Status of Civil Litigation Over George Floyd Killing

On July 15, attorneys for the family of George Floyd (by their trustee Kaarin Nelson Schaffer, a Minnesota attorney and resident of Hennepin County) sued the City of Minneapolis and the four ex-police officers involved in Floyd’s death—Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng. The 40-page Complaint has three counts. “Count I—42 U.S.C. §1983—Fourth Amendment Violations” is asserted against the four ex-policemen while counts II and III are against the City of Minneapolis: “Count II– 42 U.S.C. §1983—Monell Liability” and “Count III–42 U.S.C. §1983—Canton Liability.” [1]

The only development so far in the case is the August 18 filing of a Stipulation for 60-Day Stay of Litigation between the plaintiff and the City of Minneapolis. Such a stay until October 17 was requested “so that the parties may continue to discuss the possibility of a longer stay which would continue until the criminal proceedings against the individual Defendants are completed.”[2]

The next day, two Minneapolis attorneys—Gregory M. Erickson and Erick G. Kaardal–entered their appearances for defendant Derek Chauvin.

Background of U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson[3]

Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who is presiding over this civil case, had 23  years of experience as an attorney in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Minnesota, the last 16 as a skillful attorney in high stakes civil litigation for an eminent Minneapolis law firm. Then in 2000 the judges of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota appointed her to the position of U.S. Magistrate Judge, who handles various pretrial matters and settlement conferences.

Most relevant for the current civil case over George Floyd from Nelson’s experience as a Magistrate Judge was her supervising settlement discussions over a racial discrimination suit by five high-ranking Black Minneapolis police officers—including current Chief Medaria Arrandondo. In July 2008, “the parties were on the of a $2 million settlement that also included the addition of a new deputy police chief position focused on documenting and responding to reports of discrimination both within the department and in the community. The tentative agreement included data collection about racially based policing and publication of that data; the Police Department’s adherence to terms of a previously proposed federal consent decree; and ongoing court oversight to ensure the settlement agreement’s terms were implemented and followed.”

One of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, Robert Muller, recently said Nelson “artfully encouraged the parties to work towards a potential resolution that included provisions beyond simply monetary relief. Her encouragement prompted the parties to be creative, dig in, and come up with what could have been very meaningful [police] reform.”

However, the Minneapolis City Council failed to approve this settlement. A year later the case was settled, but without the previously agreed upon policy changes.

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[1] See these posts to dwkcommentaries.com: George Floyd’s Family Sues City of Minneapolis and Four Ex-Officers Involved in His Death (July 16, 2020); George Floyd’s Family’s Complaint Against the Four Ex-Police Officers Over His Death (July 17, 2020); George Floyd Family’s Complaint Against the City of Minneapolis Over His Death: Count II (July 18, 2020); George Floyd Family’s Complaint Against the City of Minneapolis Over His Death: Count III (July 19, 2020).

[2] Stipulation for 60-Day Stay of Litigation, Schaeffer v. Chauvin, Civil No. 20-1577 (Aug. 18, 2020, U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Minn.).

[3] Montemayor, Judge overseeing Floyd family’s federal suit no stranger to high stakes litigation, StarTribune (Sept. 6, 2020); Susan Richard Nelson, Wikipedia.

George Floyd Family’s Complaint Against the City of Minneapolis Over His Death: Count III       

As noted in a prior post, on July 15, the family of George Floyd filed a federal civil action with two claims (Counts II and III) for money damages against the City of Minneapolis and one claim (Count I) against the four ex-police officers who were involved in Floyd’s death—Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng. This post will discuss Count III.[1] while Counts I and  II were discussed in prior posts.

Legal Basis

Count III is asserted against the City of Minneapolis under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, which states as follows:

  • “Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress. . . .”

Count III also is based upon so-called “Canton Liability,” which refers to the U.S. Supreme Court case, Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378 (1989), which held that a municipality may be held liable under section 1983 for constitutional violations resulting from its failure to train its employees where such failure to train in a relevant respect amounts to deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of persons with whom the police come into contact.

Factual Allegations

The Parties

“6. Plaintiff Kaarin Nelson Schaffer (“Schaffer”) resides in Hennepin county, Minnesota, and is an attorney duly licensed to practice before the State and Federal; Courts of Minnesota. On July 6, 2020, Schaffer was appointed as trustee for George Floyd’s next of kin.”

“7. Mr. Floyd is survived by next of kin including his children and siblings.”

“8. Minneapolis is and was at all times material hereto a political subdivision of the State of Minnesota, organized and existing under and by virtue of the laws of Minnesota.”

“9. The Minneapolis Police Department (“MPD”) is and was at all times material hereto a Minneapolis agency, providing the vehicle through which the City fulfills its policing functions.”

“Count III – 42 U.S.C. §1983 – Canton Liability”

“247. Plaintiff hereby incorporates and re-alleges all preceding paragraphs as though fully pleaded herein.”

“248.Minneapolis failed to properly train or modify its training to Defendant Officers and its other officers, including but not limited to, matters related to the reasonable and appropriate use of force during such arrests, and intervention in the excessive use offorce by fellow officers.”

“249. Effectuating an arrest, using force to effectuate an arrest, and intervening in the use of force is a usual and recurring situation with which Minneapolis law enforcement officers and other agents encounter on a regular basis.”

“250. As such, Minneapolis was aware of a need for more and different training.Minneapolis specifically knew that its officers needed training regarding the use of prone restraint and was required to provide its officers with such training.”

“251. Minneapolis also specifically knew that its officers needed specific training on the use of neck restraints.”

“252. With deliberate indifference to the rights of citizens, Minneapolis failed to provide adequate training to its officers on the use of prone and neck restraint.”

“253.Minneapolis was aware that deprivation of the constitutional rights of citizens was likely to result from its lack of training and the failure to modify its training.”

“254. As such, Minneapolis was deliberately indifferent and exhibited reckless disregard with respect to the potential violation of constitutional rights.”

“255. The failure to train and/or to appropriately modify training constituted official Minneapolis policies, practices, or customs.”

“256. Minneapolis’s failure to train and/or to modify training was behind the acts and omissions the Defendant Officers made toward Mr. Floyd.”

“257. As a direct and proximate result of Minneapolis’s acts and omissions, Mr. Floyd suffered injuries, experienced pain and suffering, and ultimately died.”

“258. As a direct and proximate result of the acts and omissions described herein, Mr. Floyd suffered compensatory and special damages as defined under federal common law and in an amount to be determined by jury.”

“259. Plaintiff is entitled to recovery of costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, under 42 U.S.C. § 1988.”

“260. The conduct described in all of the preceding paragraphs amount to wrongful acts and omissions for purposes of Minnesota Statute Section 573.02, subdivision 1.”

“261. As a direct and proximate result of these wrongful acts and omissions, Mr. Floyd’s next of kin have suffered pecuniary loss, including medical and funeral expenses,loss of aid, counsel, guidance, advice, assistance, protection, and support in an amount to be determined by jury.“

Conclusion

All of the legal references and assertions by the parties, of course, are subject to legal research to determine their current validity in light of any subsequent federal statutes and decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal courts, especially by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota and its direct appellate court (the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit).As previously noted, Count I of this Complaint against the four ex-officers and Count II against the City have been covered in prior posts.[2]

Now we await the defendants’ responses to this Complaint and other further developments in this civil case and in the criminal cases against the four ex-officers.

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[1] Read the lawsuit filed by family of George Floyd against Minneapolis, four ex-police officers, StarTribune (July 15, 2020).

[2] George Floyd Family’s Complaint Against the Four Ex-Police Officers Over His Death, dwkcommentaries.com (July  17, 2020); George Floyd Family’s Complaint Against the City of Minneapolis Over His Death: Count II, dwkcommentaries.com (July 18, 2020).

 

George Floyd Family’s Complaint Against the City of Minneapolis Over His Death: Count II     

As noted in a prior post, on July 15, the family of George Floyd filed a federal civil action with two claims (Counts II and III) for money damages against the City of Minneapolis. This post will discuss Count II while Count III will be covered in a subsequent post. That civil action also asserted one claim (Count I) against the four ex-police officers who were involved in Floyd’s death—Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng– as discussed in another prior post.

Legal Basis [1]

Count II is asserted against the City of Minneapolis under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, which states as follows:

  • “Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress. . . .”

Count II also is based on so-called “Monell Liability,” which refers to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Monell v. Department of Soc. Svcs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978), that held, “Local governing bodies (and local officials sued in their official capacities) can . . .be sued directly under § 1983 for monetary, declaratory, and injunctive relief in those situations where, as here, the action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements or executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted or promulgated by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy. In addition, local governments, like every other § 1983 “person,” may be sued for constitutional deprivations visited pursuant to governmental “custom” even though such custom has not received formal approval through the government’s official decision-making channels.”

Factual Allegations [2]

The Parties

“6. Plaintiff Kaarin Nelson Schaffer (“Schaffer”) resides in Hennepin county, Minnesota, and is an attorney duly licensed to practice before the State and Federal; Courts of Minnesota. On July 6, 2020, Schaffer was appointed as trustee for George Floyd’s next of kin.”

“7. Mr. Floyd is survived by next of kin including his children and siblings.”

“8. Minneapolis is and was at all times material hereto a political subdivision of the State of Minnesota, organized and existing under and by virtue of the laws of Minnesota.”

“9. The Minneapolis Police Department (“MPD”) is and was at all times material hereto a Minneapolis agency, providing the vehicle through which the City fulfills its policing functions.

MPD Trains its Officers to Use Deadly force in Non-Deadly Circumstances

“86. MPD trained its officers that a ‘neck restraint’ was an authorized form of non-deadly force, and that a ‘chokehold’ was a form of deadly force capable of causing serious bodily injury and/or death.” [3]

“87. At all times material hereto, MPD defined a ‘neck restraint’ as ‘[c]ompressing one or both sides of a person’s neck with an arm or leg, without applying direct pressure to the trachea or airway (front of the neck).’ MPD defined a ‘chokehold’ as ‘applying direct pressure on a person’s trachea or airway (front of the neck).’”

“88. At all times material hereto, MPD trained its officers that a proper ‘neck Restraint’ required the officer to ‘[c]ompress veins. arteries, nerves & muscles of the neck.'”

“89. Serious bodily injury and/or death is reasonably likely to result from an officer ‘compress[ing] a person’s veins, arteries, nerves & muscles of the neck,’ regardless of whether direct pressure is applied to the front or back of the neck.”

“90. The use of a ‘neck restraint’ as defined by MPD constitutes deadly force.”

“91. The Fourth Amendment prohibits the use of deadly force in non-deadly circumstances which do not pose an immediate threat of serious bodily injury and/or death.”

“92. At all times material hereto, MPD’s written policies authorized the use of a deadly ‘neck restraint’ in non-deadly circumstances posing no immediate threat of serious bodily injury or death.”

“93. At all times material hereto, MPD trained its officers that use of a ‘neck restraint’ was authorized non-deadly force which officers could use in non-deadly situations.”

“94. It has long been known by the law enforcement community that the use of neck restraints on subjects can lead to death.”

“95. However, from at least April 15, 2012 until June 8, 2020, Minneapolis Police Department Policy 5-311 defined a neck restraint as ‘non-deadly force’ and did not warn it can cause death.”

“96. By policy, the MPD permitted and condoned the use of both conscious and unconscious neck restraints by its officers from at least April 15, 2012 until June 8, 2020.”

“97. At all times material hereto, MPD’s written policies authorized the use of a ‘neck restraint’ in non-deadly circumstances posing no immediate threat of serious bodily injury or death.”

“98. The City of Minneapolis possessed data indicating that since 2012, neck restraints/holds were used by its police officers on 428 people at an average rate of about one a week.”

“99. Of those 428 people, 14% who were subjected to a neck restraint/hold lost consciousness.”

“100. Upon information and belief, MPD officers regularly used neck restraints on passively resisting arrestees despite not being permitted to do so under policy.”

“101. Training offered by the City of Minneapolis in 2014 and received by Chauvin and Thao authorized and instructed on the use of neck restraints by officers, presented it to officers as a ‘non-deadly force’ option, and included instruction on how to employ neck restraints in order to most efficiently render subjects unconscious.”

“102. Upon information and belief, all training offered by the City of Minneapolis on the use of neck restraints, including that provided to the Defendant Officers, presented neck restraints to officers as a ‘non-deadly force’ option, and included instruction on how-to employ neck restraints in order to most efficiently render subjects unconscious.”

“103.Training offered by the City of Minneapolis to MPD officers, including the Defendant Officers, encouraged officers to “compress veins, arteries, nerves, and muscles of the neck” of arrestees.”

“104.Training materials offered to officers in 2014, including Defendants Chauvin and Thao, depict an officer placing a knee on the neck of an arrestee who is handcuffed in a prone position.”

“105. Since at least April 16, 2012, MPD policy has required that ‘[a]fter a neck restraint or choke hold has been used on a subject, sworn MPD employees shall keep them under close observation until they are released to medical or other law enforcement personnel.”

“106. Since at least April 16, 2012, the MPD failed to provide its officers with proper policy guidance and training on how to properly observe and attend to the medical needs of arrestees subjected to neck restraints.”

“107. At all times material hereto, MPD trained its officers that a ‘neck restraint’ could be used in non-deadly situations despite the fact that it constituted deadly force as utilized by MPD.”

Prone Restraint Training by the MPD and the Death of David Smith

“108. It is well known throughout the law enforcement and medical communities that holding a subject in a position of prone restraint for prolonged periods of time can be deadly.”

“109. Compressing an arrestee in a prone position with weight on their back and/or abdomen restricts their ability to breathe and can result in asphyxiation.”

“110. Deaths caused by this form of asphyxiation are often interchangeably referred to as deaths from positional, mechanical, or compression asphyxia, even if technical distinctions exist.“

“111. The United States Department of Justice has warned law enforcement for decades about the dangers of prone restraint and as early as 1995: ‘The risk of positional asphyxia is compounded when an individual with predisposing factors becomes involved in a violent struggle with an officer or officers, particularly when physical restraint includes behind-the-back handcuffing combined with placing the subject in a stomach-down position. National Law Enforcement Technology Center, Positional Asphyxia—Sudden Death at *2 (June 1995).”

“112. These dangers were acknowledged in an October 18, 2012 deposition by then-MPD Chief Timothy Dolan in addition to many other high-ranking officers in the matter of Smith v. Gorman, Case No. 11-cv-3071 (SRN/JJK).”

“113. Due to the well-known risks associated with prone restraint, it has long been national best practice that once a subject is controlled, it is imperative that they be moved from the prone position, and that their breathing be assessed.”

“114. Minneapolis has had a policy in place addressing this issue since at least May 29, 2002: ‘When ANY restraint technique is used on a subject, the subject shall not be left in a prone position and shall be placed on their side as soon as they are secured. Once the subject is secured, an officer shall watch for any of the following signs:

  • Significant change in behavior or level consciousness;
  • Shortness of breath or irregular breathing;
  • Seizures or convulsions;
  • Complaints of serious pain or injury; and/or
  • Any other serious medical problem.’

MPD Policy & Procedure Manual § 9-111.01 (emphasis in original).”

“115. Despite this knowledge, as of 2012, officers were not provided official training on the dangers of positional or mechanical asphyxia associated with prone restraint.”

“116. As of 2012, officers were trained that if a subject in a prone restraint is speaking, that they need not be concerned that the subject may be having difficulty breathing.”

“117. Despite the well-known risk of death associated with placing a subject in prolonged prone restraint, particularly without properly monitoring their medical condition, Mr. Floyd was not the first black man to be killed by MPD officers under such circumstances.”

“118. On September 9, 2010, veteran MPD Officers Timothy Gorman (“Gorman”)and Timothy Callahan (“Callahan”) responded to the Minneapolis YMCA, where David Smith (“Mr. Smith”) was experiencing the effects of mental illness.”

“119. Rather than use de-escalation techniques, Gorman and Callahan immediately went hands on with Mr. Smith and subjected him to five Taser deployments in addition to other force.”

“120. Gorman and Callahan placed Mr. Smith a prone restraint position with his hands handcuffed behind his back.”

“121. Despite Smith being handcuffed and adequately controlled, Mr. Smith was restrained in a prone position by Callahan and Gorman for at least 4 ½ minutes, with Gorman kneeling on Mr. Smith’s back and Callahan straddling Mr. Smith’s upper thigh/buttocks region.”

“122. Despite the fact that Callahan and Gorman had Smith adequately controlled, they failed to monitor Mr. Smith’s breathing or medical condition throughout their restraint of Mr. Smith.”

“123. Rather than assist Mr. Smith, Callahan berated him, calling him a ‘mother fucker.’”

“124. It was 6 and ½ minutes before either Callahan or Gorman made any effort to check on Mr. Smith’s medical condition.”

“125. Mr. Smith was pulseless, breathless, and lifeless by the time Callahan and Gorman finally made the effort to observe Mr. Smith’s medical condition.”

“126. Paramedics were able to resuscitate Mr. Smith’s heart, but he never regained consciousness and was removed from life support and officially died on September 17,2010.”

“127. Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner Andrew Baker determined that the manner of death was homicide, and that the cause of death was anoxic encephalopathy due to or as a consequence of cardiopulmonary arrest due to or as a consequence of mechanical asphyxia.”

“128. Callahan filmed the mechanical asphyxiation of Mr. Smith on a personal and non-departmentally issued ‘pen camera’ that Callahan wore in his short pocket.”

“129. Callahan and Gorman were both aware of the fact that Callahan filmed Mr. Smith’s asphyxiation on the pen camera, yet the pen camera was intentionally concealed from MPD investigators on September 9, 2010.”

“130. Callahan did not disclose the existence of the pen camera video of Mr. Smith’s asphyxiation until nearly a week later on September 15, 2010, but was not disciplined for concealing evidence of a homicide.”

“131. MPD pretended to conduct a homicide investigation into the acts of Callahan and Gorman but made no legitimate effort to investigate the actions of the officers.”

“132. The Grand Jury no-billed Gorman and Callahan due to the complete and utter lack of investigation conducted by the MPD as to Gorman and Callahan’s conduct.”

“133. The MPD Internal Affairs Unit then conducted no legitimate investigation into Gorman and Callahan’s conduct, also concluding that the officers did nothing actionably wrong—including the hiding of evidence (i.e., the pen camera) from investigators.”

“134. The MPD failed to take any disciplinary or other remedial action towards Callahan and Gorman despite the fact that multiple high-ranking officials within the MPD observed obvious constitutional or policy violations by officers Gorman and Callahan.”

“135. The City of Minneapolis ultimately approved a substantial settlement to the family of David Smith to resolve that litigation, one of the highest amounts it had ever paid.”

“136. As part of that settlement, the City of Minneapolis “agreed to require its sworn police officers to undergo training on positional asphyxia in the 2014 training cycle of the Minneapolis Police Department…”

“137.Despite publicly stating an intent to properly instruct its officers on the risks of asphyxiation during arrest, internally the MPD continued to minimize that risk and promote a false narrative that deaths like David Smith were the result of ‘excited delirium’ instead of asphyxiation.”

“138. Upon information and belief, the City of Minneapolis did not comply with the terms and/or the spirit of its 2013 Settlement Agreement with the family of Mr. Smith with respect to training on positional asphyxia.”

“139. Upon information and belief, the City of Minneapolis routinely trains officers to place handcuffed arrestees in a prone position without proper training on putting arrestees in a recovery position and monitoring their breathing and consciousness.”

“140. The impact of the excited delirium false narrative and the MPD’s failure to properly train on asphyxiation risks is highlighted here by Lane’s statement: ‘I am worried about excited delirium, or whatever.’”

“141. When holding a subject in a prone position, well-trained officers in Minneapolis should not be concerned about ‘excited delirium, or whatever.’ Officers in Minneapolis should know the risks of asphyxiation associated with prone restraint.”

“142. High-ranking MPD personnel have continued to publicly maintain other deadly false narratives.”

“143. MPD Lieutenant and agent of the City of Minneapolis Bob Kroll- who has served as the president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis since 2015 and has sat on its board since 1996-has publicly expressed the opinion that Eric Garner, a Black man asphyxiated by the New York Police Department in 2014- could breathe at the time of his death because he was able to state ‘I can’t breathe’ several times as he was dying.”

“144. It is an accepted scientific fact that the ability to speak does not imply that someone is getting sufficient air to survive.”

“The MPD’s History Providing and Permitting Killology Training”

“145. Up and until 2019, the City of Minneapolis permitted officers to receive ‘Killology’ or ‘warrior style’ training, which teaches officers to consider every person and every situation as a potential deadly threat and to kill ‘less hesitantly.’”

“146.The City of Minneapolis was aware prior to the death of George Floyd that the officer who shot and killed Philando Castile in the nearby suburb of Falcon Heights had received Killology training.”

“147. Upon information and belief, a significant proportion of police officers employed by the MPD in May of 2020 had received Killology training during their employment.”

“148.High-ranking officers and agents of the MPD, including Kroll, encouraged all officers to receive warrior-style police training.”

“149. High-ranking officers and agents of the MPD, including Kroll, offered this training free of charge to all officers of the MPD who wanted to receive it.”

“150. The City of Minneapolis was aware that its officers had received and continued to receive Killology training before and through May of 2020, but did nothing to prevent officers from receiving it or re-training officers who had received it.”

“151. Kroll has further encouraged officers to behave aggressively, stating that MPD officers who do not receive citizen complaints are ‘low-level slugs’ who ‘[don’t] get out and investigate anything. And that’s not what we’re paying our officers to do.’”

“152. Kroll has stated that policing should be viewed like ‘a basketball game, in that if you’re not getting any fouls, you aren’t playing hard enough.’”

“153.The City of Minneapolis and high-ranking members of the MPD are aware that Kroll is an influencer for rank-and-file officers, and that its officers follow his lead with regard to law enforcement beliefs and behaviors.”

“154. Upon information and belief, Defendant City of Minneapolis has control over the amount of influence the Minneapolis Police Federation has over the officers, discipline, training, decision-making, and policy decisions of the Minneapolis Police Department.”

“155. The Minneapolis Mayor and City Council are responsible for negotiations with the Minneapolis Police Federation, including matters of officer discipline and retention. The Minneapolis Police Department Chief of Police is responsible for all decisions of hiring.””

“156.The Minneapolis Police Federation membership is made up of employees, agents, and officers of the Minneapolis Police Department.”

“157.The Police Officers within the Minneapolis Police Federation continue to be employees of the Minneapolis Police Department subject to the policies, training and orders.”

“158. The Minneapolis Police Department is responsible for maintaining training and discipline to ensure its officers follow its policies, orders, and training regardless of the opinions and actions of the Minneapolis Police Federation.”

“The City of Minneapolis and the MPD’s Failure to Terminate Dangerous Officers”

“159. The City of Minneapolis frequently fails to terminate or discipline officers who demonstrate patterns of misconduct.”

“160. Upon information and belief, Chauvin was the subject of 17 citizen complaints from 2006 to 2015, only one of which resulted in discipline, in the form of a letter of reprimand.”

“161. Upon information and belief, Chauvin has participated in the shooting and killing of at least three different individuals, including Wayne Reyes, Ira Latrell Toles, and Leroy Martinez.”

“162. In 2005, Defendant Chauvin engaged in a reckless police chase resulting in the deaths of three individuals but was not discharged from the Minneapolis Police Department.”

“163. Upon information and belief, the MPD has observed unlawful or otherwise improper conduct by Chauvin throughout his career but has tolerated it and refused to remedy or mitigate it.”

“164. Chauvin was precisely the type of reckless and dangerous officer that Kroll and other leaders of the Minneapolis Police Department encouraged him to be.”

“165. Upon information and belief, Thao was the subject of six citizen complaints from 2013 to 2017, none of which have resulted in discipline.”

“166. In 2017, Thao was the subject of a lawsuit for his use of excessive force, which the City of Minneapolis paid money to settle on his behalf.”

“167. Upon information and belief, the MPD has observed unlawful or otherwise improper conduct by Thao throughout his career but has tolerated it and refused to remedy or mitigate it.”

“168. The MPD has engaged for years in contract negotiations with the Minneapolis Federation of Police which make it more difficult for the MPD to terminate officers who have demonstrated repeated misconduct.

“The MPD’s History of Overlooking Racially Biased Policing”

“169. Upon information and belief, Black community members make up 19% of the population of Minneapolis and 58% of the subjects of police force.”

“170. The Minneapolis Police Department is currently being investigated for unlawful race-based policing, which deprives people of color, particularly Black community members, of their civil rights under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.”

“171. Prior to 2007, African American members of the MPD, including now-Chief Arradondo, received hate letters signed from the Ku Klux Klan in their interoffice mail, accessible only to MPD agents and employees.”

“172. Kroll has been accused by fellow officers, including now-Chief Arradondo,of publicly wearing a jacket with a patch depicting a racist ‘white power’ logo.”

“173. In recent years, Kroll, as president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, has publicly referred to the Black Lives Matter movement as a ‘terrorist organization.’”

“174. The Minneapolis Police Department ratified the culture of systemic racism and disparate treatment of the Black Community, by failing to remove or otherwise discipline Lt. Bob Kroll.”

“175. By 2018, as the result of a settlement, the Minneapolis Police Department was required to conduct racial sensitivity training which, upon information and belief, has not yet been completed.”

“The City of Minneapolis’s Notice of Prior Incidents of Excessive Force”

“176. The City had notice of a 2009 incident wherein MPD officers used excessive force against Ira Alexander Stafford for which Mr. Stafford filed suit against the City in 2010, alleging that while he was lying on the ground, face down with his arms around him, ‘at least one officer had a knee in Stafford’s back, making him effectively helpless.’ (Compl.) Stafford v. City of Minneapolis, et al, Civil Action No. 0:10-cv-03149-MJD-TNL (D. Minn. 2010).”

“177. According to media sources, the City entered into a monetary settlement with Zach King for a 2012 incident wherein MPD officers violated the Fourth Amendment and used excessive force against Mr. King by beating him and pressing a knee on Mr. King such that he could not breathe “almost like George Floyd.” Mr. King was hospitalized with a concussion and multiple visible physical injuries as a result of the police beating. The City took no disciplinary action against the officers for their use of excessive force against Mr. King.https://www.cbsnews.com/news/minneapolis-officers-cited-in-misconduct-lawsuits-face-little-discipline/.”

“178. The City had notice of a 2014 incident wherein MPD officers used excessive force against Alfred Flowers after he had been fully secured in handcuffs and not physically resisting. Mr. Flowers filed suit against the City and alleged that an officer suddenly grabbed him by his throat, choked him, and threw him to the ground and handcuffed him. After handcuffing Mr. Flowers, an MPD officer punched him in the head, following which several other officers entered the room and proceeded to kick and stomp on Mr. Flowers while he was handcuffed and laying on the ground. Flowers v. City of Minneapolis, et al, Civil Action No. 0:15-cv-03015-RHK-HB.”

“179. The City had notice of a 2014 incident wherein MPD officers used excessive force against Lamar Allen Ferguson after he had been fully secured in handcuffs and not physically resisting. Mr. Ferguson filed suit against the City in April 2017 and alleges that two MPD Officers threw him to the ground after he had been handcuffed and began punching him, following which MPD Officer Thao, a defendant in this action, lifted Mr. Ferguson’s head off of the ground and kicked him directly in his mouth. Ferguson v. City of Minneapolis, et al, Civil Action No. 0:17-cv-01110-PJS-TNL (D. Minn. 2017).”

“180. The City had notice of a 2016 incident wherein MPD officers used excessive and unjustified force against Abdi Hussen Hagad, a black male. MPD officers approached Mr. Hagad and violently threw him against a brick wall and dislocated his shoulder despite the absence of physical resistance from Mr. Hagad. Wagad v. City of Minneapolis, et al, Civil Action No. 0:17-cv-05239-MJD-TNL (D. Minn. 2017).”

“181. The City had notice of a 2016 incident wherein MPD officers used excessive force against Tomas Garcia-Orihuela during the course of an arrest. Mr. Garcia-Orihuel filed suit against the City and alleged that after he was handcuffed on the ground, ‘several police officers began to kick and hit him’ and continued to do so for several minutes while he was handcuffed and laying on the ground. Garcia-Orihuela v. City of Minneapolis, et al, Civil Action No. 0:17-cv-00292-RHK-KMM (D. Minn. 2017).”

“182. The City had notice of a 2018 incident wherein multiple MPD officers used excessive and entirely unjustified force against Jeremiah Jermaine Thomas when an officer drop-kicked Mr. Thomas in the chest area following which three other MPD officers joined in and immediately started punching, kneeing, and kicking. Mr. Thomas suffered a punctured lung, internal bleeding, fractured ribs, and various scratches and bruises as a result of MPD’s use of excessive force, and the City thereafter entered into a monetary settlement to resolve his claims. Jeremiah Jermaine Thomas v. City of Minneapolis, et al., 0:19-cv-00954-WMW-DTS (D. Minn 2019).”

“183. The City had notice of a 2013 incident wherein MPD officers used excessive and unjustified force against Catrina Johnson, a disabled woman who used a cane, by throwing her against her living room wall and onto the floor while using racial slurs. While MS. Johnson was pinned to the ground face down, an MPD officer put his knee on the back of her head and applied direct pressure thereby causing injury. The City entered into a monetary settlement with Ms. Johnson to settle her claims. Catrina Johnson v. City of Minneapolis, et al., 0:15-cv-02861-JRT-SER (D. Minn 2015).”

“184. The City had notice of a 2018 incident wherein multiple MPD officers used excessive and entirely unjustified force against Rico McKinnies during the course of a traffic stop, after he was handcuffed and not resisting arrest. The City entered into a monetary settlement with Mr. McKinnies for the injuries he sustained therein. Rico McKinnies v. City of Minneapolis, et al., 0:18-cv-02738-NEB-BRT (D. Minn 2018).”

“185. Each of the above-referenced incidents involved more than one officer at the scene and in each of those incidents, the non-participating MPD officers failed to intervene in the unconstitutional use of force against handcuffed, non-resisting citizens.”

“186. In addition to a substantial settlement with the family of David Smith, the City of Minneapolis has been forced to pay significant sums of money for the unlawful deaths caused by its officers.”

“187. In 2019, the City of Minneapolis approved a significant settlement with the family of Justine Ruszczyk, who was shot and killed by a Minneapolis Police Officer.”

“188. In 2019, the City of Minneapolis approved a significant settlement [with] the family of Jamar Clark, who was shot and killed by a Minneapolis Police Officer.”

“189. In 2020, the City of Minneapolis approved a significant settlement with the family of Terrance Franklin, who was shot and killed by a Minneapolis Police Officer.”

“190. While the settlement of the Justine Ruszczyk [claim] was locally billed as transformational, it had no meaningful impact on how the MPD conducts its business.”

“191. The Mayor and City Council receive notice of each lawsuit filed against the City.”

“192. All monetary settlements made by the City must be approved by the Mayor and City Council.”

“193. MPD’s Policy Manual requires that the Chief of Police report to the Mayor each instance of officer misconduct and in accordance with the same, the Chief of Police reported to the Mayor each instance of officer misconduct.”

“Count II—42 U.S.C. sec. 1983-Monell Liability”

“222. MPD’s Policy Manual provides that the Mayor is ‘vested with all the powers of said city connected with and incident to the establishment, maintenance, appointment, removal, discipline, control, and supervision of its police force, subject to the limitations herein contained and the provisions of the Civil Service chapter of this Charter, and may make all needful rules and regulations for the efficiency and discipline, and promulgate and enforce general and special orders for the government of the same, and have the care and custody of all public property connected with the Police Department of the city.’ (MPD Policy Manual Sec. 1-301 (citing City Charter reference-Chapter 6, Section 1)).”

“223. The Mayor, the City Council, and the Police Chief had final policymaking authority with regard to establishing written policies and training programs governing the conduct of MPD officers performing policing functions on behalf of the City.”

“224. The Mayor, the City Council, and the Police Chief established and/or approved of MPD’s written policies and training governing the conduct of MPD officers performing policing functions.”

“225. The written policies and training established and/or approved by The Mayor, the City Council, and the Police Chief constitute the official policy of the City and were the moving force behind and caused Plaintiff’s injuries.”

“226. The City, acting by and through its Mayor and/or other policymakers, had knowledge of MPD’s unconstitutional patterns and practices and knowledge that the same gave rise to a risk of violations of citizens’ federal rights. ”

“227. The City, acting by and through its Mayor and/or other policymakers, made a deliberate and/or conscious decision to disregard the known risk of harm that would result from MPD’s unconstitutional patterns and practices and was deliberately indifferent to and/or tacitly authorized the same.”

“228. On or prior to May 25, 2020, Minneapolis, with deliberate indifference to the rights of arrestees, detainees, and the like, tolerated, permitted, failed to correct, promoted, or ratified a number of customs, patterns, or practices that failed to provide for the safety of arrestees, detainees, and the like during arrest, including but not limited to the handcuffing and restraint process.”

“229. On or prior to May 25, 2020, Minneapolis, with deliberate indifference to the rights of arrestees, detainees, and the like, tolerated, permitted, failed to correct, promoted, or ratified a number of customs, patterns, or practices that condoned and required officers to turn a blind eye to and not intervene with the use of excessive force by MPD officers.”

“230. On or prior to May 25, 2020, Minneapolis, with deliberate indifference to the rights of arrestees, detainees, and the like, tolerated, permitted, failed to correct, promoted, fostered or ratified a number of customs, patterns, or practices that condoned and required officers to treat the members of the Black Community of Minneapolis differently, including but not limited to implementing deadly force at a higher rate against Black men who did not pose a threat to officers.”

“231. On or prior to May 25, 2020, Minneapolis, with deliberate indifference to the rights of arrestees, detainees, and the like, tolerated, permitted, failed to correct, promoted, or ratified a number of customs, patterns, or practices that shall be further identified in discovery.”

“232. Minneapolis, with deliberate indifference to the rights of arrestees, detainees, and the like, continued to employee Chauvin and Thao despite knowledge of their repeated unconstitutional, unlawful, or other improper conduct.”

“233. Minneapolis had to the power to terminate or appropriately discipline Chauvin and Thao for their misconduct prior to May 25, 2020, but failed to do so despite the City’s knowledge of a pattern of complaints regarding excessive force.”

“234. By refusing to terminate Chauvin or Thao, Minneapolis caused Chauvin and Thao to act with impunity and without fear of retribution.”

“235. Minneapolis’ failure to terminate or properly discipline Chauvin or Thao is part of its larger custom, police, or practice of failing to supervise, terminate, or properly discipline its officers for unconstitutional, unlawful, or otherwise improper conduct, and thereby encouraged Chauvin, Thao, and the other Defendant Officers to continue engaging in unlawful acts towards arrestees, including George.”

“236. On or prior to May 25, 2020, Minneapolis, with deliberate indifference to the rights of arrestees, detainees, and the like, tolerated, permitted, failed to correct, promoted, or ratified its agents, including Lt. Bob Kroll, providing improper and harmful training to officers.”

“237. Minneapolis had to the power to terminate or appropriately discipline Kroll prior to May 25, 2020, but failed to do so despite the City’s knowledge of Kroll’s perpetuation of dangerous ideology to officers.”

“238. By refusing to terminate or discipline Kroll or denounce his ideology, Minneapolis caused officers act with impunity and without fear of retribution.”

“239. On or prior to May 25, 2020, Minneapolis, with deliberate indifference to the rights of arrestees, detainees, and the like, participated in contract negotiations with the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis that granted officers powers that allowed them to avoid discipline for misconduct, including but not limited to:

a. A grievance process that resulted in a nearly 50% rate of overturns of terminations of officers;

b. The ability to review evidence and video footage prior to giving statements in use of force and misconduct matters.”

“240. This participation by the City of Minneapolis caused officers to act with impunity and without fear of retribution.”

“241. The unconstitutional policies, practices, and customs defined herein were the moving force behind George’s death.”

“242. George died as a direct and proximate result of the acts and omissions by Minneapolis.”

“243. As a direct and proximate result of the acts and omissions described herein, George suffered compensatory and special damages as defined under federal common law and in an amount to be determined by jury.”

“244. Plaintiff is entitled to recovery of costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, under 42 U.S.C. § 1988.”

“245. The conduct described in all of the preceding paragraphs amount to wrongful acts and omissions for purposes of Minnesota Statute Section 573.02, subdivision 1.”

“246. As a direct and proximate result of these wrongful acts and omissions, George’s next of kin have suffered pecuniary loss, including medical and funeral expenses, loss of aid, counsel, guidance, advice, assistance, protection, and support in an amount to be determined by jury.”

Conclusion

All of the legal references and assertions by the parties, of course, are subject to legal research to determine their current validity in light of any subsequent federal statutes and decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal courts, especially by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota and its direct appellate court (the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit).

As previously noted, Count I of this Complaint against the four ex-officers has been covered in a prior post while Count III against the City will be the subject of a future post.

Now we await the defendants’ responses to this Complaint and other further developments in this civil case and in the criminal cases against the four ex-officers.

===================================

[1] Complaint, Kaarin Nelson Schaffer, as Trustee for the next of kin of GEORGE P. FLOYD, Jr., Deceased v. Derek Chauvin, in his capacity as a Minneapolis police officer; Tou Thao, in his capacity as a Minneapolis police officer; Thomas Lane, in his capacity as a Minneapolis police officer; J. Alexander Kueng, in his capacity as a Minneapolis police officer; and the City of Minneapolis, Case 0:20-cv-01577-SRN-TNL (July 15, 2020).

[2] Count II also includes by reference all of the allegations regarding the four ex-policemen defendants (Complaint, para. 247) that were recited in the post about Count I of the Complaint.

[3] On June 5, 2020, the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights agreed to ban the Minneapolis police from using chokeholds and neck restraints, and on June  that was so ordered by the Hennepin County District Court. (Ban on Police Choke Holds and Neck Restraints in Agreement Between City of Minneapolis and Minnesota Human rights Department, dwkcommentaries.com (June 6, 2020); Court Approves Agreement on Police Conduct Between City of Minneapolis and Minnesota Department of Human Rights (June 9, 2020).)

 

 

 

 

 

George Floyd Family’s Complaint Against the Four Ex-Police Officers Over His Death

As noted in a prior post, on July 15, the family of George Floyd filed a federal civil action for money damages against the four ex-police officers who were involved in Floyd’s death—Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng. Now we examine that complaint against these four individuals in Count I of the Complaint.

Count I of the Complaint[1]

Legal Basis.

That charge was set forth as Count I of the Complaint for alleged Fourth Amendment violation under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, which provides as follows:

  • “Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress. . . .”

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, in part,  “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable search and seizures, shall not be violated.”

“The Parties”

“6. Plaintiff Kaarin Nelson Schaffer (“Schaffer”) resides in Hennepin County, Minnesota and is an attorney duly licensed to practice before the State and Federal Courts of Minnesota. On July 6, 2020, Schaffer was appointed as trustee for george floyd’s next of kin.”

“7. Mr. Floyd is survived by next of kin including his children and siblings.”

“10[-11.] Upon information and belief, Defendant Chauvin is and was at all times material hereto a citizen of the United States and the state of Minnesota, . . . was at all times material hereto employed by the MPD as a duly appointed and sworn police officer, and was acting in his individual capacity and/or under color of state law, and within the scope of his employment.” [The same allegations are made against Defendants Thao, Lane and Kueng (Complaint, paras. 12-17.]

“Factual Allegations”

“George Floyd’s Death”

“18. At approximately 8:00 p.m. on May 25, 2020, the Defendant Officers were dispatched to the Cup Foods corner store located at 3759 Chicago Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota in response to a call alleging that Mr. Floyd had engaged in potential fraud, a non-violent offense.”

“19. Defendants Lane and Kueng were the first to arrive on the scene and observed Mr. Floyd seated inside a vehicle.”

“20. Defendants Lane and Kueng placed Mr. Floyd under arrest and secured both of Mr. Floyd’s hands in handcuffs behind his back without incident.”

“21. Mr. Floyd did not physically resist arrest.”

“22. Mr. Floyd was unarmed and did not at any point physically or verbally threaten the officers, nor did he attempt to flee.”

“23. After he was securely handcuffed, Mr. Floyd remained calm and complied with each of the officers’ commands as directed, including sitting down against a wall and walking with the officers across the street without incident.”

“24. Defendants Chauvin and Thao arrived on the scene after Mr. Floyd had been secured in handcuffs and while he was calmly speaking with Defendants Lane and Kueng.”

“25. None of the Defendant Officers had knowledge of any information to reasonably believe that Mr. Floyd was armed, violent, or potentially dangerous.”

“26. Defendant Chauvin was a MPD Field Training Officer (“FTO”) and Defendant Kueng was his trainee.”

“27. Probationary officers are assigned to FTOs to supervise their actions in the field for a short period following their training.”

“28.Per City of Minneapolis policy, probationary officers are not permitted to ask FTOs questions or ask FTOs for advice or guidance while being supervised by FTOs.”

“ 29. Once across the street, Mr. Floyd expressed to Lane and Kueng that he was experiencing claustrophobia.”

“30. Despite Mr. Floyd expressing claustrophobia and distress, Lane suggested to the other officers they employ the “maximal restraint technique”- a technique in which an arrestee is restrained in a prone position.”

“31.Without provocation or justification, the Defendant Officers took Mr. Floyd to the ground and placed him face down in the street, with the left side of his face pressed against the pavement.”

“32. Defendants Lane and Kueng kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s back and legs, putting their body weight onto Mr. Floyd and pinning him to the ground.”

“33. Upon information and belief, Defendant Kueng twisted Mr. Floyd’s arms to the side of his body and held them in this position.”

“34. Defendant Chauvin drove his left knee into the back of Mr. Floyd’s neck, supporting his body weight by Mr. Floyd’s neck as Mr. Floyd’s face pressed into the ground.”

“35. Lane asked the others if they should raise Mr. Floyd’s legs, and Chauvin responded that the position Mr. Floyd was in was ‘good.’”

“36. Chauvin, Lane, and Kueng kept Mr. Floyd in prone position with their body weight on top of him for nearly nine minutes.”

“37. Defendant Thao stood just feet away from Mr. Floyd’s head and from the other Defendant Officers.”

“38. Mr. Floyd said to Defendant Officers ‘Tell my kids I love them- I’m dead.’”

“39. Mr. Floyd said to Defendant Officers ‘Please, please- I can’t breathe! Please,”

“40. Mr. Floyd groaned and cried. ”

“41. An onlooker stated to Defendant Officers ‘You got him down- let him breathe at least, man,’ as Mr. Floyd continued to state that he could not breathe.”

“42. A Defendant Officer told Mr. Floyd to ‘relax.’”

“43. Chauvin asked Mr. Floyd ‘What do you want?’ Mr. Floyd repeated that he could not breathe and asked Chauvin to get off of his neck.”

“44. Mr. Floyd began to cry out for his mother and remarked ‘I’m through.’ Mr. Floyd remarked that his stomach hurt, his neck hurt, and that he needed some water, and repeated that he could not breathe.”

“45. Defendant Chauvin responded that Mr. Floyd should stop talking.”

“46. Mr. Floyd stated ‘They’re gonna kill me, man.’”

“47. An onlooker stated to Defendant officers that Mr. Floyd’s nose was bleeding and exhorted the officers to look at Mr. Floyd’s nose.”

“48. Defendant Officers did not check on Mr. Floyd after hearing that he was bleeding.”

“49. Another onlooker noted ‘That’s wrong, right there, to put your knee on his neck.’”

“50. Mr. Floyd again cried that he could not breathe.”

“51. An onlooker stated to Defendant Officers that Mr. Floyd was not resisting arrest and asked the Defendant Officers to put Mr. Floyd in the police vehicle that was less than an arm’s length from where Mr. Floyd was being forcefully held down.”

“52. An onlooker repeated that Mr. Floyd’s nose was bleeding and asked how long Defendant Chauvin planned to hold Mr. Floyd down.”

“53. During this exchange, Mr. Floyd groaned ‘I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe. He’ll kill me. He’ll kill me.’”

“54. Lane suggested to the other officers that Mr. Floyd be rolled onto his side, stating, ‘I am worried about excited delirium, or whatever.’”

“55. Lane admitted to investigators that Mr. Floyd was not resisting in any manner at  this time.”

“56. Chauvin replied, contrary to national law enforcement best practices, ‘That’s why we have him on his stomach.’‘

“57. No officer attempted to move from Mr. Floyd’s body or roll him onto his side.”

“58. Thao exclaimed ‘This is why you don’t do drugs, kids!’ to Mr. Floyd and to the concerned onlookers.”

“59. Mr. Floyd was terrified, knew that he was dying, and cried for ‘Mama.’”

“60. One onlooker told the Defendant Officers that Defendant Chauvin was obstructing Mr. Floyd’s breathing, to which Defendant Thao responded, ‘Okay.’”

“61. Defendant Chauvin then re-adjusted the position of his leg and knee to increase the amount of force and weight exerted by his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck.”

“62. The onlooker repeated that Chauvin was stopping Mr. Floyd’s breathing and that Mr. Floyd was not resisting.”

“63. Mr. Floyd spoke his last words: ‘Please- I can’t breathe.’”

“64. An onlooker told Defendant Officers that Mr. Floyd was no longer speaking, and repeated that Mr. Floyd’s nose was bleeding.”

“65. Approximately 30 seconds after the onlooker noted that Mr. Floyd had stopped speaking, Mr. Floyd lost consciousness completely; his eyes closed and face slackened, and he ceased moving completely.”

“66. After holding Mr. Floyd in a prone position for approximately five minutes, and noticing that Mr. Floyd was not moving, Lane said ‘Want to roll him on his side?’”

“67. Kueng checked Mr. Floyd’s right wrist for a pulse and said, ‘I couldn’t find one.”

“68. Despite Lane and Kueng’s statements, the Defendant Officers continued to maintain their positions.”

“69. Several onlookers shouted that Defendant Officers should ‘look at [Mr.Floyd],” that Mr. Floyd’s breathing was stopped, and that Defendant Chauvin needed to get off of Mr. Floyd’s neck.”

“70. In response, and without removing his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck, Defendant Chauvin removed a canister of mace from his belt and pointed it toward the onlookers, while Defendant Thao stepped forward toward the onlookers.”

“71. Thao not only did not come to Mr. Floyd’s aid, but he actively prevented bystanders from doing so.”

’72. Onlookers continued to express concern to Defendant Officers, making statements including ‘He cannot breathe,’ ‘Look at him,’ ‘He’s not responsive right now,’ ‘Does he have a pulse?’ ‘Is he breathing right now?’ and ‘He’s handcuffed!’”

“73. An onlooker approached Defendant Thao and urged him by name to check Mr. Floyd for a pulse, to which Defendant Thao responded ‘Don’t do drugs, guys.’”

“74. Another onlooker identified herself as a healthcare professional of the City of Minneapolis Fire Department and asked that Defendant Officers check Mr. Floyd for a pulse; in response, Defendant Thao told her to ‘get on the sidewalk.’”

“75. Mr. Floyd was ultimately kept in a prone position with the weight of the officers on his neck and back for approximately eight minutes and forty-six seconds.”[2]

“76. Mr. Floyd was unconscious for approximately four of those minutes, yet the Defendant Officers not only did not help him, but continued to cause George’s death and further extinguish any chance for Mr. Floyd’s survival.””

“77.Chauvin kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for the entirety of those eight minutes and forty-six seconds.”

“78. The entire time Mr. Floyd was kept in that prone position, he remained handcuffed, compliant, and within the complete physical control of the three officers kneeling on top of him.”

“79. While Mr. Floyd was kept in the prone position, he never resisted or attempted to flee.”

“80. The Defendant Officers could hear the statements made by each other, by Mr. Floyd, and by the onlookers while Mr. Floyd was kept in the prone position.”

“81. Defendant Officers held Mr. Floyd in a neck restraint long after he stopped moving altogether.”

“82. An ambulance arrived, and Mr. Floyd was placed in the ambulance; Mr. Floyd was immobile and his body was limp.”

“83. Defendant Chauvin kept his knee on the neck of Mr. Floyd even after EMTs arrived and began to check for a pulse.”

“84. Defendant Lane conceded to investigators that Mr. Floyd was not resisting at the time of his death and had been rendered unconscious during his restraint.”

“85. At no time, did Defendant Officers Lane, Kueng, or Tao physically intervene in the use of a neck restraint exhibited by Defendant Chauvin.”

“The City of Minneapolis and the MPD’s Failure to Terminate Dangerous Officers”

‘160. Upon information and belief, Chauvin was the subject of 17 citizen complaints from 2006 to 2015, only one of which resulted in discipline, in the form of a letter of reprimand.”

“161. Upon information and belief, Chauvin has participated in the shooting and killing of at least three different individuals, including Wayne Reyes, Ira Latrell Toles, and Leroy Martinez.”

“162. In 2005, Defendant Chauvin engaged in a reckless police chase resulting in the deaths of three individuals but was not discharged from the Minneapolis Police Department.”

“163.Upon information and belief, the MPD has observed unlawful or otherwise improper conduct by Chauvin throughout his career but has tolerated it and refused to remedy or mitigate it.”

“164. Chauvin was precisely the type of reckless and dangerous officer that Kroll and other leaders of the Minneapolis Police Department encouraged him to be.”

“165. Upon information and belief, Thao was the subject of six citizen complaints from 2013 to 2017, none of which have resulted in discipline.”

“166. In 2017, Thao was the subject of a lawsuit for his use of excessive force, which the City of Minneapolis paid money to settle on his behalf.”

“167. Upon information and belief, the MPD has observed unlawful or otherwise improper conduct by Thao throughout his career but has tolerated it and refused to remedy or mitigate it.”

 Count I—42 U.S.C. sec. 1983—Fourth Amendment Violations

“194. Plaintiff incorporates and re-alleges all preceding paragraphs as though fully pleaded herein.”

“195.The conduct by the officers identified in this count and described herein constituted excessive and deadly force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and clearly established law.”

“196. At all material times, Defendants Chauvin, Lane, and Kueng were each acting under color of state law, as agents of Minneapolis, and within the scope of their employment and authority as duly-certified law enforcement officers of the City of Minneapolis.”

“197. At all times material hereto, Defendant Chauvin was acting in a supervisory capacity as a Field Training Officer and directly participated in violating Mr. Floyd’s federal rights. Defendant Chauvin is therefore liable in both his individual and supervisory capacities.”

“198. At all material times, Chauvin, Lane and Kueng had no reason to believe that Mr. Floyd was armed or dangerous.”

“199. At all material times, Chauvin did not have a reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm when he kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s neck, nor did Chauvin have a reasonable belief that any other person was in danger of imminent bodily danger from Mr. Floyd.“

“200. At all material times, Lane and Kueng did not have a reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm when they kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s back, nor did they have a reasonable belief that any other person was in danger of imminent bodily danger from Mr. Floyd.”

“201. Every reasonable officer would have known that using force against a compliant, handcuffed individual who is not resisting arrest constitutes excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

“202. Chauvin’s use of deadly force in applying direct pressure to and kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck was objectively unreasonable and violated clearly established law.”

“203. Lane and Kueng’s use of force in applying direct pressure to and kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s back was objectively unreasonable and violated clearly established law.”

“204. It was objectively unreasonable for Chauvin, Lane, and Kueng to maintain Mr. Floyd in a prone position without properly monitoring his breathing or pulse.”

“205. It was a violation of Mr. Floyd’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights for Chauvin, Lane, Kueng, and Thao not to render medical aid following Mr. Floyd’s complaints that he could not breathe and Mr. Floyd’s loss of consciousness, each of which demonstrated a serious medical need.’”

“206. As a result of Chauvin, Lane, and Kueng’s unjustified, excessive, and illegal, and deadly use of force, Mr. Floyd experienced conscious pain and suffering.”

“207. As a result of Chauvin, Lane, and Kueng’s unjustified, excessive, illegal, and deadly use of force, Mr. Floyd died.”

“208. In addition to these uses of unjustified, excessive, illegal, and deadly uses of force, each of the Defendant Officers had a duty to intervene on behalf of a citizen whose constitutional rights were being violated in their presence by another officer.”

“209.Thao, Lane, and Kueng all recognized that the force being used, including but not limited to Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck, was excessive and unreasonable under the circumstances.”

“210. Defendants Lane, Kueng, and Thao each observed and were in a position to intervene to stop Defendant Chauvin’s use of constitutionally unreasonable deadly force against Mr. Floyd.”

“211. None of the Defendant Officers ever had a reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm, nor did they have a reasonable belief that any other person was in danger of imminent bodily danger from Mr. Floyd at any point in time.”

“212.Defendants Lane and Kueng’s failure to intervene in Defendant Chauvin’s use of constitutionally unreasonable deadly force violated Mr. Floyd’s clearly established Fourth Amendment rights.”

“213.Defendant Thao’s failure to intervene in the other Defendant Officers’ use of constitutionally unreasonable force violated Mr. Floyd’s clearly established Fourth Amendment rights.”

“214. As a result of the failure to intervene by Thao, Lane, and Kueng, Mr. Floyd experienced conscious pain and suffering.”

“215. As a result of Thao, Lane, and Kueng’s unjustified failure to intervene in the excessive use of force, Mr. Floyd died.”

“216.As a direct and proximate result of the acts and omissions described herein, Mr. Floyd suffered compensatory and special damages as defined under federal common law and in an amount to be determined by jury.”

“217. Punitive damages are available against Chauvin and are hereby claimed as a matter of federal common law under Smith v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30 (1983), and, as such, are not subject to the pleading requirements or the differing standard of proof set forth in Minn.Stat. Ann. § 549.20.”

“218. Plaintiff is entitled to recovery of costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, under 42 U.S.C. § 1988.”

“219. The conduct described in all of the preceding paragraphs amount to wrongful acts and omissions for purposes of Minnesota Statute Section 573.02, subdivision 1.”

“220. As a direct and proximate result of these wrongful acts and omissions, George’s next of kin have suffered pecuniary loss, including medical and funeral expenses, loss of aid, counsel, guidance, advice, assistance, protection, and support in an amount to be determined by jury.”

Conclusion

Count I’s recitation of the four ex-officers’ encounter on May 25th with George Floyd is consistent with other reports by journalists who have seen the bodycam footages, the transcripts of those footages and with the criminal complaints against the four ex-officers.[3]

All of the legal references and assertions by the parties, of course, are subject to legal research to determine their current validity in light of any subsequent federal statutes and decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal courts, especially by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota and its direct appellate court (the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit).

Subsequent posts will examine the Complaint’s two counts against the City of Minneapolis.

Then we await the four ex-officers’ responses to Count I and other further developments in this civil case and their criminal cases.

==========================================

[1] Complaint, Kaarin Nelson Schaffer, as Trustee for the next of kin of GEORGE P. FLOYD, Jr., Deceased v. Derek Chauvin, in his capacity as a Minneapolis police officer; Tou Thao, in his capacity as a Minneapolis police officer; Thomas Lane, in his capacity as a Minneapolis police officer; J. Alexander Kueng, in his capacity as a Minneapolis police officer; and the City of Minneapolis, Case 0:20-cv-01577-SRN-TNL (July 15, 2020).

[2] The criminal complaints against the four ex-officers stated that they had held Mr. Floyd on the pavement for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Subsequently the prosecution said that there had been an arithmetical error in the calculation and that the correct length was 7 minutes and 46 seconds. (See Revised Length of Time for Minneapolis Police Restraint of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (June 18, 2020).)

[3] Count I’s recitation of the four ex-officers May 25th encounter with George Floyd is consistent with other reports of watching the ex-officers’ videocam footages, the transcripts of those footages and the criminal complaint against those four men. (See these posts to dwkcommentaries.com: The Criminal Complaint Against Derek Chauvin Over the Death of George Floyd (June 12, 2020); The Criminal Complaints Against the Other Three Policemen Involved in George Floyd’s Death (June 14, 2020); Journalist’s Report on Viewing Two Bodycam Footages of George Floyd Killing (July 15, 2020). See also Arango, Furber & Bogel-Burroughs, Footage of Police Body Cameras Offers Devastating Account of Floyd Killing, N.Y. Times (July 15, 2020). The exception is the length of time of the ex-officers’ physical restraint of Mr. Floyd noted in footnote # 2.

George Floyd’s Family Sues City of Minneapolis and Four Ex-Officers Involved in His Death      

On July 15, attorneys for the family of George Floyd (by their trustee Kaarin Nelson Schaffer, a Minnesota attorney and resident of Hennepin County) sued the City of Minneapolis and the four ex-police officers involved in Floyd’s death—Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng.[1]

Here we will review the public announcement of the case by the lead plaintiff’s lawyer, Ben Crump, the names of the other 11 plaintiff’s attorneys and the background of U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who will preside over this case.

The 40-page Complaint has three counts. “Count I—42 U.S.C. §1983—Fourth Amendment Violations” is asserted against the four ex-policemen while counts II and III are against the City of Minneapolis: “Count II– 42 U.S.C. §1983—Monell Liability” and “Count III–42 U.S.C. §1983—Canton Liability.” A subsequent post will dive into the details of these counts.[2]

Attorney Crump’s Statement

“This is a crisis in Black America — a public health crisis. While all of America is dealing with the public health crisis of the coronavirus pandemic, Black America has to deal with another public health pandemic of police brutality. This is a teachable moment for America.”

In addition to the misconduct for the four ex-policmen, the lawsuit alleges that local officials “with deliberate indifference” have failed to correct the police department’s dangerous arrest practices and train officers properly in the use of force.

“This complaint shows what we have said all along, that it was not just the knee of officer Derek Chauvin on George Floyd’s neck. But it was the knee of the entire Minneapolis Police Department on the neck of George Floyd that killed him. The City of Minneapolis has a history of policies, procedures and deliberate indifference that violates the rights of arrestees, particularly Black men, and highlights the need for officer training and discipline.”

While not specifying how much the family will seek in compensation, Crump said, “This is an unprecedented case, and with this lawsuit we seek to set a precedent that makes it financially prohibitive for police to wrongfully kill marginalized people — especially Black people — in the future.” In short, the case is “the tipping point for policing in America.”

Crump said that how the city leaders react to the demands put forth by the Floyd family lawyers will have consequences. “Their political legacy will be defined by how they respond,” he said.

Other attorneys for the Floyd family, Antonio M. Romanaucci and L. Chris Stewart, also spoke . Ms. Stewart said,  “The Floyd family deserves justice for the inhumane way in which officers with the Minneapolis Police Department killed Mr. Floyd. The city has a responsibility to acknowledge the history and practices of excessive force and impunity with its police force, as well as shortfalls in officer training and discipline.”

Plaintiffs’ Lawyers[3]

The following two Minnesota attorneys are on the Complaint for the plaintiff: Jeffrey S. Storms of the law firm of Newmark Storms Dworak LLC and Michelle R. Gilboe of the law firm of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP. In addition, there are the following ten other attorneys for the plaintiff who are not Minnesota attorneys and, therefore, will have to be permitted to participate in this case (pro hac vice) by the Court:

  • Ben Crump of the Ben Crump Law firm of Washington, D.C.
  • Antonio M. Romanaucci, Bhavani Raveendran and Nicolette A. Ward of the Chicago law firm of Romanucci & Blandin, LLC.
  • William Pintas and Laura Mullins of the Chicago firm of Pintas and Mullins Law Firm;
  • Devon M. Jacob of the Jacob Litigation, Inc. firm of Mechanicsburg, PA;
  • Chris Stewart and Justin Miller of the Stewart Trial Attorneys firm of Atlanta, GA; and
  • Scott Masterson of the Minneapolis firm of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, LLP.

Judge Susan Richard Nelson[4]

The case was randomly assigned by the Clerk of Court to the 68 year-old District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who served as U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of Minnesota, by appointment of the Court’s judges, June 12, 2000, until she was confirmed as a U.S. District Judge of that court on December 22, 2010, upon recommendation of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, nomination by President Barack Obama and unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate. She obtained her B.A. degree with high honors from Oberlin College and her J.D. degree from the University of Pittsburgh Law School. Her initial professional employment was with a Pittsburgh law firm (1977-80) and a New Haven, Connecticut law firm (1980-1983). In 1984 she moved to Minnesota and joined the Minneapolis law firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi as an associate (1984-88) and then was promoted to partner (1988), where she served until she became a U.S. Magistrate Judge. At the Robins firm, her practice focused on civil trial practice involving complex product liability and mass tort lawsuits.

Conclusion

 After subsequent posts that will examine the details of the three counts of the Complaint, we will await to see what attorneys will be representing the defendants, any potential motions attacking the complaint and the rigors of pretrial discovery (requests for production of documents and responses, written interrogatories and responses, requests for admissions and responses and oral depositions) followed by any possible motions for summary judgment and decisions thereon. Then the case would move to trial. Of course, settlements are always a possibility at any point during this complex (and expensive) process.

======================================

[1] Reuters, George Floyd’s Family Sues Minneapolis and Four Officers Over His Death, N.Y. Times (July 15, 2020); Assoc. Press, Floyd Family Sues Minneapolis Officers Charged in His Death, N.Y. Times (July 15, 2020); Bailey, George Floyd’s family files wrongful-death lawsuit against City of Minneapolis and former officers, Wash. Post (July 15, 2020); Furst & Walsh, George Floyd family sues city of Minneapolis, officers involved citing ‘reckless disregard’ of civil rights, StarTribune (July 15, 2020); Treisman, George Floyd’s Family Files Civil Lawsuit Against Minneapolis And Police, Lawyers Say, MPR News (July 15, 2020); Attorney Ben Crump To File Civil Rights Lawsuit For Floyd’s Family, CBS Minnesota (July 15, 2020) (video of much of Crump’s statement).

[2] Complaint, Schaffer v. Chauvin, Case No, 0.20-cv-01577-SRN-TNL (D. Minn. July 15, 2020). Read the lawsuit filed by family of George Floyd against Minneapolis, four ex-police officers, StarTribune (July 15, 2020).

[3] Complaint at 38-40.

[4] Susan Richard Nelson, Wikipedia; Off the Cuff with Judge Susan Richard Nelson, The Oberlin Review (July 15, 2020).

Former Minneapolis Mayor Discusses Police Reform Problems

R.T. Rybak, former Mayor of Minneapolis (2002-2013) believes that police unions and their leaders are major reasons why past efforts at reforming policing in Minneapolis and elsewhere in this country have had problems and why current reform efforts are facing difficulties.[1]

He says this as he struggles with competing police images. On the one hand, Rybak has seen “police officers perform extraordinary acts of courage at explosive crime scenes, protect women from domestic abuse, build trusted relationships with immigrants who are terrified the government will take their children, and so much more.” On the other hand, he also has seen “toxic us-versus-them police cultures—in which an officer who might individually make the right call becomes silently complicit when a fellow officer goes rogue.This culture enabled three officers in my city to stand by while [George] Floyd was killed.” [2]

The latter culture is understandable when “officers see the worst things happening in their city on any given shift. After being in danger every night, officers gradually stop seeing the humanity in the people and neighborhoods they patrol. Instead, they go back to the precinct with the only people who can really understand what they are going through. People with exceptionally tough jobs serving complex humans naturally vent when they are together.”

“But the tribalism that can build up within police departments is far more consequential. Us versus them—meaning police versus criminals—slowly curdles into police versus the people: Who would live in these crime-infested neighborhoods where we risk our lives? Waiting to stoke that resentment are police-union leaders such as [Bob] Kroll [the President of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis], who defend even the more aggressive acts of officers and, even in a case as extreme as [George] Floyd’s death, prevent any self-examination by blaming the victim.”

“As matters stand, the public—through its elected representatives—has also ceded far too much power to the police unions that enable bad behavior. Floyd’s death underscores that police work should be subject to oversight, and officers who violate policy and misuse their power should be subject to discipline. But the unions’ power is most notable in contracts that limit the accountability that, as the community can now see, is so desperately needed. The lack of accountability seems incongruous because the mayors and city councils that negotiate with police unions include some of the country’s most progressive elected officials and represent some of the country’s most progressive constituencies.”

“Yet when duly elected officials propose reforms, police unions do not merely oppose them; they actively work to thwart them. Last year, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey banned so-called warrior-style training, which emphasizes physical threats to police officers rather than the benefits of de-escalating confrontations. . . . Kroll and the police federation defied Frey’s move by offering warrior-style training of their own.”[3]

“Some local officials have also hesitated to demand tougher reforms in contracts because police unions often spend heavily in local elections to oppose any politician who challenges them. I know what that’s like. The union supported me near the end of my first race for mayor. But after I took office, we disagreed over the police budget and my choice of police chief. When I ran for reelection, the police union went all out to defeat me: It helped pay for polling to identify the strongest candidate to run against me and pounded voters relentlessly with literature and broadcast ads that portrayed me as soft on crime. [Nevertheless,] I got more than 60 percent of the vote. The police federation also made a massive investment to defeat an incoming council member, Betsy Hodges, who still won overwhelmingly. Eight years later, again, despite massive police opposition, she was elected mayor.”

“Electing mayors and city-council members who support such reforms is not enough. Police-union leaders use back channels to go around local officials and get more conservative state legislators to block meaningful changes. That dynamic holds true in Minnesota, where a Republican state representative, who was also a Minneapolis [police] officer, helped overturn a residency requirement for police. Today more than 90 percent of Minneapolis officers live outside the city. The legislature also has stonewalled attempts by the city to get supervisory positions removed from police-federation ranks. As a result, some of the people directing and disciplining officers, and developing the union contract, are actually negotiating with the union of which they are a member.”

“In return, police unions have helped their enablers on the state and national levels. Police-federation leaders endorse Republicans in most gubernatorial races. Last fall, Kroll appeared with President Donald Trump at a rally in Minneapolis and was interviewed wearing a ‘cops for trump’ T-shirt on Fox News.”

“If progressive local officials want wholesale reform of police tactics and culture, they will have to do something that runs counter to their own culture: take on union leaders. [After all,] Minnesota’s chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations—an umbrella group that does not include the police federation—recognizes that Kroll isn’t merely taking his members’ side in a labor-management dispute. In a recent statement calling for Kroll’s resignation, the Minnesota AFL-CIO president, Bill McCarthy, faulted him for trying to justify Floyd’s killing rather than participate in a dialogue about reform. McCarthy also accused Kroll of failing the labor movement. ‘Unions exist to protect workers who have been wronged,” McCarthy declared, “not to keep violent people in police ranks.’”

“I used to say that the majority of officers are good but silently let a minority set the dominant culture. But now I believe that no one can be called a ‘good officer’ if they are not working actively and openly to change the culture and unseat their toxic union leaders. The silence of the ‘good officers’ so far is deafening, but a glimmer of hope came recently when more than a dozen brave Minneapolis officers bucked their union, condemned the officer who murdered George Floyd, and vowed to regain the community’s trust.”[4]

“In general, intimidated local officials overestimate the political muscle of police unions. Their credibility with the public is even more diminished in the aftermath of [George] Floyd’s death. So now is the time to push for reforms that hold police departments more accountable to the public.”

“I am not suggesting that cities should try to bust police unions. Far from it. Working people need and deserve the protections that collective bargaining provides. In a better world, a police-union leader could help the public understand how hard the job can be—but could also set the moral and professional standards for officers, rather than defend them no matter what they do.”

“While the breakdown between the police union and the public’s elected representatives has been especially acute in Minneapolis, I know from my discussions with other mayors that many other communities experience similar tensions. These relationships must be fundamentally reshaped. When cities lack the power to provide basic oversight of their officers and cannot break down an us-versus-them culture, they cannot prevent future deaths like that of George Floyd.”

================================

[1] Rybak, I Was Mayor of Minneapolis. I Know Why Police Reforms Fail, Atlantic (June 10, 2020). See also Mannix, Killing of George Floyd shows that years of police reform fall far short, StarTribune (June 20, 2020).

[2]  It must not be forgotten that the Minneapolis Chief of Police immediately fired the four officers involved in the killing of George Floyd, that soon thereafter serious criminal charges were filed against all four and the City banned chokeholds and neck restraints under an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights that was incorporated in a court injunction. See List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: GEORGE FLOYD CASE.

[3] Jany, Minneapolis police union offers free ‘warrior’ training, in defiance of mayor’s ban, StarTribune (April 24, 2019).

[4] Olson, Minneapolis police officers issue open letter condemning colleague in George Floyd’s death, pledging to work toward trust, StarTribune (June 12, 2020); The Criminal Complaints Against the Other Three Policemen Involved in George Floyd’s Death, dwkcommentaries.com (June 14, 2020).

 

 

Court Approves Agreement for Police Conduct Between City of Minneapolis and Minnesota Human Rights Department     

On June 5 The City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights signed a Stipulation and Order mandating certain changes for conduct of the City’s police. Most prominent were a ban on the use of choke holds and neck restraints and requiring officers to intervene when inappropriate force is used. The agreement was in the form of a Stipulation and Order for approval of the Hennepin County District Court.[1]

On June 8 that approval was granted by Hennepin County District Judge Karen Janisch.[2] That approval was in the form of a court order for the Minneapolis Police Department immediately to implement  the following measures[3]

  • Ban the use of all neck restraints and chokeholds.
  • Any police officer, regardless of tenure or rank, must report while still on scene if they observe another police officer use any unauthorized use of force, including any chokehold or neck restraint.
  • Any police officer, regardless of tenure or rank, must intervene by verbal and physical means if they observe another police officer use any unauthorized use of force, including any choke hold or neck restraint.
  • Only the Police Chief or the Chief’s designee at the rank of Deputy Chief may approve the use of crowd control weapons, including chemical agents, rubber bullets, flash-bangs, batons, and marking rounds, during protests and demonstrations.
  • The Police Chief must make timely and transparent discipline decisions for police officers as outlined in the order.
  • Civilian body worn camera footage analysts and investigators in the City’s Office of Police Conduct Review have the authority to proactively audit body worn camera footage and file or amend complaints on behalf of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department.

As a result, the court has the power to enforce compliance with these measures and failure to do so could lead to court-imposed sanctions.

According to Minnesota Commissioner of Human Rights Rebecca Lucero, “Today’s court order will create immediate change for communities of color and Indigenous communities who have suffered generational pain and trauma as a result of systemic and institutional racism and long-standing problems in policing.”

Judge Janisch was appointed to the bench in 2009 by Governor Tim Pawlenty (Rep). and was elected to that position in 2010 and 2016. She obtained her J.D. magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1992 and was a Minnesota Supreme Court law clerk, 1992-93, an associate and partner in a Minneapolis law firm, 1993-2003 and General Counsel to Governor Pawlenty, 2003-2009.

==================================

[1]  Ban on Police Choke Holds and Neck Restraints in Agreement Between City of Minneapolis and Minnesota Human Rights Department, dwkcomentaries.com (June 6, 2020.)

[2] Press release, Court Orders Minneapolis Police Department to Make Immediate Changes, Minn. Dep’t Human Rts. (June 8, 2020); Griswold, Court orders Minneapolis Police Department to implement immediate changes,  KARE11 News (June 8, 2020).

[3] Stipulation and Order, State of Minnesota v. City of Minneapolis Police Department, City of Minneapolis, Ct. file # 27-CV-20-8182 (Henn. Cty. Dist. Ct. June 8, 2020).

 

Ban on  Police Choke Holds and Neck Restraints in Agreement Between City of Minneapolis and Minnesota Human Rights Department

On June 5, the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced an agreement to ban Minneapolis police from using choke holds and neck restraints and to require officers to intervene when inappropriate force is used. The agreement was approved that same day by the Minneapolis City Council and signed by Mayor Jacob Frey, who said, “George Floyd’s service yesterday underscored that justice for George requires more than accountability for the man who killed him – it requires accountability from elected leadership to deep, structural reforms. Today’s agreement with the state will help bring those layers of accountability. This unprecedented energy and momentum for police reform has left Minneapolis poised not just to address our shortcomings, but to become a model for shifting police culture and uprooting systemic racism.” [1]

The agreement is in the form of a Stipulation and Order to be signed by a Hennepin County District Judge after the Department files a lawsuit against the City, which a StarTribune article says happened in the afternoon of June 5, but which was not yet publicly available..[2] This is a result of the Department’s  June 2nd filing a civil rights charge against the City related to the George Floyd death and launching a general investigation of whether and how the Minneapolis Police Department has for the past 10 years engaged in discretionary practices toward people of color.[3]

This Stipulation, if and when it is approved by a district judge, would order the City of Minneapolis as follows:

  1. BAN CHOKEHOLDS: “Within 10 days of the Effective Date, the City will amend Police Department Policy and Procedure Manual §§ 5-100 (Code of Conduct), 5-300 (Use of Force), and 5-311 (Use of Neck Restraints and Choke Holds) to prohibit the use of all neck restraints or choke holds for any reason.”
  2. DUTY TO REPORT: Regardless of tenure or rank, any member of the City’s Police Department who observes another member of the City’s Police Department use any unauthorized use of force, including any choke hold or neck restraint, in violation of this Stipulation and Order, has an affirmative duty to immediately report the incident while still on scene by phone or radio to their Commander or their Commander’s superiors.”
  3. DUTY TO INTERVENE: Regardless of tenure or rank, any member of the City’s Police Department who observes another member of the City’s Police Department use any unauthorized use of force, including any choke hold or neck restraint in violation of this Stipulation and Order, must attempt to safely intervene by verbal and physical means, and if they do not do so shall be subject to discipline to the same severity as if they themselves engaged in the prohibited use of force.”
  4. CROWD CONTROL AUTHORIZATION: During protests and demonstrations, use of all crowd control weapons must be authorized only by the Chief of Police, or if the Chief is unavailable, the Chief’s designee at the rank of Deputy Chief or above. Crowd control weapons include, but are not limited to, chemical agents, rubber bullets, flash-bangs, batons, and marking rounds. The Police Department shall contemporaneously document the person who authorized the use of crowd control weapons and retain such documentation for a period of not less than seven years. Accordingly, within 10 days of the Effective Date, the City will amend Police Department Policy and Procedure Manual § 5-313 to reflect that chemical agents, regardless of canister size, may be used during crowd control situations if authorized only by the Chief of Police, or if the Chief is unavailable, the Chief’s designee at the rank of Deputy Chief or above. Any other provisions of the Police Department Policy and Procedure Manual that identify the authorized use of other crowd control weapons must also be amended within 10 days of the Effective Date to reflect that use of such weapons must be authorized only by the Chief of Police.”
  5. TIMELY DISCIPLINE DECISIONS: For all recommendations that are pending as of the Effective Date of this Stipulation and Order, the Police Chief must issue a decision on any recommendation from the City’s Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR) within 45 calendar days of the Effective Date. For all recommendations of merit provided by the OPCR after the Effective Date of this Stipulation and Order, and for the duration of this Stipulation and Order, the Police Chief must issue a written memorandum explaining the basis their decision, including the relevant facts, policies and law supporting the decision, within 30 calendar days. If and when permitted by Minn. Stat. § 13.43, the decision and written memorandum will be immediately made available to the public via the City’s website and must also be available for physical inspection. Within 90 calendar days of the Effective Date of this Stipulation and Order, the City shall amend any city ordinances to conform to the requirements of this paragraph. The City shall also amend any city ordinances to fashion an appropriate remedy for the person filing the complaint if a determination on the OPCR’s recommendation of merit is not made within the 30 calendar day time period.”
  6. BODY WORN CAMERA FOOTAGE REVIEW: Civilian body worn camera footage analysts and investigators in the OPCR will have the authority to proactively and strategically audit body worn camera (BWC) footage and file or amend complaints on behalf of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department. Within 90 calendar days of the Effective Date, the City of Minneapolis will submit to the Department of Human Rights a plan for detailing how it intends to strategically utilize this audit function to identify discriminatory practices in policing, including officer misconduct.”

In addition, the Stipulation, if and when it is approved by a district judge, would order the City of Minneapolis to do certain things to aid the Department’s current investigation as well as the following for “Building Toward Systemic Change:”

  1. “On or before July 30, 2020, the City Attorney shall prepare a report listing the State of Minnesota Laws that impede public transparency of police data and/or prevent the Mayor and Chief of Police and/or impede civilian oversight from disciplining and terminating police officers who do not adhere to Minneapolis Police Department policies and standards. “
  2. “The City shall prohibit all forms of retaliation, intimidation, coercion, or adverse action against any person, including any City employee, who reports misconduct or cooperates with MDHR’s Commissioner’s charge investigation. Any violation of this provision shall be considered a material breach of the Order and may result in further enforcement action by MDHR.“

12.“All forms of retaliation, interference, intimidation, and coercion against a City employee or any member of the public who reports misconduct or cooperates with MDHR’s Commissioner’s charge investigation, are strictly prohibited. This prohibited conduct includes anyone employed by the City’s Police Department, or a representative of such employee, who intentionally aids, abets, incites, compels, or coerces a person to engage in any of the practices forbidden by this Stipulation and Order.”

  1. “The City shall notify all employees that it is unlawful to intentionally obstruct or prevent any person from complying with the MHRA, MDHR’s Commissioner’s Charge investigation, or any order issued thereunder, or to resist, prevent, impede, or interfere with the Commissioner or any of the Commissioner’s employees or representatives in the performance of their duties.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said, ““George Floyd’s service yesterday underscored that justice for George requires more than accountability for the man who killed him — it requires accountability from elected leadership to deep, structural reforms.”

Presumably the Minneapolis Police Union has a right to intervene in this lawsuit and to oppose the proposed Stipulation and Order that would have to be ruled on by the district court.

We will wait to see whether they do so and what happens.

Reactions

These proposed revisions of the MPD Manual, in this blogger’s opinion, should be approved by the court after a hearing.

If and when approved by the court, however, they would only go into effect for subsequent actions by the police. Therefore, they are not relevant to the pending criminal cases about the killing of George Floyd. However, provisions of the existing MPD Manual will be relevant to these cases as discussed below.

Case Against Derek Chauvin[4]

That  Manual states that a “Choke Hold’s is a “deadly force option” by “applying direct pressure on a person’s trachea or airway (front of the neck), blocking or obstructing the airway.” (Manual sec. 5-311(I).)

“Deadly force” is defined in the Manual, quoting Minn. Stat. sec. 609.066, subd. 2 as ““Force which the actor uses with the purpose of causing, or which the actor should reasonably know creates a substantial risk of causing death or great bodily harm.”(Manual sec. 5-302.).

“Neck restraint,” on the other hand, is stated in the Manual as a “non-deadly force option” and is defined as “compressing one or both sides of a person’s neck with an arm or leg, without applying direct pressure to the trachea or airway (front of the neck). Only sworn employees who have received training from the MPD Training Unit are authorized to use neck restraints.” In addition, the Manual  “authorizes two types of neck restraints: Conscious Neck Restraint and Unconscious Neck Restraint.” (Manual sec. 5-311.)

  • Conscious Neck Restraint:The subject is placed in a neck restraint with intent to control, and not to render the subject unconscious, by only applying light to moderate pressure.” It “may be used against a subject who is actively resisting.”
  • Unconscious Neck Restraint:The subject is placed in a neck restraint with the intention of rendering the person unconscious by applying adequate pressure.” It “shall only be applied in the following circumstances:
  1. On a subject who is exhibiting active aggression, or;
  2. For life saving purposes, or;
  3. On a subject who is exhibiting active resistance in order to gain control of the subject; and if lesser attempts at control have been or would likely be ineffective.”

Criminologists who have seen the videotape of Chauvin’s treatment of Floyd say that Chauvin’s  “knee restraint not only puts dangerous pressure on the back of the neck, but that Mr. Floyd was kept lying on his stomach for too long. Both positions. . .run the risk of cutting off someone’s oxygen supply.”

These criminologist also said that the fact that Mr. Chauvin kept applying pressure when Mr. Floyd was no longer struggling made it appear to be a case of an officer trying to punish a suspect for doing something the police did not like. Philip M. Stinson, a former police officer and now a criminal justice professor at Bowling State University, said it was “a form of ‘street justice,’ . . . bullying [to teach] someone a lesson—next time you will think twice about what you do.”

Case Against Other Officers

The existing MPD Manual, under the heading “Duty To Intervene” states: “ Sworn employees have an obligation to protect the public and other employees.” (Manual sec. 5-303.01(A).) And “It shall be the duty of every sworn employee present at any scene where physical force is being applied to either stop or attempt to stop another sworn employee when force is being inappropriately applied or is no longer required.” (Manual sec. 5-303.01(B).)

Conclusion

 Subsequent posts will cover the future court hearing and decision on the proposed changes to the MPD Manual while other posts will analyze the pending criminal cases and developments.

==============================

[1] Navratil,Tentative agreement would ban chokeholds, neck restraints by Minneapolis police, StarTribune (June 5, 2020); Minneapolis to ban the use of chokeholds in response to George Floyd’s death, N.Y. Times (June 5, 2020); Governor Walz, Walz-Flanagan Administration, City of Minneapolis Agree on Immediate Changes to Minneapolis Police Department Policies (June 5, 2020); Chavez, Sanchez & Alonso, Minneapolis City council votes to ban chokeholds one day after George Floyd memorial, cnn.com (June 5, 2020); Collins, Chapman, Martinez & Li, Weekend George Floyd Protests Planned, Seeking Reforms, W.S.J. (June 5, 2020); ‘Layers of accountability’: Mayor Jacob Frey Signs Restraining Order Forcing Immediate Reforms in Mpls. Police Dept., CBS Minnesota (June 5, 2020).

[2] Stipulation and Order [unsigned], State of Minnesota v. City of Minneapolis Police Department, City of Minneapolis (undated2020) (unsigned).

[3] Berkl & Navratil, Minnesota Human Rights Department launches probe into Minneapolis police, StarTribune (June 3, 2020);

Minn. Dep’t Human Rts., Civil Rights Investigation into Minneapolis Police Department (June 3, 3030); Governor Walz, Walz Administration’s Department of Human Rights Files Civil Rights Charge Against Minneapolis Police Department (June 2, 2020).

[4] MacFarquar, In George Floyd’s Death, a Police Technique Results in a Too-Familiar Tragedy, N.Y.Times (May 29, 2020).

 

Update on States’ Consents to Refugee Resettlement

President Trump on September 28 issued an executive order requiring state and local governments to provide written consents to refugee resettlements for Fiscal 2020. Thereafter, as previously noted in this blog, at least three states—Utah, North Dakota and Minnesota– provided such  consents with at least three North Dakota counties, one Minnesota county and the City of Minneapolis doing the same.[1]

Here are some updates on this subject while we await until the January 31, 2020, deadline for consenting to see what other states and localities do in response to this challenge.

Evangelical Support for Refugee Resettlement[2]

In the meantime, we have learned that two evangelical nonprofit supporters of U.S. immigration—World Relief and the Evangelical Immigration Table—have been urging U.S. States to consent to resettlement of refugees in Fiscal 2020 (October 1, 2019—September 30, 2020).  This effort is directed at the governors of the following 15 states: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

The World Relief president, Scott Arbeiter, said, “After being forced to leave their countries to escape war, persecution or natural disaster and being legally allowed entry to the U.S., the last thing refugees should have to experience is being denied access to communities in which they wish to dwell. Halting the resettlement of refugees to states will disrupt families and could lead to the end of vital ministries by local churches.”

Consents by Arizona State and Local Governments[3]

On December 6, the Republican Governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, sent a letter of consent to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. The letter stated, in part, “Throughout our nation’s history, the United States has been a refuge for individuals fleeing religious and political persecution in their homeland, and Arizona has historically been one of the most welcoming states in terms of the number of refugees resettled here.”

This action was applauded by Arizona’s State House Speaker Rusty Bowers: “Our state is one that offers opportunity for all. We welcome people from all backgrounds, religions, and cultures to come here and share in that special spirit. I applaud Governor Ducey for affirming that Arizona will continue to welcome religious and politically-persecuted refugees who have been vetted through the State Department’s Reception and Placement Program.” Similar messages came from Stanford Prescott, Arizona’s community engagement coordinator of the International Rescue Committee, and from Arizona’s Surge Network of evangelical churches.

On December 11, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego added her city’s consent, telling Secretary Pompeo, “”The refugee resettlement program has a long and important history” in Phoenix; “these individuals have made invaluable contributions to our community and economy, opening businesses, creating community, and bringing greater diversity to the nation’s fifth largest city.” The same day this city’s county (Maricopa) did likewise. Previously other local Arizona authorities had provided their consents–Pima County and Tucson.

Other States Providing Consents[4]

The consent column also has been joined by the states of  Kansas, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington with Democratic governors and New Hampshire with a Republican governor.

Texas’ Republican Governor  Greg Abbott has not yet offered his decision on this issue, despite pleas from Texas evangelicals and the mayor of Fort Worth to continue accepting refugees.

Conclusion

Now there are at least nine states that have provided written consents to the resettlement of refugees for Fiscal 2020, while so far no state has declined to consent. This blog approves of these actions.

Rather surprisingly there is no readily identifiable website with an ongoing national tally of those categories. (If any reader knows of such a website, please identify it in a comment to this post.) There also is some confusion from the various articles about the deadline for submission of such consents to the Department of State and the period of time to be covered by such consents. (Comments with clarification on these issues are also welcome.)

All of this activity and confusion about the U.S. new lower quota for refugee admissions and the new requirement for state and local governments’ consenting to such resettlements are causing great uncertainties and challenges for the refugee resettlement agencies throughout the U.S.

One of those in Minnesota (International Institute of Minnesota) this year is celebrating its centennial of helping refugees and other immigrants with English classes, job training and other supports. One of its celebratory events last week was hosting a ceremony for the naturalization of new U.S. citizens. Welcoming them was U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Kressel, who said, “Becoming an American does not mean renouncing your love for the land where you were born or forgetting your native language and the songs and dances you learned as a child. As a U.S. citizen, you are free to follow your own path wherever it takes you.”[5]

All of this is happening while the U.N. is calling for all nations to increase their acceptance of the escalating numbers of forcibly displaced people, now over 70.8 million, 25.9 million of whom are refugees.[6]

=================================

[1]  See these posts to dwkcommentaries.com: U.S. Sets 18,000 Quota for New Refugee Admissions to U.S. for Fiscal 2020 (Nov. 4, 2019; U.S. Senators Oppose U.S.Reduction in Refugee Admissions for Fiscal 2020 (Nov. 11, 2019);Latest U.S. Struggle Over Refugees (Dec. 11, 2019); Minnesota and Minneapolis Say “Yes” to Refugees (Dec. 14, 2019).

[2] Smith & Jordan, Trump Said Local Officials Could Block Refugees. So Far, they Haven’t, N.Y. Times (Dec. 9, 2019); World Relief, Press Release: World Relief and the Evangelical Immigration Table Urge Governors in 15 States To Accept Refugees (Dec. 11, 2019).

[3] See n.2 supra; Gonzalez, Arizona will continue to resettle refugees, Gov. Doug Ducey tells Trump administration, azcentral (Dec. 6, 2019); Gonzalez, Phoenix, Maricopa County tell Trump administration they will keep accepting refugees, azcentral (Dec. 11, 2019); Resnik, Arizona leaders tell Trump they will welcome refugees. That doesn’t mean we’ll see more of them, 12News (Dec. 15, 2019).

[4] Macchi, More US States Welcome Refugees Under New Trump Rule, Voice of America (Dec. 6, 2019).

[5]  Rao, Refugee Center’s Future in Flux at 100, StarTribune (Dec. 16, 2019).

[6] UNHCR, International community must do ‘far more’ to shoulder responsibility for refugees, says UN chief (Dec. 17, 2019); UNHCR, Global Refugee Forum (Dec. 17-18, 2019); Assoc. Press, UN Urges ‘Reboot of Refugee Response as Millions Uprooted, N,Y. Times (Dec. 17, 2019).

 

Minnesota and Minneapolis Say “Yes” to Refugees   

As noted in a prior post, President Trump on September 28 issued an executive order requiring state and local governments to provide written consents to refugee resettlements for Fiscal 2020 and the States of Utah and North Dakota thereafter provided such  consents with three of the latter’s counties doing the same. We now await until the January 31, 2020 deadline to see what other states and localities do in response to this challenge.

Now the State of Minnesota and its City of Minneapolis have joined the affirmative choir.[1]

State of Minnesota

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s December 13 letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo stated, “Minnesota has a strong moral tradition of welcoming those who seek refuge. Our state has always stepped forward to help those who are fleeing desperate situations and need a safe place to call home. In keeping with this proud history, I offer my consent to continue refugee resettlement in the State of Minnesota.”

“Refugees strengthen our communities. Bringing new cultures and fresh perspectives, they contribute to the social fabric of our state. Opening businesses and supporting existing ones, they are critical to the success of our economy. Refugees are doctors and bus drivers. They are entrepreneurs and police officers. They are students and teachers. They are our neighbors.” (Emphasis in original.)

The letter concluded, “I reject the intent of the President’s Executive Order on Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement, and we reserve our right to challenge the Executive Order’s requirements. As the Holiday Season approaches, we are reminded of the importance of welcoming all who seek shelter. The inn is not full in Minnesota.” (Emphasis added,)

The concluding sentence—“the Inn is not full in Minneapolis”—invoked the Biblical story of Mary and Joseph’s discovering that the inns in Bethlehem were full and having to stay in a manger. The sentence also is seen as a retort to Prsdient Trump’s declaration on the U.S.-Mexico border last April that the U.S. immigration system is overburdened and that “our country is full” and to Trump’s October campaign rally in Minneapolis when he criticized Minnesota’s acceptance of Somali refugees.

City of Minneapolis

Also on December 13, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously adopted a resolution noting that “the state of Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis are home to some of the largest and most diverse populations of refugees and immigrants in the United States, adding to the economic strength and cultural richness of our community.” This document then resolved that “the Mayor and City Council do hereby reaffirm the City’s status as a Welcoming City, and a city that strongly supports resettling refugees without regard to race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, or country of origin.” In addition, the “City of Minneapolis hereby pledges to continue to work diligently with resettlement organizations to accept refugees into the City and to improve refugee integration.” The final paragraph of the resolution directed “the City Clerk to send certified copies of this resolution to the President of the United States and the members of the federal delegation representing the State of Minnesota to the United States Congress to express the City’s strong support for the ongoing resettlement of refugees.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is expected to approve this resolution.

Other Minnesota Commentary

The State’s largest counties—Hennepin (Minneapolis) and Ramsey (St. Paul)—are expected to issue similar consents.

Also on December 13, the State’s Attorney General—Keith Ellison– joined a 12-state court amicus brief backing three refugee resettlement organizations that have sued the Trump administration over the president’s executive order requiring state and local consent to such resettlements. The states argue that the order violates federal law, interferes with state sovereignty, “undermines family reunification efforts, and disrupts the states’ abilities to deliver essential resources that help refugees contribute to the communities that welcome them.” According to Ellison, “Minnesotans want everyone to live with the same dignity and respect that they want for themselves. This includes the many refugees we have resettled here, who have given back many times over to the state, communities, and neighbors that have welcomed them. I’m challenging the President’s order on behalf of the people of Minnesota because it is illegal and immoral.”

A newspaper from western Minnesota— Alexandria Echo Press,  added, “The Minnesota Department of Human Services reports that 775 refugees have been placed in Minnesota in 2019, down significantly compared to previous years. And of those placed, the bulk of the refugees came from Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo” plus 69 from Ukraine and 67 from Somalia.

A longer-term perspective was provided by the Pioneer Press from St. Paul. It said, “Minnesota has the country’s largest Somali and Karen populations, the second-largest Hmong population and one of the largest Liberian populations — all made up of people who fled their war-torn homelands as well as their descendants. According to State Department data, Minnesota ranks sixth in the country for refugee arrivals since 2001, accepting over 43,000 individuals.”

Conclusion

Congratulations to the State of Minnesota and the City of Minneapolis for standing up for resettlement of refugees, each of whom already has established overseas to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees that he or she, “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”[2]

On December 17, this Minnesota action was endorsed in an editorial in the state’s leading newspaper, the StarTribune. It applauded “Gov. Tim Walz . . . for his forceful declaration of Minnesota values in his letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”  The editorial also noted, “Minnesota has a proud tradition of welcoming immigrants — particularly refugees,” who “have proved, overall, a bountiful investment.”[3]

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[1] Office of MN Governor, Governor Walz to Trump Administration: ‘The Inn is Not Full in Minnesota,’ (Dec. 13, 2019); Assoc. Press, Governor on Refugees: ‘The Inn Is Not Full in Minnesota,’ N.Y. Times (Dec. 13, 2019); Montemayor, Gov. Tim Walz to Trump on refugees: ‘The inn is not full in Minnesota,’ StarTribune (Dec. 13, 2019);

Minneapolis City Council, Resolution Supporting the resettlement of refugees in the City of Minneapolis (Dec. 13, 2019); Minnesota Attorney General, Attorney General Ellison defends refugees against President Trump’s unlawful executive order (Dec. 13, 2019); Ferguson, ‘The inn is not full’: Walz approves additional refugee placements in Minnesota, Alexandria Echo Press (Dec. 13, 2019); Magan, ‘The inn is not full’—Walz pledges support for refugees as MN joins lawsuit, Pioneer Press (Dec. 13, 2019).

[2] UNHCR, Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (entered into force April 22, 1954  (Art. 1(A)(2).

[3] Editorial, Minnesota’s doors, hearts remain open to refugees, StarTribune (Dec. 17, 2019)