How the Recent Supreme Court Decision in Utah v. Strieff Could Affect Citizen Interactions with Police

The U.S. Supreme Court. Photo Credit- Architect of the Capitol.

The U.S. Supreme Court. Photo Credit- Architect of the Capitol.

On June 20, 2016, in the case of Utah v. Strieff, the United States Supreme Court made a decision which could change civilian rights during police stops. The Court looked at the 4th Amendment, citizen’s protection from unreasonable searches or seizures. A search or seizure can be unreasonable if an officer conducts it with no reason to believe that the person is involved in criminal activity. For decades, if a search or seizure was found to be unreasonable and therefore in violation of the 4th Amendment, any evidence uncovered from the search or seizure could not be used at court. However, with this recent court decision, that standard is changing.

In the facts of this case, Officer Fackrell witnessed the Defendant, Edward Strieff, leave a residence loosely suspected of drug activity. Shortly afterwards, Officer Fackrell detained Strieff, without any reasonable belief of his involvement in criminal activity, and looked over Strieff’s identification. Officer Fackrell then discovered Strieff had an outstanding arrest warrant for a traffic violation, and proceeded to arrest Strieff. When, as a part of the arrest, Officer Fackrell searched Strieff, he discovered evidence of drugs. Strieff asked the court to exclude this evidence since it was discovered during the unreasonable stop.

The Supreme Court determined that the evidence in Strieff’s case could be used, and applied an exception called the “attenuation doctrine”, which allows the court to look at three factors to determine whether or not the evidence can be used. These factors are: 1) how close in time the search and stop are; 2) intervening circumstances; and 3) the “purpose” and “flagrancy” (glaring or obviousness) of the police misconduct.

Here, the Court said that Officer Fackrell’s unreasonable stop was interrupted by the discovery of a prior valid arrest warrant, Officer Fackrell was authorized to arrest and search Strieff because of the warrant; and his misconduct was not flagrant because he made “good-faith mistakes.”

The Court’s decision in this case drew harsh criticism, including a strongly worded dissent written by Justice Sotomayor.  In her dissent she states that unlawful stops have severe consequences, and the Court risked treating people as second-class citizens by allowing for such an exception. Justice Sotomayor stated that unreasonable police “stops” corrode our civil liberties. She also highlighted the impact these unreasonable stops would disproportionately have on people of color.

Consequently, the Supreme Court’s decision in this case could have unintended consequences. The Court’s decision grants additional deference to law enforcement across the country to arrest and prosecute civilians, despite finding evidence for their crimes while violating their 4th amendment rights.

To read the full text of the Court’s decision, click here.

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PCOC Meeting Snapshot: July Edition

A slide from the OPCR Q2 2016 report presented to the PCOC.

A slide from the OPCR Q2 2016 report presented to the PCOC.

The PCOC held its monthly meeting on July 12, 2016. Highlights included discussions about recent law enforcement related violence, a research and study looking at the complaint filing experience, a white paper on requiring officer liability insurance, quarterly reports from the Office of Police Conduct Review and MPD’s Internal Affairs Unit, committee updates and case review.

The meeting opened with a discussion of recent police related events, where each Commissioner shared a thought or comment. Commissioner’s remarks included feelings of sadness and frustration, but also a call to maintain the Commission’s emphasis on outreach and community engagement, and the need for the Commission to bridge the gap between police and community members.

OPCR Law Enforcement Analyst Ryan Patrick presented a methodology for a research and study looking at the avenues and accessibility of the misconduct complaint filing process. See the methodology here. The Commission showed interest in the project and passed a motion to conduct the study.

Mr. Patrick also discussed the Commission producing a white paper on requiring officer liability insurance, an issue community members presented to the Commission at a previous meeting. This white paper would present a neutral review of the literature currently available on issue, in addition to statements from stakeholders. A motion was passed to complete the project.

OPCR Director Imani Jaafar presented the Office’s Quarterly Report for the second quarter of 2016. Highlights of the report include an increase in complainants, more efficient case processing time and a larger number of cases being sent to investigation. See the presentation here.

Internal Affairs Acting Commander Henry Halvorson presented IA’s Quarterly Report to the Commission as well. See the presentation here. He also presented a project he has been working on to develop leadership in the MPD. His project would include 9-month leadership programs where possible future MPD leaders would meet, review material, and have group discussions surrounding leadership skills and challenges. The Acting Commander is currently working with the MPD Administration on the project and Commissioners voiced their hope that the program proceeds.

Committee Chairs then presented their reports to the Commission. Read the Outreach Committee Report here. Read the Audit Report here. While the Policy and Procedure Committee did not hold its normal monthly meeting in July, Chair Singleton and OPCR’s Ryan Patrick discussed a new project the Committee would like to take on, an effort to revise the MPD’s Policy and Procedure Manual. The project would include actual revision of policy, in addition to reexamining the manual’s numbering system, and revising the MPD Discipline Matrix to ensure it aligns with current policies. A methodology will be presented at the next Policy and Procedure Committee meeting.

Commissioners then discussed the case summaries chosen from the June meeting. They also chose cases from the July case synopses to be converted to case summaries for next month, cases 1, 3, and 10. The next monthly meeting is scheduled for August 9, 2016.

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ADA Anniversary

On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. Throughout the month of July and on the Anniversary of the ADA, the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights celebrates this landmark event as a way of bringing attention to the important work that has been done to promote equal opportunity for people with disabilities and to highlight the work that is yet to be done.

Today we’d like to call your attention to a little-known civil rights movement called the Section 504 sit-in.

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San Francisco Sit-In a Defining Moment in Disability Rights History
from NPR.org: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1142485

Twenty-five years ago, a group of persons with disabilities staged a sit-in at a federal office building in San Francisco.  This sit-in was as important a moment as Selma or the Stonewall uprising.

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The group was demanding enforcement of the first major law to bar discrimination against persons with disabilities-known as Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. The law forced hospitals, universities — any place that received federal funding — to remove obstacles to services and provide access to public places and transportation. The protesters believed the law would bring one of the nation’s most isolated and powerless groups into the mainstream. . .

However, complying with the law was often expensive. For nearly four (4) years, the government failed to enforce it.

As a result, Frustrations mounted, and in April 1977, sit-ins were organized across the country. Demonstrators in New York and Washington, D.C., went home after a few days. However, in San Francisco protestors at the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW)  remained. One day turned into two, which then turned into three and then some . More than 100 demonstrators stayed in the building for weeks, refusing to leave until the regulations were enforced.

On April 28, nearly four weeks into the sit-in, HEW Secretary Joseph Califano endorsed Section 504. The protesters had won.

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PCOC Meeting Snapshot: June Edition

Intake Investigator Gabriel Ramirez discusses cases with Commissioners.

Intake Investigator Gabriel Ramirez discusses cases with Commissioners.

The PCOC held its monthly meeting on June 14, 2016. Highlights included discussions about the city’s body camera policy, officer liability insurance, and committee updates and case review.

Chief Harteau addressed the Commission to explain the changes made to the second draft of the Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD) body camera policy. Changes have been made in response to Commission and community concerns. The changes include: the addition of explicit language regarding officer discipline for those who fail to comply with the policy; a stated purpose to use body cameras to promote transparency and community trust; a requirement for officers to document reasons for failing to activate their body camera when required; and mandated periodic supervisor review of officers’ body camera video.

Commissioners expressed their desire for better communication and increased collaboration between the Commission and the Police Chief. The Chief expressed a commitment to improve that communication, stating with a recently established monthly meeting with Chair Brown and Commissioner Singleton. The Chief expressed interest in involvement with the Commission’s community outreach work.

Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUABP) spoke to the Commission about requiring MPD officers to purchase liability insurance as a condition of employment. CUABP president Michelle Gross explained that such insurance would cover officer lawsuits alleging misconduct. Insurance premiums would increase each time the insurance company had to pay a settlement. CUABP advocates that the city pay the insurance base rate while officers pay the premiums. The potential of increased premiums serves as a deterrent and direct consequence for egregious behavior. Officers with multiple settlements would ultimately become uninsurable and unemployable with the force. According to CUABP, this is an ideal outcome.

This is a measure the group has been working towards for years. They have obtained the requisite number of signatures to place the measure on the ballot for during the next election. The city is currently going through the signature verification process. Once verified, the City Council is vested with the decision as to whether the measure will be placed on the ballot. CUABP requested the Commission investigate the insurance topic and discuss their findings at the next PCOC monthly meeting.

Following the presentations, Commissioners gave Committee reports. Both the Outreach Committee and the Policy and Procedure Committee reports can be found here and here respectively. Commissioner Buss discussed the newly established Audit Committee, whose first meeting took place on June 7, 2016. The Committee will have a role in establishing the foundation for future Commission research and studies. Subsequently, the Committee will function in a project-specific way necessitating meetings only four times a year. However, until the Committee is fully established it will meet on the first Tuesday of every
month.

The conclusion of the commission meeting entailed review of May’s case summaries and case synopses which will be converted to case summaries for June’s meeting. Commissioners chose cases 7, 9, 10 from the synopses for that conversion.

The next commission meeting is scheduled for July 11, 2016.

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Urban Scholars begin fifth summer working for City of Minneapolis and Partner Organizations

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Minneapolis’ fifth cohort of Urban Scholars began work in 17 different City departments and both the Mayor’s Office and City Council offices, developing leadership skills and learning about careers in government. For the third year in a row Urban Scholars are also working with partner organizations. This year partner organizations include Greater Twin Cities United Way, Hennepin County, the Metropolitan Council, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation, Minneapolis Public Schools and the State of Minnesota.

The Urban Scholars program is a full-time leadership and professional development program that includes a paid internship experience and aims to provide undergraduate and graduate students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds with a professional employment experience focused on gaining essential leadership skills and creating a resume-building career pathway. The 12-week program runs through Aug. 12.

This year’s 77 Urban Scholars attend colleges across the country and were chosen from more than 500 applicants. The students selected are working in key areas of City government and public policy. In the long run, the City and partnering organizations hope to develop a group of young talent to begin careers in the public and private sectors, who will someday be the next generation of City leaders.

In addition to the work in their various departments and partner organizations, the Urban Scholars participate in the Urban Scholars Leadership Institute each week. Here they receive professional and leadership development training and build communication skills through a specialized Toastmasters curriculum. New this year, the Urban Scholars will develop project management skills by completing small group projects focused on voter outreach and engagement. The purpose is to create an experiential learning environment where skills in leadership, professional development and public speaking can be applied in a hands-on approach. Throughout the summer, Urban Scholars will also participate in a number of activities including a roundtable discussion with leaders from across the metropolitan area, a volunteer project through United Way, networking events and site visits.

Urban Scholars is managed by the Equity Division of the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, which aims to close the employment gap in a city and metro area that suffers from one of the highest disparities between white and non-white unemployment in the country

Learn more about Urban Scholars.

For reasonable accommodations or alternative formats please contact the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights at 612-673-2697. People who are deaf or hard of hearing can use a relay service to call 311 at 612-673-3000. TTY users call 612-673-2157 or 612-673-2626.   Para asistencia 612-673-2700 – Rau kev pab 612-673-2800 – Hadii aad Caawimaad u baahantahay 612-673-3500.

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Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights Ambassador Reflects on the Significance of Ramadan

Ramadan is a Muslim holy month that occurs on the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and lasts for 29 or 30 days. This year, Ramadan began June 5, 2016.   This Ramadan season the  Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights interviewed MDCR Ambassador Osman Ahmed to learn more about Ramadan celebrations.


 

Osmosman Aan Ahmed is a Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights Ambassador representing the Whitter and Lyndale neighborhoods and the Minneapolis Somali community.

Ahmed came to the Untied States and made Minnesota his home in 2004, as a refuge from Somalia.  He obtained a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and International Studies at the University of Minnesota in 2012.  He started political organizing in 2008 by volunteering to register new voters. In 2012, he worked as an aide to Congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim Congressman in America. Currently he works for United States Senator, Al Franken as a field Representative. 

Osman Ahmed comes to the ambassador program with extensive experience as a connector between the Somali community, government and nonprofit organizations. Ahmed is passionate about advancing civil rights protections and educating community. During Ramadan, Osman works to facilitate culture sharing experiences between Muslims and non-Muslims to  promote common humanity and equality for all.

Osman Ahmed’s Ramadan Reflections

What is Ramadan? 

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, where Muslims fast dawn to sunset with no food or drinks. Ramadan is act of worshiping Allah (God), and Muslims do extra worshiping during Ramadan such as praying more, reflecting on life, and paying extra attention to many things that happen throughout the year. Ramadan lasts for 29 or 30 days. 

How did Ramadan begin?

Ramadan began when prophet Muhammad (“Peace Be Upon Him”) received the first revelations of Quran. Ramadan does not start and end same date each year. But it passes through all seasons of different years. 

How do you celebrate Ramadan?

Each year, Muslims fast 30 days or 29 days, depending on the year, from dawn to dusk. We eat food when the sun sets at night, which is called Iftar or breaking the fast. After Iftar, Muslims pray  long prayer call Taraweeh. Muslims pray at home or at the mosques.  During the prayer, an Imam or leader of the prayer recites verses from the Quran. On the last night of Ramadan, the leaders of Taraweeh conclude with the  last verses of the Quran. At the end of Ramadan, there is a huge celebration also known as Eid al-Fitr and there is great joy and happiness among Muslims families – the children in particular  because they get money on Eid day. One of my favorite ways to celebrate Ramadan is inviting my co-workers and friends who do not practice Islam to a dinner for a culture sharing experience. 

Why do you fast during Ramadan?

We, Muslims fast during Ramadan to reflect on life, to repent to Allah on sins that we commit as human beings, and to feel the hunger, and struggle of the less fortunate people in our society. There are many who are fasting daily without an option.   Ramadan always reminds me how fortunate I am to have food on the table, shelter over my head, and many other blessings. 

What are you favorite Minneapolis restaurants to visit during Ramadan celebrations?

Often I eat at home, as Ramadan is a great opportunity for families to eat together, pray together, and bond in ritual manners. However, sometimes I do go with friends to eat out at many of the  buffet style restaurants in the Twin Cities.  Some of my favorites include, the Marina Grill, Safari Restaurant, Gandhi Mahal, Daalo Restaurant, and East Village Grill. All of them prepare a plethora of tasteful food for those fast during Ramadan. Those are not fasting are also more than welcome to eat come and celebrate. 

The Minneapolis Civil Rights Ordinance specifies that it is illegal to discriminate based on  race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, marital status, and status with regard to public assistance. As a MDCR ambassador,  what inspires you to promote the message of common humanity  and educate your community of their civil rights protections?

 I believe its imperative to always remember we are humans first and we should always treat each other with respect and dignity. This brief drives me to be a civil rights champion. 

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Kolu Paye appointed as Director, Contract Compliance

The Kolu Press Release PictureMinneapolis Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) is pleased to announce that Kolu Paye has been appointed as Director, Contract Compliance.  Paye has been with the department for 5 years and recently served as the Compliance and Oversight Manager.

Kolu Paye started her career in the public and non-profit sectors as a community coordinator with Minneapolis Restorative Justice Community Action, Inc.  She also served as a project manager with the City of St. Paul Planning and Economic Development Department through the Local Initiative Support Corporation’s (LISC) Careership Program.

Paye joined the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights in 2011. During her time with the department she has streamlined the compliance process for City staff and contractors. She has implemented policies and programs that have had a tremendous impact on diverse businesses and workers in the city. Early on, Paye implemented standard operating procedures which simplified complex laws and technical procedures, and provided stakeholders with direction in an effort to promote compliance.  Additionally, she was extremely instrumental in establishing goals and affirmative action policies for City professional services contracts designed to further include disadvantaged businesses in government contracting opportunities.  Most recently, Paye has led efforts to implement non-compliance remedies, thus ensuring businesses contracting with the City are held accountable to their responsibility to include women, minority, and low income workers and businesses where applicable.

Minneapolis Civil Rights Director, Velma Korbel, summed up her thoughts about hiring Paye this way, “Kolu is a proven leader and will be great in her new role leading the Contract Compliance Division.  As a Compliance and Oversight Manager, she spent significant time researching the underlying law and policies that guide the work of the Contract Compliance Division to improve processes and increase women and minority inclusion on City contracting projects.  Her well researched recommendations for improvement were incorporated as practices that now have streamlined the work of the division –  saving staff time and increasing efficiency. She has done a tremendous job in fostering productivity improvements and manages regional collaborations that eliminate redundancies. Her innovative leadership style and acute knowledge of contract compliance regulations makes her an ideal choice for this position.”

Paye received her undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota and her law degree from Arizona Summit Law School.  She is originally from Liberia and is a licensed attorney providing pro bono services to the Liberian community. Paye is also dedicated to increasing the number of minority attorneys. As a volunteer with the U.S. Federal Courts Open Doors Program, she encourages and inspires youth to pursue legal careers.

Kolu Paye lives in St. Louis Park with her husband Ray and daughters Piper (2.5) and Nova (1.5). She begins her appointment on June 6, 2016.

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