What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to baird.helgeson@startribune.com.

Posts about Public safety

Police investigating 'suspicious death' in Mpls. Willard-Hay neighborhood

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: April 13, 2015 - 11:06 PM

Minneapolis homicide detectives are investigating what police termed a “suspicious death” that occurred Monday afternoon in the Willard-Hay neighborhood.

Officers were summoned shortly after 2 p.m. to the 2300 block of Russell Avenue North, where they found a man slumped over inside a vehicle, said police spokesman John Elder. The man, whose identity wasn't immediately released, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Elder said the cause and manner of death would be determined by the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office, but a source with knowledge of the investigation said that police were treating the death as a homicide.

The death capped a bloody week in Minneapolis with three homicides and numerous non-fatal shootings.

Report: Minneapolis police rarely justify stop-and-frisks

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: April 15, 2015 - 1:30 AM

A Minneapolis cop frisks a teenager in the Philips neighborhood in 1998. MIKE ZERBY/Star Tribune

A review of recent stop-and-frisk encounters between Minneapolis police and citizens found that officers rarely gave reasons for stopping and searching people without arresting them, according to a new report by the Police Conduct Oversight Commission.

The study, whose findings will be presented at the PCOC’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, comes amid growing criticism of the practice, in which officers stop people they reasonably believe are committing or about to commit a crime. Critics say the practice disproportionately targets ethnic minorities.

The PCOC, which investigates misconduct complaints against police, found that officers “did not document any information about the stop other than what was automatically generated or required to close the call” in 26 percent of stop-and-frisk encounters (otherwise known as Terry stops), and that even those stops and searches where they provided some details “often what was documented was not the reason for the stop or a description of the outcome.”

It further concluded:

“ ...many of the officer initiated stops located in this study involving loitering did not document information using the criteria established on the MPD website, city ordinance, or Emergency Communications order. While this does not indicate that officers did not have reasonable suspicion (or probable cause) to justify their actions, the lack of documentation is notable.”

The report examined 385 of the 28,304 suspicious person stops from last year, where the stop wasn’t initiated by a 911 call and didn’t end in arrest.

The recommendations outlined in its 30 pages included “resolving any existing barriers” to documenting search-and-frisk encounters and clarifying the department’s policy on such stops. Teresa Nelson, an attorney for the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said she agreed with the report's recommendations urging police to report more data from stop-and-frisk encounters.

"We very quickly discovered that they don't systematically collect it, so I think this report kind of confirms that," Nelson said last week. "We would want more systematic reporting race and analysis."

As an example, she pointed to several police departments across the country, including Newark, which have started collecting demographic data – age, gender, race, sexual orientation and English proficiency – from suspicious persons stops.

"It's important to know what is happening in the department," she said. "For example, this minimal study led to a conclusion that we need to reinforce the training and make it more clear when it’s OK to stop people."

The report, in full:

wcms1p-Investigatory Stop Documentation Review

Top MPD official eyeing UMPD chief job

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: April 11, 2015 - 8:54 AM

Assistant Minneapolis police chief Matt Clark addressed reporters. JIM GEHRZ/Star Tribune

Matt Clark, assistant chief of the Minneapolis Police Department, is one of two finalists to lead the University of Minnesota police force after a months-long search to replace the retiring Greg Hestness.

If he is offered and accepts the U job, Clark would take over for Hestness, a longtime Minneapolis cop who rose to the rank of deputy chief, who is retiring in June after 11 years on the job, according to school officials. Hestness also serves as the university’s assistant vice president for public safety.

The other finalist to replace him is Colleen Luna, commander of the St. Paul Police Department's Property Crimes Unit.

Clark was appointed assistant chief by Chief Janeé Harteau shortly after she took the job in 2012, taking over day-to-day operations of the state’s largest police department.

A former volunteer firefighter, he joined the department in 1993 and rose through the ranks, making sergeant in 1999 and then lieutenant in 2007. At the time of his appointment, he commanded the 5th Precinct in southwest Minneapolis.

Last year, Clark was offered the police chief job in Bellevue, Wash., but he turned it down.

In a presentation to U officials last month, Clark touted his record in community building and said he would focus on protecting students on and off campus, the Minnesota Daily reported.

“Everybody’s from somewhere; everybody’s got a story,” he said, the student newspaper reported,“and that adds to the culture of the city of Minneapolis, but it also adds to the culture of the University.”

His departure would make him the third member of Harteau’s original senior staff to leave or be demoted in the last year.

Scrap recycler disputes state's focus on its dust

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: April 10, 2015 - 3:36 PM

A large scrap metal recycler on the city’s upper riverfront is claiming that a state regulator is singling it out over dust emissions and asserting that it has taken every step available to control such particles from its riverside yard.

Writing for Northern Metal Recycling, Michael Hansel, an engineer at Barr Engineering, asserted in a letter to the agency that for several half of the exceedances of a total particles standard the firm couldn’t have been responsible for them. A state monitor is located across the street from the firm.

The standard was exceeded for the fifth time in six months on March 19, according to that monitor. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency posted that on a web site for the monitor but didn't alert the public via e-mail until Friday.

Hensel said Friday that after a company Data Practices Act request, it appears that only other one of the six companies within one-quarter mile of the monitor responded with data when asked by the agency about their activities. That was GAF, a shingle company.

The engineer wrote that agency officials have told him that they intend to take the issue of the exceeded standards “to the next level.”  He said in an interview that could take the form of a letter asking for changes at the firm, a warning letter or a notice of a violation.

Hensel asserted to the agency that the wind direction and lack of barge loading operations suggest that the scrap yard didn’t contribute to or was a minor factor in all but one of the episodes. He said that unless the agency can show that the firm contributed to the emissions, further controls shouldn’t be investigated.

“My client already has every conceivable control measure installed and operating, and is the most tightly controlled and regulated metal shredder in the United States,” Hensel said. The firm has three types of dust control installed in its shredder building. It also sprays the yard and sweeps it, except in freezing temperatures.

The firm began operating a shredder several years ago to increase the market value of its scrap metal at mills. That followed a long-running controversy in which some area residents sought to block a shredder at a yard where scrap has been processed since 1951.

The agency in 2012 modified the company's emissions permit, which a test conducted soon after the shredder began operating in 2009 showed that the company was violating. The state rejected the need for further environmental studies sought by area lawmakers after concluding that the shredder would increase the area’s concentration of more dangerous small particles by 2 percent.  It installed the monitor shortly after but the violations haven’t involved the small-particle standard but rather those for overall particles.

Jeff Smith, director of the agency’s industrial division, said that because the investigation of the exceedances is continuing, he’s limited in what he could say. He said that Hensel’s assertions about the agency not following protocols and location of monitors are based on misunderstandings. He characterized Northern Metal as reluctant to participate in the agency’s investigation and said he hopes for more cooperation.

(Photo: Scrap metal enters the shredder operated by Northern Metal Recycling. Staff photo by David Brewster.)

Men killed in Mpls. Victory neighborhood double homicide identified

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: April 10, 2015 - 11:09 AM

Grieving relatives are shown near the scene of a double homicide. Libor Jany/STAR TRIBUNE

Authorities have identified the two men slain in a shooting on a quiet, residential block in the Victory neighborhood on Wednesday morning as Odell Frazier and Eddie Pelmore.

Frazier, 47, and Pelmore, 56, both of Minneapolis were shot by a gunman or gunmen as they sat in a sport-utility vehicle parked outside Frazier's home on the 4500 block of Penn Avenue N., police said. Both men died of gunshots to the head, the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office reported on Friday.

Officers later arrested one of the suspects in the shooting, while another man managed to elude a police manhunt, including a State Patrol helicopter and dozens of officers, that continued into the afternoon.

Prosecutors on Wednesday charged a 21-year-old Chicago man with two counts of second-degree murder in connection with the killings, which were the city’s fifth and sixth homicides of the year.

The suspect, Brian Morse, initially denied any involvement in the shooting, but later admitted to being present while another man shot both victims, according to prosecutors.

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