and lawsuits (i.e., New York, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Minneapolis) suggest that a closer look at police officers by prosecutors might be warranted. [click to continue…]

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One and a half years ago, DelShawn Crawford Sr. was shot and killed by Minneapolis police officers in his girlfriend’s home.  On behalf of Crawford’s estate, Madia Law has filed a wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit against two Minneapolis police officers, Laura Turner and Chad Meyer.  What follows is a summary of the allegations against the police officers in the Complaint filed on September 19 in United States District Court.

KMSP-TV

On May 12, 2012, Delshawn Crawford was spending a “family night” with his girlfriend Brandy Lewis, her children, her children’s friends, and cousins of Ms. Lewis.  At approximately 1:30 AM, following the family gathering, there were still seven individuals in Ms. Lewis’ home.  Mr. Crawford and Ms. Lewis engaged in a verbal argument; Ms. Lewis continued to clean the home while they were arguing. [click to continue…]

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The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently agreed to take a case that could potentially lead to the Badger State becoming only the second state to require a warrant before tracking an individual based on their cell phone.  In May, Montana enacted a bill that made them the first.  See H.B. 603, 63rd Leg., Reg. Sess. (Mont. 2013).

Wisconsin Civil Rights Attorneys

In June 2009, Milwaukee police obtained video surveillance of a suspect purchasing a cell phone before fatally shooting a man.  The police acquired the number of the cell phone and obtained a court order to track the phone’s physical location.  This tracking led the police to Bobby Tate, who they found wearing the same clothes of the suspect on the video and also blood-stained shoes containing the same DNA as that of the shooting victim.  Tate alleges that the police obtained evidence against him by violating his Fourth Amendment rights. [click to continue…]

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A civilized society depends on a well-maintained police force dedicated to service and protection.  However, when officers stray from the duties sworn in their oath, the citizens must have some method of redress.  The current approach in Minneapolis ignores the importance of deterring unacceptable officer behavior and instead focuses on mitigating bad press and decreasing financial liabilities.  Unfortunately, neither of these goals is being achieved and that is because the police department needs to refocus its goals and institute a system that encourages deterrence.

A recent article in the Star Tribune adequately summarizes the problems our police department has created for itself. [1]  “Despite nearly $14 million in payouts for alleged police misconduct over the past seven years, the Minneapolis Police Department rarely concluded that the officers involved did anything wrong…  Of 95 payouts from 2006 to 2012… eight resulted in officers being disciplined…”[2]  These facts show that the Minneapolis Police Department is not decreasing financial liability, nor is it avoiding negative media exposure.  What is the cause of such large payouts?  Finding this root will help focus a solution.  Are Minneapolis residents overly litigious?  Are Minneapolis police officers overly confrontational and unreasonable?  Rather, if the root of the problem is not within the players, could it be the system in which the players must participate?  What is that system anyway? [click to continue…]

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The ability to safely, calmly, and professionally interact with the public without violence is an intrinsic and basic part of law enforcement.  In a case settled this past Friday with the City of Minneapolis, Madia Law client Ernest Abbott alleged that on November 12, 2009, Minneapolis Police Officer Christopher Steward showed a lack of those essential skills, a shocking disregard for Mr. Abbott’s rights and dignity, and a disrespect for the laws of the United States.  Mr. Abbott, who was 16 years-old and weighed 130 pounds, alleged that Officer Steward severely beat him, kicking and stomping on his head and face.

On October 16, 2012, Madia Law, on behalf of Mr. Abbott, sued Officer Steward (individually and in his official capacity as a Minneapolis police officer) in United States federal District Court.  The Complaint included charges of unlawful arrest, unreasonable search and seizure, and excessive force, all in violation of the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
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St. Paul Police Officer Jesse Zilge is at home this week, pending the results of an expedited internal affairs investigation.  Video uploaded to Youtube on August 28th shows Zilge kicking an unarmed man in what appears to be either the face, throat, or chest.  While the video clearly raises concern with regard to the officer’s conduct, it is particularly disconcerting in light of Madia Law’s recent jury trial victory against St. Paul Police Officer Adam Bailey, as it also raises the serious question of whether there is a pattern and practice of excessive force and police misconduct in the St. Paul Police Department.

Based on the video, it appears the victim will have a viable civil lawsuit against Zilge for excessive force, a claim made possible by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution via Title 42 U.S.C § 1983.   [click to continue…]

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The City of Minneapolis has paid out more than $15 million in the last six years for lawsuits alleging police misconduct. In a one-two punch that will mean the end of the Minneapolis Police Civilian Review Authority (CRA), the Minneapolis City Council and the Minnesota State Legislature are currently taking steps that will likely see that amount increase as victims of police misconduct are left with little choice but to file similar lawsuits if they are to expect any meaningful independent oversight.

http://www.minneapolismn.gov/www/groups/public/@civilrights/documents/webcontent/wcms1p-084648.pdf

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Minnesota police departments, like many across the nation, are rapidly expanding their use of video technology by individual police officers. Gone is the day when officers were limited to using traditional COPS-style dash-cams to record what was happening directly in front of their police cruiser. Individual officers can now wear cameras on their heads, which allow them to record virtually everything they see in the course of their duties. Police departments are also using a plethora of other technology to supplement video evidence. Such video documentation has been critically important in protecting police and providing crucial evidence; such as in this case from Burnsville, Minnesota.

Video screenshot: copblock.org

As video camera technology expands for police, however, so it does for the average citizen. Read More . . .

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Off-Duty Minneapolis Police Officer Punches Man in Head

June 26, 2012

Minneapolis Police Sergeant David Clifford, 47, is the executive member of the SWAT team and a 19-year department veteran who has twice received the Medal of Valor. Last week, Clifford was charged with felony assault after he punched Brian Vander Lee in the head at Tanners Station in Andover. Clifford’s actions resulted in Vander Lee requiring life […]

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May 2012: Madia Law Launches New Website and Civil Rights Blog

May 22, 2012

Dear Friends, It’s been 3 years since Madia Law opened and I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to represent so many good and decent people going through tough times. I hope and believe that we’ve changed many lives for the better. Madia Law has taken on slumlords who subjected their tenants to awful living […]

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April 2012: Madia Law wins jury trial in federal court for excessive force against St. Paul Police Department

April 16, 2012

On September 26, 2009, Deshun Carter was barbequing in front of his house with his mother, father, and wife.  Two officers arrived and told him to turn down the music coming from his vehicle.  Carter immediately complied and told the officers that he was sorry for the music and wasting their time.  He identified himself […]

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May 2009: Introducing Madia Law

May 1, 2009

Dear Friends, I am excited to inform you that I am starting a new business venture, Madia Law LLC – a dynamic and aggressive law firm that will serve Minnesota individuals and small businesses.

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