Brutal Revelations Add Up For Minnesota's Defunct Metro Gang Strike Force

What happens when you unleash police in quasi-military, no-holds-barred, special-forces style against a perceived social problem? As Minnesotans could tell you, it turns out that you get all of the abuses that you should have anticipated from unleashing armed troops in quasi-military, no-holds-barred, special-forces style against your society. And even after you've sent those out-of-control cops to some equivalent of the back of the woodshed, cleaning up the mess takes years.

The multi-agency (meaning, not clearly under anybody's control) Metro Gang Strike Force was shut down after reports of abuse of power, brutality and outright theft added up. The death knell for the strike force, which itself was acting like  gang, came in May 2009, when the Legislative Auditor's Report concluded, "[t]he Metro Gang Strike Force's internal controls were not adequate..." As the follow-up report (PDF) of the Metro Gang Strike Force Review Panel detailed in August 2009:

Following the issuance of the Legislative Auditor's report, on the night of May 20, a number of Strike Force officers were observed shredding documents at the Strike Force offices. At that time, the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety shut down the Strike Force pending further investigation by this Panel and the F.B.I.

Shredding documents? Yeah. That's not a good sign. here are some highlights from Review Panel report:

Employees, including sworn officers, repeatedly took property obtained during searches for their own personal use. These items included, among other things, flat screen and large screen televisions, laptops and other computer equipment, electronics, jewelry and recreational items. On a few occasions, officers returned property to the Strike Force offices when others made an issue of their conduct. Some of the items removed by officers for their personal use were items that were stolen by a defendant in a case, and could have been returned to their rightful owner. ...

As the saturation details grew to include stops that were not gang-related, Strike Force officers began to seize funds from those stopped, regardless of any intent to file charges against the people stopped and without regard to whether the funds could reasonably be connected to illegal activity. ...

In late 2008, Strike Force officers were asked to sign blank forms permitting the evidence in their cases to be destroyed. Once these documents were signed, Strike Force personnel placed forms noting that evidence was destroyed into files in which the evidence was not, in fact, destroyed.

With the group in disgrace and under investigation, Minnesota pulled the plug on the Metro Gang Strike Force was in 2009. The state soon realized that all of those people mistreated by the crack law-enforcement team would have to be made right somehow — if only because they had access to good lawyers. In July of this year, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported on some of the costs involved in (somewhat) compensating victims of the Metro Gang Strike Force:

More than $840,000 was awarded Monday to 96 victims of illegal searches, seizures and use of excessive force by the now-defunct Metro Gang Strike Force, including a dozen juveniles who were targeted by a Brooklyn Park police officer.

The scandal-ridden gang unit, shut down by the Department of Public Safety three years ago this month, broke through people's doors without justification, seized property without authorization and injured people who were not suspects, according to reports by Mark Gehan, a St. Paul attorney appointed as special master in the case.

The awards, ranging from $300 to $75,000, conclude the main phase in the 2010 settlement of a $3 million class-action lawsuit that allowed victims of the Strike Force's misdeeds to apply for compensation, but only if they had had property taken.

Another result of that class-action lawsuit, though, was a series of revelations about what that compensation was for. The incidents documented during the course of court proceedings delve just a little deeper than the official reports. Again, from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

A toddler, not yet 2 years old, was kicked in the head by a Metro Gang Strike Force officer and his crib was destroyed during a botched drug raid. The government's payout to the child: $6,000.

A Lincoln Navigator SUV, seized by the Strike Force, was returned to the owner 18 months later, with 20,000 more miles on it. Payout to the owner: $25,000.

In other raids, officers improperly seized a blender, class rings, an ice auger and a stump digger. One man lost some Twins baseball hats he said were autographed by Joe Mauer. His compensation: $2,000 if the caps are not returned.

About that toddler-as-soccer-ball ... According to the article:

An officer tried to kick a woman, but instead kicked her toddler. A photo showed a bruise on his forehead. A $289 crib was destroyed.

In its defense, the Strike Force called it "a high-risk raid and that officers are permitted to use force commensurate with the danger," Gehan wrote.

"I am unable to discern why it would be necessary to kick claimant's mother," Gehan wrote, issuing a $6,000 award.

Six-thousand dollars for accidentally kicking a toddler while missing an attempt to kick the baby's mother without any reason? Seems a little inadequate, doesn't it? Well, that's as much payback as anybody gets. So far as I can tell, the feds decided to prosecute only one of the former strike force members. And he was found "not guilty." No other charges have been brought.

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  • ||

    So The Shield was a documentary? All these guys needed was to rob an Armenian money train and they basically were Vic, Shane, Lem, and Ronnie.

  • ||

  • wareagle||

    did any character in that show ever face consequences? At least with mob shows, there is the occasional guy going to prison or being killed. I lost track of The Shield after a while so unsure about the outcome.

  • ||

    I won't ruin it for anyone, but The Shield has one of the best conclusions I've ever seen a television show pull off. And is wasn't pretty.

    And what Shane did...fuck.

  • ||

    Screw you. Now I have to watch it. *Rage*.

  • Carston||

    Everyone should watch it. Awesome show, but then you start thinking shit like this could and probably does actually happen, and it makes you queasy.

  • ||

    I will, but I'm fully expecting to have the shit depressed out of me by the show.

  • ||

    That's not how the show works. Vic is a piece of shit, but you find yourself almost rooting for him anyway, but you still want him to pay for what he's done, eventually. And each season gets more and more insane.

    There are seven seasons so you better get cracking if you want to see that series finale.

  • CE||

    Not a documentary. More like a sugar coating.

  • R C Dean||

    A uniformed crime wave, and not one single day of time served.

    But, no double standard, right?

  • Hugh Akston||

    There is a double standard, RC. Cops are held to much higher standards of conduct than marks civilians. When was the last time you heard of a civilian being punished with two whole weeks of paid administrative leave for kicking the shit out of an unarmed victim?

  • ||

    usually, when people cry "double standard" they are using two completely different scenarios. ignorati will compare force by a cop making an arrest, to a completely disanalogous force situation with a 'civilian' (compare cop arrest UOF to citizen arrest. THaT is the analogy)

    that aside, i am a strong critic of the increased militarization of police, overuse of SWAT, etc.

    it's BAD

    full stop.

    i did what i could in my agency to actually change policy such that SWAT is used less often. and fortuntely, policy WAS changed (likely due to other people's inputs, not lowly old me, but hey mebbe i made a little difference)

    there is a time and a place for SWAT, and it's FAR less often than SWAT is used.

    there is VERY rarely a time for no-knock raids, but they are vastly OVERUSED.

    i had three guys in my unit shot during one raid where SWAT was *not* used, and all i can say is thank god for bulletproof vests.

    would there have been a preferable outcome if they used SWAT instead? who knows? it's difficult in any incident or aggregate of same to know what violence was PREVENTED only we see what violence is perpetrated

  • ||

    on the one hand, i would like to say there should be strict national standards for SWAT, but then of course i would be betraying libertarianism, since we live in a democratic republic, we don't have federal police or federal standards for police, etc.

    regardless, when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and the theory in the article is spot on. it's hard to de-escalate or start "soft" with SWAT, and of course SWAT units , like any govt. entity seek to increase their power/scope and justiy their (increased scope of) existence.

    it's the (unfortunate ) nature of govt.

    i'm proud of my agency' swat team. they have exceptionally high standards and when i've worked with them, they are VERY good at what they do.

    but not unsurprisingly, when you have no national standards, some are going to be better than others, just like some PD's are going to be corrupt and shitty as fuck (NOPD at least for the last few decades from everything i hear) and others are going to be outstanding

  • ||

    "we live in a democratic republic"

    Constitutional republic.

    "we don't have federal police or federal standards"

    Only de jure.

  • Mainer2||

    Sloopy, you've got your dunphy satire goin' on.

    This is satire, right ?

  • sloopyinca||

    Shit, I couldn't do satire that good. For crazy like that you've got to get the real thing.

    And: just like some PD's are going to be corrupt and shitty as fuck (NOPD at least for the last few decades from everything i hear) and others are going to be outstanding

    I notice he ignored the problems with departments in his own state...you know, the ones the feds have found guilty of serial misconduct and systematic coverups. Funny, that.

    I really cannot see how dunphy can be taken seriously by anybody on here. He makes a point to lead the conversation away from holding cops accountable for criminal behavior and has likely never held a fellow officer accountable for criminal behavior in his life. He is an enabler and a scumbag that helps perpetuate the lawlessness that is oh so prevalent in America's police forces.

    Fuck him.

  • R C Dean||

    usually, when people cry "double standard" they are using two completely different scenarios. ignorati will compare force by a cop making an arrest, to a completely disanalogous force situation with a 'civilian' (compare cop arrest UOF to citizen arrest.

    What about theft? Such as, when cops are just stealing shit from people, like they did in Minneapolis? What makes that a completely different scenario, so that grossly different outcomes in the legal system aren't evidence of a double standard?

  • ||

    It doesn't. He was making excuses.

  • Pip||

    I don't think he RTFA, RC. These cops were basically a shakedown gang targeting drug dealers. So were the Gustafsons referenced below. Only difference is that the Gustafsons are sitting in prison for a very long time.

  • Pip||

    The funny thing is that the gustafsons are in jail for doing essentially the same thing:

    http://www.citypages.com/2010-.....nneapolis/

  • The Unknown Pundit||

    Just taking out the competition.

  • ||

    To protect and serve.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Police forces are human institutions, and any human institution has the potential for corruption. People rationalize their bad behavior, and the ability to do that is enhanced by a groupthink that sprouts an air of superiority. Police officers have the seemingly legal power to enforce their will on others. Unchecked, of course this will lead to abuse.

  • ||

    What the fuck is with this retarded filter?

  • Pip||

    In Soviet Union, retard filters you!

  • ||

    .sdrawkcab-ssa si gnihtyreve ,aissuR teivoS nI

  • Cliché Bandit||

    how long did it take you to type that?

  • GILMORE||

    "I am unable to discern why it would be necessary to kick claimant's mother,"

    I should have let him meet my mom.

    But seriously, that's a classic line. I'm sure he tried pretty hard to find a decent reason.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Strike Force officers began to seize funds from those stopped, regardless of any intent to file charges against the people stopped and without regard to whether the funds could reasonably be connected to illegal activity. ...

    They had reasonable suspicion, obviously; NO ONE IS INNOCENT.

    This is like the story about the cop from Florida. If his coworkers had been called upon to remove his decapitated corpse from a dumpster,instead of saying, "Huh- somebody finally got up on his hind legs and gave this worthless scumbag fuck exactly what he so richly deserved," they would weep and wail and rend their garments and go bleating to the media about the War on Cops.

    The only good cop is a dead cop.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Vic is a piece of shit, but you find yourself almost rooting for him anyway

    Maybe you did. By the second (third?) season, I was hoping somebody would execute him. After that the show was unwatchable.

  • TengaDun||

    kinda crazy when you think about it no?

    www.Goin-Private.tk

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