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

No go in Mill City for no-sled movement

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: January 8, 2015 - 5:43 PM

In case you’re worried, we thought we’d reassure you that the slippery slope likely will remain legal in the Mill City.

That’s despite a recent spate of publicity over a growing number of cities banning sledding over liability concerns, most recently Dubuque, Iowa..

But that’s not likely to spread to Minnesota because of a clause in state law known as recreational immunity. It basically shields governments in Minnesota that operate park and recreational facilities from liability under most circumstances.

With parks accounting for many of the best sledding hills in Minneapolis, Park Superintendent Jayne Miller said there are no plans to put its slippery slopes off limits. Nor has the city attorney's office gotten wind of anyone in City Hall proposing that.

The Park Board has two official designated sledding hills – at Columbia Golf Course and Sunset Hill in Valley View Park. Where there are man-made structures at those hills, it places hay bales around them.  But the doctrine of recreational immunity protects it from liability caused by natural objects such as trees, Miller said.

“We don’t have any paricular concerns about sledding hills," agreed Dan Greensweig, assistant administrator for the insurance trust at the League of Minnesota Cities.

Sledders are free to use other parkland for slip-sliding away but ought not to expect damages if they’re hurt, due to the law. Indeed, the hill in Lyndale Farmstead behind the house Miller rents from the Park Board is one of the city's most popular sledding hills.

Not that you can’t get hurt sledding.  One national database reports an average of almost 21,000 sledding injuries annually. Broken bones slightly exceeded bruises and scrapes in those stats, with about one-third of injuries involving heads.

At least one powerful parks pol, Park Board President Liz Wielinski, dismisses cities that have passed bans. “As a native-born and bred Minnesotan, I think that’s crazy talk,” Wielinski said.

St. Paul, Minneapolis police unions urge protesters to 'measure their words'

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: January 6, 2015 - 4:45 PM

 

Police officers line the streets near the funeral of Officer Wenjian Liu. / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Responding to growing public anger over police tactics, the police unions in St. Paul and Minneapolis issued a letter appealing to residents to “understand the danger of contributing to these often false or inaccurate publicly-broadcast narratives."

In the letter, John Delmonico, head of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, and Saint Paul Police Federation president David A. Titus, doubled down on their criticism of protesters who have taken to the streets of cities across the country, angered by recent grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men. The two leaders pointed to a link between the protesters’ anti-police rhetoric and a wave of attacks targeting officers, including the shoot deaths of two New York City policemen last month. 

The letter said:

"As we move foreword as communities through this difficult time in American history, we urge those with a voice to measure their words and reserve judgement (SIC) in these situations until the facts can be brought to light."

It continued:

"Instantly condemning officers and their actions, and fueling the fire by making reactionary comments benefits no one, and in fact, as we saw on the streets of New York, can lead to tragedy."

Authorities have said that Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the Georgia man who allegedly killed the two NYPD officers, frequently posted anti-police and anti-government messages on social media.

Delmonico, long a staunch defender of police officers, has come under fire for suggesting that the protesters “are unable or unwilling to accept just how violent our society is” and that the “simple solution” to use of force by officers is to “obey the law and those entrusted to enforce it.”

Delmonico’s words echoed those of his counterparts in New York City, who have accused the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, of fanning anti-police sentiment by publicly questioning the grand jury decision not to indict a white NYPD officer in the death of Eric Garner. Hundreds of NYPD officers turned their backs on de Blasio as he spoke at the funerals of their slain colleagues in Brooklyn.

In a letter to President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders this week, police union leaders argued that violence motivated by anti-police sentiment should be prosecuted as a hate crime.

Minneapolis to examine police stop, arrest data

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: January 6, 2015 - 1:28 PM

Minneapolis officials are launching a new effort to find trends in where police make stops, whom they stop — and who is arrested and charged with misdemeanor offenses.

During its approval of the 2015 budget, the City Council separately voted to direct the Police Department and the city attorney’s office to gather five years’ worth of police stop-and-arrest data. The reports will include information about the race, gender and age of the people involved in incidents from 2010 to 2014, along with where the arrests took place. 

The data will be presented to the council’s public safety committee by summer. 

Council Member Cam Gordon, who introduced the plan, said he’s heard concerns about racial profiling and other issues since before he was first elected to the council nearly a decade ago. He brought up the issue in 2008, when he led a similar push to gather data on the city’s “lurking” regulation. That law allows police to arrest people who are hanging around public and private spaces, trying not to attract attention, with the intention of committing a crime. 

A review of lurking arrests over two years found that black people were eight times more likely to be arrested than white people. Native Americans were arrested at nine times the rate of whites, while homeless people were 20 times more likely to be arrested.

While Gordon was not successful in getting the law overturned, he said he may bring it up again. After months of protests over people killed in altercations with police, he said interest remains high in how police interact with some community members.

Gordon expects that getting a broader range of data could be a better way to reach the city’s equity goals than trying to target some specific laws, one by one.

It will be nice to get a big-picture view and get more of an analysis about where [stops and arrests] are occurring and why,” he said.

Gordon said the data might lead to questions about the use of the “broken windows” model of policing to prevent crime. That strategy involves putting a major focus on lower-level crimes, like graffiti, vandalism or loitering, as a way to improve neighborhoods and reduce the number of more serious crimes.

Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said she welcomes the news that the city will take a more thorough look at how policing is working in Minneapolis.

She hopes this will be the first step in pinpointing the root of practices that could be causing problems with police-community relations.

"We need to have a better understanding of what’s going on and that needs to start at the level of what’s the overall picture,” Gross said. “But eventually that needs to drill down to see if there are issues, are they with particular officers or a wider problem?"

Pain lingers for family of slain Mpls. man

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: December 26, 2014 - 12:37 PM

Tremaine Finley's mother, Jackie, right, at a candlelight vigil for her son in 2004. (JEFF WHEELER)

The call came around this time two years ago as Willie Finley was heading to a meeting.

A police detective assigned to his brother’s unsolved murder was on the other end of the line. Maybe he had cracked the case, Willie thought, but there was no optimism in the man’s voice.

The detective started asking him about his mother's car.

Willie hadn’t given much thought to the fate of the 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier, which had been sitting in a police impound lot since shortly after Tremaine Finley’s life ended on Nov. 17, 2004.

The detective asked whether he wanted to come pick it up.

For a moment, Willie considered the man’s offer, he recalled on a recent afternoon, “just so I can have a piece of that last moment.”

But the car brought back too many painful memories, he says, so he told the man, “thanks, but no thanks.”

Of course, he’d held onto other mementos from his brother's life. The withered flowers from the funeral. A set of football shoulder pads he had saved from a fire that nearly destroyed the family’s south Minneapolis home several years ago. “It’s something real and tangible that I held on to,” he said.

Their mother, Jackie Finley, still has a lock of Tremaine’s hair, which he usually kept braided.

Tremaine, all 5 feet 6 inches of him, was a popular student and star football player at Roosevelt High School – “the kind of kid that was just,” Willie says, “selfless, a very caring heart.” After graduation, he enrolled at the U to chase his dream of playing Division I ball, his older brother said. He dropped out after a year and a half and, at 20, got a job at the Ikea store out by the Mall of America, where, Willie says, his picture hung above his boss’ desk for years after his death.

As Willie tells it, the worst day of his life began 10 years ago in a dank alley in the Longfellow neighborhood.

Earlier that day, Tremaine had asked to borrow his mother's car to go to Denny's.

Tremaine and a group of friends were smoking marijuana in the car that evening, when someone crept up to the driver’s side window, gun drawn with robbery on his mind, and ordered everyone to get out, Willie said recently, recalling the details of the police report.

The group refused, and the gunman started firing inside, hitting Tremaine, who was behind the wheel, in the chest and grazing another man’s arm.

Despite being shot, Tremaine still managed to drive to the parking lot of the Cub Foods, nine blocks away at the corner of Minnehaha and 26th Avenues, Willie said. He got out there and collapsed to the ground. Shoppers scurried past as he lay dying.

Someone eventually called 911.

He died later that night at Hennepin County Medical Center.

Police at first deemed the shooting a drug deal gone bad, but later revised their account, saying the friends had been victims of a failed carjacking. None of those there that night got a good look at the gunman, and if they did then they’re not talking, Willie said.

Several billboards were erected in south Minneapolis, offering a $10,000 reward for any information leading to the gunman’s arrest.

A decade later, the reward remains unclaimed.

On a recent afternoon, he recalled Tremaine’s murder, while sitting in the living room of his town house in Crystal. The Finley family has for years demanded that police turn over evidence from the case so that they could hire a private investigator to look into the murder, Willie said, frustration creeping into his voice.

“People change and their jobs change and people advance in their careers,” he said. “It’s not a case for us. I get that it’s somebody’s job, but for us it’s not a case, it’s losing a family member.”

Tremaine's death has been particularly hard on Willie, a high school teacher and football coach, who started a foundation in his younger brother's memory for at-risk youth. The two brothers had been very close; as children, Tremaine had looked up to Willie, who went on to a successful high school and college football playing career.

“It’s walking around like I’m carrying him around on my back every day,” Willie said. “And as it goes on, he’s getting older and he’s adding more weight.”

As he spoke, he thumbed through a stack of photos and laminated newspaper articles that he brings out whenever he has a point to make to his students.

“It’s been a long time," Willie said, "but in my world he’s been talked about a lot.”

Another leadership shake-up at the MPD

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: December 24, 2014 - 4:20 PM

Chief Janeé Harteau is shaking up her senior staff again, just over a month after a leadership shakeup that included the demotion of two top officials.

Harteau this week handed the reins of the newly formed recruitment and administration division to Gerald Moore, who used to run the professional standards background unit, officials said.

Moore, who came up through the department ranks – from patrol to child abuse to homicide – has received numerous awards and commendations, including two Lifesaving Awards and two Chief’s Awards of Merit, officials said.

The 31-year veteran replaces Eddie Frizell, who was given the command last month after being demoted from deputy chief of patrol following an unsuccessful run for Hennepin County sheriff. Frizell at the time expressed dismay that he hadn't been given an explanation for his demotion.

In his new position, Moore will oversee the fledgling recruitment and administration division – comprised of the property and evidence, transcription, records, fleet, stores, backgrounds, CSO (community service officer) and explorers units – charged with “recruiting highly qualified and diverse candidates,” according to officials. Moore has in the past been outspoken about the lack of minority officers on the force.

Last month's reshuffling came as Harteau continued to work to improve the department’s community relations policies after public criticism that some officers using excessive force. 

Harteau declined, through a spokesman, an interview request.

The chief previously appointed First Precinct inspector Medaria “Rondo” Arradondo to the powerful chief of staff position, a newly-created post that will place him in charge of directing, managing and overseeing department wide initiatives, projects and policy.

Fourth Precinct inspector Mike Kjos was pulled downtown to lead the First Precinct, while Lt. Mike Friestleben was named as his replacement. Robert Skoro, commander of the Special Operations Division, was also demoted to his civil service rank of lieutenant and reassigned, officials said.

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