Tuesday, February 06, 2007

In defense of Jill Clark: Human Rights Defender pt. 2

For the purposes of this series the Federal Mediation Memorandum of Agreement will be referred to as “the agreement” and the Minneapolis Police Department will be referred to as the “MPD.”--BlackLogic

“...We condemn cultures of brutality and violence everywhere they exist. Where we find them in society we will combat them. Where we find them in the police department, we will combat them. We also condemn institutional racism everywhere it exists. Where it is found in society, we will combat it. Where it is found in the police department, we will combat it...”

The epigraph above is taken from the preamble of the Memorandum of Agreement between police, the City of Minneapolis, and an unfortunately incomplete, inclusively speaking, of community members from the Twin Cities. Is that pledge being fulfilled, or does the MPD continue to foster a culture, subversive or overt, of corruption and brutality? Would it have needed federal mediation if they had lived up to this pledge?
Attorney Jill Clark was one of the most important advocates in bringing federal mediation to Minneapolis. When a lawyer has success defending underrepresented persons who have experienced brutality and/or abuse at the hands of the police department, that lawyer becomes a valuable part of that community, and a pariah to some powerful public servants who work in our local criminal justice system.
According to her supporters (myself included), Jill Clark has earned the right to be called a defender of human rights. Here is a glance at a few of the Minneapolis/St. Paul cases in which Clark successfully held police and the courts accountable for some of their collective disregard for human rights:
* Dontay St. James, an African American man, was shot 4 times by a Minneapolis police officer through his apartment door. Then he was charged with assault on a police officer. The only witness was the shooter. Jill Clark represented St. James for free, and tried the case to a jury. A jury quickly found St. James not guilty.
* Philander Jenkins, an African American man, complained that 2 jailers had tried to sexually assault him in the Hennepin County Jail. Who got criminally charged? Jenkins. Jill Clark and Jill Waite took the case pro bono and tried it to a jury. The jury acquitted Jenkins of charges that he had made a false complaint.
* Darryl Robinson, an African American man, was pushed down by a Minneapolis police officer, kicked in the head until his eardrum broke, and the cop poured a bottle of sparkling water into Robinson’s bleeding ear. Robinson got himself to a hospital and demanded that police take his criminal complaint against the officer, but MPD did nothing. Eventually, Jill Clark helped Robinson bring his claim against police to federal court. A jury gave Robinson the maximum possible award for his injuries.
* Rickey Jones, an African American man, is a photographer who caught Minneapolis police on film while they were beating an older woman. He was arrested for taking pictures and initially convicted because he complained about his rights being violated. Jill Clark took the case for free to uphold Rickey’s First Amendment rights. A motion for new trial was granted and eventually the case was dismissed.
* Patrick Fearing was beaten by St. Paul police in full view of his young daughters. An audiotape recorded a chilling record of Fearing’s screams while he was being beaten. Jill Clark and Jill Waite tried the case to a jury in federal court, which agreed that two officers had used excessive force on Fearing.
* Kenneth Bady is an African American man who friends feared was having a heart attack. They called 911 for emergency medical care. The result? Witnesses say Minneapolis Police showed up and tasered Bady, the man suspected of having a heart attack. Bady began to pursue a civil action, when suddenly he was criminally charged for the same incident—police claiming he did something wrong. Jill Clark took the criminal case free of charge and convinced the prosecutor to dismiss it.
* Lloyd Mayberry lives in St. Paul. A neighbor called St. Paul Police, who showed up, and his wife said nothing was wrong. Witnesses say that Mayberry was assaulted by police, but police criminally charged him. Jill Clark took the case for free and convinced the St. Paul prosecutor to dismiss the criminal charges.

* Alfred Flowers is an African American man who was walking near the Urban League talking on his cell phone when a Minneapolis Park Police officer approached him and took him to the ground. Witnesses say that police who showed up choked Flowers until he was unable to breathe. Police charged Flowers, but following a month-long trial in which Jill Clark defended Flowers, a jury found him not guilty.

In addition to aiding in the defense of these clients, Jill Clark continues to defend the human rights of people who have experienced police brutality, misconduct and abuse of authority while being a positive force for change in community efforts to change the underlying policies and practices that allow bad policing to exist, while stifling efforts to sustain real community policing.

Thus, it is both disheartening and curious that Clark's complaints against Hennepin County District Court Chief Justice Lucy Wieland went ignored for months by both the *Minnesota Board on Judical Standards and the Lawyer's Professional Responsibility Board, particularly since the Clark indicated she had evidence of judicial misconduct on the part of said justice (read “In Defense of Jill Clark: Human Rights Defender” -- archives).

So, why did the police department of our (un)fair yet major city require a federal mediator to intervene in their relationship with the community they are sworn to serve and protect? Because in the summer of 2002, according to an analysis of the MOA by CUAPB, “a series of high profile police incidents was capped by the wounding of 11-year old Julius Powell by a stray police bullet during a botched drug raid. Although the youth was not seriously injured, the incident brought North Minneapolis residents to the boiling point and touched off an uprising in the Jordan neighborhood in which some journalists were beaten and media vehicles were torched.

“Prior to the Powell shooting, members of the Minneapolis Police Federation attacked city council member Natalie Johnson-Lee (out of office since '05) for remarks she made in connection with a shooting incident that resulted in the deaths of community members Martha McDonald and police officer Melissa Schmidt. Johnson Lee was the only African American on the city council at that time and these attacks on her were seen very negatively by large numbers of her constituents and the Black community as a whole. A rally was held to denounce the attacks, followed by a large community meeting in North Minneapolis to discuss police/community issues. At the rally and later at the meeting, it was announced that an ad hoc coalition had come together, met with U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger and contacted U.S. Department of Justice, Community Relations Section mediator Patricia Campbell Glenn to ask for federal mediation [since the city had failed to ease police/community relations-brackets mine]. Two days later, the Powell shooting occurred and the coalition requested that Ms. Glenn come to Minneapolis to assess the situation first-hand.

“The coalition met with Ms. Glenn and this meeting led to a four-month long effort to bring federal mediation to Minneapolis. There was a great deal of resistance on the part of city leadership. Mayor Rybak repeatedly called for private mediation. The task of bringing federal mediation to the city involved extensive neighborhood canvassing and numerous community meetings to 1) educate the community on mediation and why it was needed. 2) to motivate the community to call their council members and the mayor to ask for mediation, and 3) gather input on the community's desired demands for mediation. The final result of these efforts was a ten-page document outlining community demands for improved police policies, practices and accountability.

“The community's demands for mediation never saw the light of day. Police Chief Robert Olson stonewalled mediation, refusing to attend sessions with the team elected by the community. He was backed by city council members who strove to control the outcome of mediation by controlling community representation. Sadly, city leadership finally got their way, and in May 2003, a hand picked “community” team sat down with representatives from the city, the MPD, and the federation to broker a federal mediation agreement. Ms. Campbell served as the mediator.” (The rest of this analysis is linked further below.)

On December 4, 2003, the Minneapolis Police Department, at the behest of a federal mediator, entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with citizens of Minneapolis designated the Unity Community Mediation Team (UCMT), a partial representation of the city.

The agreement, according to the MOA preamble, was/is “dedicated to protecting safety and the human rights, civil rights, and legal rights of all Minneapolis residents, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, language, immigration status, gender sexual orientation, mental health, economic status or disability status

“We condemn cultures of brutality and violence everywhere they exist. Where we find them in society we will combat them. Where we find them in the police department, we will combat them. We also condemn institutional racism everywhere it exists. Where it is found in society, we will combat it. Where it is found in the police department, we will combat it.”

Also pledged by the MPD and UCMT in the preamble of the Agreement: “We agree to work together too protect the life, dignity, health, and safety of all Minneapolis residents; to continue this dialog to improve police practices; to ensure that violations of Minneapolis' residents' rights by police officers are resolved justly; to improve the level of professionalism, training, and racial and gender diversity at all levels of the Minneapolis Police Department; and to improve relations between our communities and their police department and the City of Minneapolis.

“Police officers are sworn to uphold the law and take action without regard to race. If race is a motivating factor in police actions, it is a vital concern to the community and the department. The data contained in the September 24, 2003 'Minnesota Racial Profiling Study,' published by the Council and Crime and Justice, heightens this concern and demands further analysis. Police officers are entrusted with enormous authority and are accountable for a strong commitment to public service. MPD officers must project professionalism and are held accountable for excellence in serving all members of the public. The many officers who live up to this standard of excellence deserve respect from the community they serve.”

In theory the memorandum is unique in the nation; it had led to the creation of the Police-Community Relations Council (PCRC) and represents a clearly goal of humanizing the often tumultuous relationship between MPD officers and those persons or communities who have most often not received equal protection under the law.

In practice the MOA has little to no teeth and the MPD are not bound to enforcing it's mandates, according to the analysis of the Agreement by Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) among others.

Below is a link to the City of Minneapolis' copy the Minneapolis Federal Mediation Agreement between the MPD and various community representatives. Please note that many groups traditionally underrepresented in society were also absent from the mediation process, including members of the Hmong and Latino communities:

For an analysis of the Agreement by Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), follow this link:

For more information about the Jill Clark Defense Coalition, call 612-874-7867.

The Lawyer's Professional Responsibility Board can be reached at 1500 Landmark Towers, 345 St. Peter Street, Suite 1500, in St. Paul. Apparently, the LPRB saw fit to investigate Clark for complaining about Judge Wieland, while disregarding her more serious, and earlier complaint against Judge Wieland altogether as of this deadline.
The Minnesota Board of Judicial Standards may be contacted at 2025 Center Point Blvd.,Suite 180, Mendota Heights, or online at They received Clark's complaint against Judge Wieland, but their review is still pending as of this writing.

Rashard Zanders is the host of and an unabashed advocate for human rights and human rights defenders.

The preceding article IS the opinion of management.

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