A high-profile arrest nearly two years ago that led to a $235,000 settlement against the city has resulted in training changes at the Minneapolis Police Department, according to a memo issued by Chief Tim Dolan.
The arrest of Derryl Jenkins, who ended up in the hospital with bruises and bleeding after he was pulled over for allegedly speeding, was captured on a sensational videotape that shows several officers kicking and punching Jenkins as he lay face down in a snowbank.
Dolan was initially critical of the arrest when he saw the video for the first time, calling for an FBI investigation. He said at the time that he was concerned by the officers' kicks, and he said punching and kicking a person who is passively resisting arrest wasn't appropriate use of force.
His memo, issued on Dec. 1, instead puts the blame on the training that the officers received, which he implies made such maneuvers allowable.
"It was about a year ago that we went through lots of angst" with the Jenkins video, Dolan wrote in the memo, which a source provided to the Star Tribune.
"I thought we were using excessive force in some group arrests and you thought I was being unfairly critical. We were both right. The reality is that those involved officers were doing what they were taught. None of them were disciplined, but we changed our policies and our training."
Dolan added that the changes in training have been successful, since the department hasn't seen incidents similar to the Jenkins case.
"We found some flaws in our training for group handcuffing," said Deputy Chief Rob Allen, speaking for Dolan on Thursday. "Generally speaking, kicks have changed."
The specific nature of the change could not be revealed, Allen said, because the department doesn't make public some of its tactical training. "One of the things we operate on is an element of surprise," he said.
Kicking not advised
Shortly after viewing the video for the first time last year, Dolan called for an FBI investigation and directed the department's internal affairs and training units to review the arrest.
"My educated guess is that the FBI will come back with a finding that the kicks were an unreasonable use of force," Dolan said at the time, adding that "this wasn't a gross level of excessive force."
Dolan also changed department policy to require that any videotaped incident that resulted in injuries to a citizen or officer must be seen by an internal affairs investigator.
Dolan's comments come now because both the FBI and the department's internal affairs unit have finished their review of the Jenkins arrest, Allen said.
Attempts to reach Jenkins and his attorneys were not successful Thursday.
Captured on camera
Jenkins was stopped at 3 a.m. on Feb. 19, 2009, by an officer who said he was driving 15 miles per hour over the speed limit. The stop on Penn Avenue N. was captured on the officer's dashboard camera.
The video shows that Jenkins opened his car door as officer Richard Walker approached. The two men talked for about 90 seconds with the door open before Jenkins, against Walker's orders, stepped out of the vehicle.
The two immediately began scuffling and fell to the ground. Walker eventually got Jenkins face down in a snowbank. A minute after the fight began, several other officers showed up and punched and kicked Jenkins as he lay face down. He was stunned with a Taser and eventually handcuffed.
Jenkins, now 44, went to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale for bruises to his face. He required seven stitches above one eye and had several chipped teeth and damage to his thumb. Walker had two split lips and a bloody nose.
Reasons for kicking
A police trainer said that kicking can be necessary at times, even with someone who's passively resisting arrest by refusing an officer's orders. "There is kicking that can be used for passive aggression," said Mylan Masson, the director of the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Education Center at Hennepin Technical College, which trains about half of the state's police officers.
Kicking can be used, for example, to strike at a suspect's hand to ensure he's not reaching for a gun, Masson said.
Still, most training tells officers to avoid kicking if possible, Masson said. Kicking puts the officer off balance, for one thing. An officer should also use less force if possible. "If you can do it with verbal commands, great," Masson said.
Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747