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Retired Sgt. Al Berryman, past president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, says department culture does not foster police violence.
“Cops ... go into dangerous situations, into tumultuous situations, and try to make decision for their safety and for the victim,” he said. “You have fights and people get hurt and there are broken bones.
“I do believe cops, like everyone else, make mistakes,” he said. “You’re excited, you’re scared, you’re nervous, and you react, and sometimes you react and wish you could undo it.”
Lacerations, but no charges
Adolphas Baldwin, 26, alleges in a suit that on Nov. 28, 2011, he was walking home with groceries about 7 p.m. with a distant cousin in north Minneapolis when two officers got out of a patrol car and pointed their guns at them. His hands in the air, Baldwin claims, he said words to the effect of, “I guess you all have nothing better to do.”
The officers allegedly struck him in the head and threw him to the ground, the suit alleges. While his cousin was handcuffed, one officer allegedly kicked Baldwin in the back, head and upper body. He was handcuffed, and the two were put in a squad car.
The officers then let the two men leave without issuing a citation, the suit says. Baldwin went home, called 911 and was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where it took two staples to close a scalp laceration.
The officers followed him to the hospital and gave him a citation for obstruction and spitting on the sidewalk. The charges later were dropped.
Segal says that just because a suit is brought “does not mean that there was wrongdoing by an officer.”
The city attorney’s office went to trial in 15 of the 110 resolved suits from 2009 to the present and won favorable verdicts 13 times. In the 59 cases where it made payouts, the city often did not admit it was at fault, figuring that settling would be cheaper than risking an adverse verdict. Lawyers’ fees runs hundreds of dollars an hour. In the David Smith settlement, $1.9 million of the city’s $3 million payout went to the attorneys for Smith’s family.
The Star Tribune has reported the city’s 12 costliest settlements from 2006 to 2012 resulted in no officer discipline. But Segal denies there’s lack of discipline for misconduct. She said she has “full confidence” that Police Chief Janeé Harteau will take “decisive disciplinary action” if misconduct occurs. “Accountability is of critical importance for the department to succeed in its mission and to have the trust of the public,” Segal said.
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224