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MPD report: Blacks significantly more likely to be arrested

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: March 16, 2015 - 6:19 PM

Police Chief Janeé Harteau talked to reporters about recent crimes. (KYNDELL HARKNESS/Star Tribune)

A preliminary report released last week by the Minneapolis Police Department found that nearly two-thirds of those arrested by police over the past six years were blacks, who make up less than 20 percent of the city’s population.

The report – which emerged from a study of arrest data from the MPD, Park Police, Metro Transit police and, “in certain events” the University of Minnesota campus police – found blacks were disproportionately arrested for so-called Part I crimes like homicide, rape, robbery and assault between 2009 and 2014 .

Minneapolis police Chief Janeé Harteau ordered the report last fall following the release of an American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota study that concluded that blacks were significantly more likely than whites to be arrested in Minneapolis for low-level crimes. At the time Harteau said that she wanted her department to further analyze the study's findings "before making an assessment on the effectiveness of improving public safety and public trust."

"What this shows us is that we, as a community, and as a city, need to address the issue of inequity and disparity," Harteau said in a statement posted on the department's Facebook page late Friday. "We, as a department, need to enhance our relationships with the residents we serve while we continue to provide exceptional public safety."

She continued: "Our focus continues to be centered on preventing crime by enhancing our outreach to the communities we serve."

Source: Minneapolis Police Department

Blacks, according to the MPD study, were significantly more likely than their white peers to be arrested for marijuana possession or disorderly conduct, echoing the findings of the earlier ACLU report.

One of the starkest disparities emerged in arrests for loitering. The study found that blacks made up 76 percent of all those detained on loitering charges last year, which critics say points to a pattern of racial profiling in some of the city's long-troubled neighborhoods.

Teresa Nelson, legal director for the ACLU’s local chapter, said she was troubled by the report’s findings, which seemed to suggest “that low-level arrests seem to have some sort of impact on violent crimes.”

“It’s hard to see that connection,” she said on Monday. “We’re hoping that we can provide more context with the data that we have.”

Still, she added, the report’s existence showed the department was heading in the right direction.

The department says it has taken several steps to address the disparities and regain public confidence, including better “implicit bias training" and the overhaul of its “Early Intervention System” for identifying and weeding out problem officers, incorporating recommendations made earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs.

Minneapolis was recently chosen as one of U.S. six cities to take part in a federal pilot program aimed at reducing racial bias and improving relationships between police and communities.

"I think most people recognize that these disparities are unsustainable and it's not just something that can be addressed by the police department," Nelson said. "I think it takes the community (and) it takes the City Council.

Below is the report in full:

Crime: Victims, Suspects, and Arrests 2009-2014

Arrest made in NE Minneapolis fatal shooting

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: March 13, 2015 - 3:44 PM

A 30-year-old Fridley man has been arrested in last week's fatal shooting of a man outside a popular neighborhood bar in northeast Minneapolis, police said Friday.

Dejonte Antwon Davis, of Fridley, was arrested in Iowa on a warrant charging him with second-degree murder with intent in the death of Robert Urman, according to a criminal complaint filed in Hennepin County District Court.

Urman, 36, of St. Paul, was gunned down sometime after midnight on March 7 outside Northeast Palace, a well-known bar at 2500 NE. 4th St.

Surveillance video and witness accounts say a fight between the two men inside the bar eventually spilled outside, moments before the shooting occurred. Urman, police say, was shot six times, including once in the heart.

The father of five later died at Hennepin County Medical Center.

Family members described Urman as a loving father who enjoyed music, car shows and raising pit bulls.

His death marked the second homicide of the year.

The first homicide victim of the year was Ricardo Orozco Negrete, whose body was found bound and gagged in his south Minneapolis apartment on New Year’s Day. An autopsy showed he died of asphyxiation.

Officials say Northeast lumberyard fire was arson

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: March 12, 2015 - 1:55 AM

Firefighters battle a fire late Saturday night at Shaw-Stewart Lumber. / DML

Shortly before a fire broke out in a northeast Minneapolis lumberyard late Saturday, two people were captured on surveillance video sneaking into the complex. One of the figures on the video appeared to enter a large building minutes before smoke began wafting from the structure.

The suspect is seen walking in an out of the building at Shaw-Stewart Lumber, 645 NE. Johnson St., several times, before fleeing on foot along NE. Johnson Street.

The grainy security footage and other evidence point to the blaze being intentionally set, Minneapolis authorities said on Wednesday, as they continued searching for the suspected arsonists.

It took about 35 firefighters nearly four hours to quench the fire, which eventually spread to a nearby shed, authorities said. The fire likely started in a dumpster in the burned-out building, they said.

Arson investigators believe that alcohol was a contributing factor, after finding shards of a broken vodka bottle they say was used to smash the front window of the building’s showroom, said police Sgt. Sean McKenna.

Authorities said it was too soon for a damage estimate.

Police continue search for suspect in NE fatal shooting

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: March 11, 2015 - 10:43 AM

Robert Urman, shown here in an undated photo, was fatally shot on Saturday. / Via Facebook

Minneapolis police continued their search for a suspect in the slaying of a man who was gunned down over the weekend outside a well-known watering hole in Northeast, authorities said.

Robert Urman, 36, of St. Paul, was found with multiple gunshot wounds early Saturday outside N.E. Palace, 2500 NE. 4th St., according to police. He was rushed to a hospital, where he died.

“I don’t know if it was something where they just came out and had a confrontation or if it was something in the bar that was unsettling,” police spokesman John Elder said on Tuesday.

A witness later told investigators that a man with a gun was seen running east on Lowry Avenue after the shooting, he said.

Homicide detectives returned to the bar the following day, searching for clues and reviewing surveillance video in hopes of identifying the suspect. A motive in the crime is still unknown, Elder said.

Elder said that investigators are following up on several “leads we’ve received form the scene and from people in the area.”

Lorna Pettis said Tuesday that relatives were still reeling from her son-in-law's death.

Urman, who was known to family and friends as "Lil' Nutty," had been a loving husband and father, Pettis said. His interests included cars and raising dogs, she said.

“He was like everybody else, he had his flaws,” she said by telephone, adding that “it’s amazing to me the number of people that commented on various Facebook posts.”

Urman leaves behind a wife and five children.

A vigil is planned for this Friday at 6 p.m. at the intersection of Lowry Avenue and 4th Street NE., near the spot where he was shot.

His death marked the city’s second homicide of 2015.

The first homicide victim of the year was 49-year-old Ricardo Orozco Negrete, whose body was found bound and gagged in his apartment, on the 2900 block of Cedar Avenue S., on New Year’s Day. He died of asphyxiation, an autopsy showed.

MPCA notches fourth scrap area air incident

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: March 6, 2015 - 5:59 PM

A state air pollution monitor on the north Minneapolis riverfront has recorded its fourth incident of high levels of large particles in five months, even as the agency running it has yet to propose corrective action to area businesses for an earlier violation.

The latest violation of the state's large air particle standard was announced Friday and involved Feb. 23 reading.That follows earlier above-standard readings in October, November and January. Any two readings over a standard in a year constitute a violation.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said this week it still is investigating the violation last fall toward the goal of requiring businesses to institute corrective measures. Jeff Smith, director of the agency's industrial division, said that it has determined from the size of the particles that they came from within one-half mile.

Smith said earlier this week that the agency worked with the city and had narrowed its investigation to a half-dozen businesses near the monitor just south of Lowry Avenue N. He said they had been contacted for information about their activities near the monitor that might contribute to the violations. Then the agency will work with contributors on correcting their operations, Smith said.

The monitor is located in the midst of scrap and recycling yards that dominate the area south of Lowry. It monitors overall air conditions in the area rather than which industries contribute to them.

The agency began monitoring air quality in 2013. It followed the agency's decision to loosen an emissions permit for Northern Metal Recycling, which is across the street from the monitor, after a 2009 test showed that the company was violating the emissions permit it had then. The company collects, sorts, pulverizes  and ships scrap metals.

The decision to monitor also followed air modeling that indicated that particles released by area industries potentially exceed national air quality standards for fine particulates, which can be dangerous to breathe.

The monitor has found no violation of the more dangerous small particles to date, but the agency added large particle monitoring last fall and found a violation of the air-quality standard within weeks.

The agency said it can't comment further by law on its investigation until it is concluded. Environmental activist Alan Muller said he believes the Legislature should change the allow greater public input. That would allow those affected to comment on proposed enforcement actions before the agency makes a final decision, he said.

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