Police federation says that the department violated the law by releasing videos without officer’s permission.
The St. Paul Police Federation is suing the city of St. Paul for releasing video this week depicting an officer pepper spraying a suspect in the ear during an arrest.
The police federation on behalf of officer Matthew Gorans served the suit to the city Thursday saying that Minnesota Statute says that the police department could not release photos or video of an officer without permission from that officer.
The suit stems from the police department’s release earlier this week of squad car video of an arrest from last August. Gorans is shown dragging North St. Paul man Eric Hightower into the vehicle by his hair after officers are heard telling Hightower to get into the squad car. After pulling Hightower completely inside, Gorans sprays Mace into Hightower’s ear.
The release follows the publication of a controversial cellphone video from a resident of the same incident that captured officer Jesse Zilge kicking Hightower and, with the help of another officer, slamming him onto the hood of a squad car.
The police department is considering disciplinary action against both Zilge and Gorans, who are part of an internal affairs investigation about the arrest. The Olmsted County attorney’s office declined to charge the officers with felony assault, saying there wasn’t enough evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the two officers used unreasonable force. The Minneapolis city attorney’s office also declined to press criminal charges against Zilge.
According to the suit, the videos and photos from the investigation were released to the media after the federation requested that it not be released and after it was requested that Gorans face be pixelated so he would not be identified. In the video and photos, Gorans face is clear.
In a statement from earlier this week, the federation’s attorney Chris Wachtler said, “Any member of the public viewing the video or the pictures out of context and apart from the rest of the investigation and circumstances surrounding the Hightower arrest could easily draw false conclusions about what occurred.”
St. Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing said the city is reviewing the complaint.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495