FROM THE ARCHIVE
Police union chief blasts allegations of brutality
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FRIDAY, JANUARY 31, 2003

The head of the Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officers' union on Thursday vehemently denied allegations of police brutality, suggesting accounts of a beating of an American Indian man and women were false.

At a news conference, Sgt. John Delmonico, president of the Police Officers Federation, blasted media attention of the incident, which was reported by Indian leaders a day earlier. He said evidence will show that the two police officers involved did not assault or urinate on anyone, as has been suggested.

"We will do whatever we have to cooperate to prove this did not happen," Delmonico said.

But those words were tempered by police chief Robert Olson, who also spoke at the conference. He was quick to point out that the police department hasn't arrived at any conclusion and said a pending investigation will determine what will happen, if anything, to the accused officers.

"If if any fact any of these allegations are true, they are very, very serious and will result in disciplinary action," he said. "There's no question about that."

The comments came in response to a news conference held on Wednesday to air the complaints of police brutality. According to those who spoke, two police officers, whose identity was unknown at the time, last Friday night dropped the man and woman off at a housing complex in Minneapolis, beat the man and possibly urinated on him. After a resident called 911, two off-duty police officers, who happened to be near the complex, took the man and woman to a hospital.

Delmonico said the two officers -- whom he described as "pretty stressed out" -- came to him after seeing the media reports. They denied abandoning the man and woman in the cold, he said. The temperature that night reached a low of two degrees above zero.

"They got them out of their squad car," he said. "They were standing when they left."

Indian leaders on Wednesday said the man and woman were homeless and intoxicated, which the police officials confirmed. When asked why they were taken to the housing complex, Delmonico said the officers were told they lived there.

Both officers are cooperating with the ongoing investigation, according to Delmonico and Olson, who wouldn't release the names. Olson said both have been suspended with pay and were assigned to home duty.

Even if the beating allegations are untrue, Olson said the officers may have abused their "discretion" by leaving the man and women in the cold. "At the very least, if in fact a person, an officer, in zero degree weather dumped out a person who is a vulnerable person . . . and left them laying in the snow in that parking lot," he said, "that is wrong."

Police brutality against Indians made waves in Minneapolis a decade ago, when two men were awarded $100,000 after being stuffed in the trunk of a squad car. Two officers were found to have violated the civil and human rights of Charles Lone Eagle and John Boney.

Leaving intoxicated individuals in the freezing cold, which can lead to death, is a practice that has been reported by Natives in Alaska and Canada. In Saskatchewan, Canada, tribal leaders and members have long made those accusations against police but they were rejected as false until a Native man came forward with his personal account.

The incident resulted in the conviction of two white police officers in Saskatoon, who admitted leaving the man in the cold. The conviction is on appeal.

Relevant Links:
Minneapolis Police Officers Federation - http://www.mpdfederation.com
Minneapolis Police Department - http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/citywork/police
Starlight Tours, from the CBC - http://cbc.ca/national/magazine/starlight/index.html

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