Police “think they’re 100% justified”

Photo by Charles Hallman, Minnesota Spokesman Recorder, 2011

Jeffry Martin (Photo by Charles Hallman, Minnesota Spokesman Recorder, 2011)

Jeffry Martin said he expects absolutely no action from police or the City of St. Paul on the Chris Lollie case. “They [the police] think they’re 100% justified,” he explained. So there will be “no change in policy, no discipline of police.”

As the head of the St. Paul NAACP, Martin has heard plenty of complaints about police behavior and his expectation is based on experience. That experience also includes his work as a prosecutor in the St. Paul city attorney’s office and as a public defender, so he’s seen the legal system from all sides.

Lollie’s case is not an isolated incident, according to Martin. The voicemails he gets as chair of the NAACP have “complaint after complaint” about excessive force used by police, about lack of respect shown by police, and about harassment.

The Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission reviewed 90 cases in 2012, with a total of 193 “allegation dispositions.” As of September 9, 2014, the 2013 report had not yet appeared online. Like the Minneapolis “civilian” review process, the St. Paul process is dominated by police, not civilians. For more in-depth description of the office, see Holding police responsible — or not — in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

A call to Donald Luna, the police officer in charge of coordinating the PCIARC, got a response that the 2013 report had been delivered to the staff responsible for posting online — but that he didn’t know when it would actually be posted and would not send me a copy of the report by email. That, Luna said, would require a data request to the office of the chief. Luna gave me a phone number to call. Six phone calls later, I still don’t have the 2013 report, though I have been assured that someone will answer my phone calls some time soon.

The 2012 report showed 29 allegations of excessive force, 24 allegations of improper conduct, 79 of improper procedure and 61 of poor public relations. Of these, 34 allegations were classified as “unfounded,” with officers “exonerated” in another 58, and allegations “not sustained” in 89 instances. Only six percent of the allegations — 12 in all — were “sustained.” Ten of the dozen sustained allegations related to improper procedure, one to improper conduct and one to poor public relations.  

While the St. Paul numbers don’t have any demographic information on people filing the complaints (at least not in 2012), Minneapolis reports show that most complainants are white. That makes sense to Martin because, as he notes, “People of color don’t have confidence in the system. They think nothing’s going to happen, so why waste my time.”

I asked Martin whether the St. Paul police were better than the Minneapolis police.

“Are there differences? I don’t think so. I think unfair treatment is unfair treatment…. The first thing out of St. Paul’s mouth is ‘At least we’re not Minneapolis.’ If they are the lesser of two evils, why not aspire to be who you’re supposed to be, who you say you are?”

The picture of police-community relations for the African-American community is bleak. “People are really starting to think that when the police arrive, your life is in jeopardy,” Martin said. “You don’t even have to have done anything — you just have to be in the area.”

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One response to “Police “think they’re 100% justified”

  1. Pingback: Holding police responsible — or not — in Minneapolis and St. Paul | News Day

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