Live-blogging: The Gang Strike Force hearing

A joint legislative committee got a first-hand look at wrongdoing in the Metro Gang Strike Force on Wednesday, although there was disagreement over whether it constitutes “corruption.”

According to an independent review issued last week, members of the gang unit confiscated property from people who often had nothing to do with gangs, and brought the property home. Other property simply disappeared. (Read the report here)

The hearing also touched on a question of the disproportionate targeting of communities of color by the Gang Strike Force.

This morning, MPR’s Cathy Wurzer talked with Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, who chairs the House Public Safety Finance Committee.

Here’s the live blog of the hearing. Please join the discussion below.

  • Karl

    I find it hard to believe that there would be any disagreement over whether this constituted corruption. Who was so ethically challenged they didn’t see this scandal as corruption?

  • Bob Collins

    Just about everybody involved in the investigation.

    What’s very strange is that a week ago, Luger declared that the situation at the Strike Force was “criminal: and that “crimes” had taken place. Those were his words.

    On Wednesday, he couldn’t bring himself to describe cops committing crimes as “corruption.”

  • Great coverage from someone who was there. Small point: “Lugar: Recommends stand-alone police operations. ” actually I think Luger is saying stand alone police operations is the problem.

  • TJSwift

    Bob, regarding a racist angle in this awful mess:

    I think there are several levels that need to be looked at seperately.

    Since most of the victims of the copsters robberies were minorities, it is understandable to conclude that they were targeted because of their race, but it more than simple bigotry.

    First of all, cops go where the crime is. As was mentioned yesterday, you’re not going to find much street dealing in Eagan. I think a lot of these sweeps occurred on the East side of SP and in North MPLS, because that’s where the drugs are.

    So regarding the strongarm robberies that occurred during the “sweeps”, I’d have to say the race of the victims was more a consequence of the environment the copsters were operating in.

    I think that if there *was* a lot of street crime in Eagan, we’d be hearing about white kids getting jacked.

    The testimony regarding the targeting of hispanics at the tow yard might understandably be chocked up to overt racism too, but again, I think there’s more.

    The copsters supposidly were interested in hispanics…but why not blacks or asians?

    I think the answer lies with the fact that the copsters had ICE’s phone number on speed dial. They were looking for illegal aliens, who for the most part consist of hispanics right now.

    They knew illegals would be less likely to cause a ruckus about being robbed when they were on their way back to Mexico.

    It’s profiling all right, but not by race but by nationality.

    Don’t get me wrong here. I’ve seen and heard enough to be thoroughly convinced that way too many cops are big time bigots, especially in MPLS. And I have no doubt that minorities have a tougher row to hoe in general when dealing with cops, honest or crooked.

    I’d just, for once, like to see people think about all the angles a minute before they start screaming racism.

  • AM

    The problems uncovered in both the initial report by the Office of the Legislative Auditor and follow up report by the Metro Gang Strike Force Review Panel authored by Mr. Andrew Luger and Mr. John Egelhof are unfortunately not atypical for what is routinely condoned and passed off as acceptable police work by law enforcement administrators and managers; or, at the least, not noteworthy enough to take action against. Thankfully, the vast majority of officer misconduct does not rise to this level, however, even the most innocuous of transgressions have a corrosive effect over time.

    The Officers who participated in the wrongful behavior should be aggressively prosecuted, the ones who knew about it but did nothing should be administratively disciplined as co-conspirators and the ones who took the unpopular stand of indignation should be recognized for having the spinal fortitude to challenge it.

    The sad fact of the matter is that law enforcement, as many other professions, continue to be an “old boys network” although it is not solely compromised of males. Physicians are reluctant to report those of their own ranks arriving intoxicated for surgery, lawyers are loathed to notify review boards of other attorneys whose conduct constitutes malfeasance, unprofessional or illegal behavior, accountants overlook their co-workers’ questionable practices and the list goes on.

    As a retired law enforcement officer, I can tell you I was bursting at the seams when I first took my “Oath of Office”. Within a few years, I began to conceal the nature of my profession as I did not wish to be associated with the image of it the general public had. I was embarrassed by the behavior and conduct of some of my “peers”.

    What is troublesome in this entire fiasco is that the individuals who challenge the misconduct of the rogue officers are often times viewed as the source of the agency’s or department’s problems when the unethical, unprofessional or illegal conduct becomes public. Rarely are the individuals who engaged in the improper activities held accountable, usually it is the messengers who are shot.

    I, for one, would like to see (with their permission of course) the Officers who confronted the bad apples publicly identified and thanked for their integrity, sense of duty and backbone. Too often the phrase I heard over coffee with other Officers is “Ya gotta go along to get along and ahead.”

    I would like to know who on the task force I should admire for their courage rather than the names of the scoundrels who participated in what amounted to little more than strong-arm robbery or burglary under color of law ……….. outrageous!!

    The messengers are often viewed as pariahs in their own ranks and ostracized by the majority who turn a blind eye towards the misconduct. Thus, law enforcement is often segregated into three camps: the rogues (a minority), the “silent majority” who look the other way (it’s not my job, I am not doing it) and the model officers who try and take a stand, but, invariably many times are squashed by the establishment as being “rabble-rousers”.

    Along with reporting the apparent illegal activities of the few, please bring a balance to the story by reminding all of us there were also some that not only were on the task force to pursue gangs, but found themselves in the unpleasant position of having to “police” their own ranks. My hat is off to them …………… Thank you for having some backbone and remembering why you originally took the Oath of Office.

    The circle of Officers I associated with had a saying: Blue is Blue, but, Wrong is Wrong regardless of who the perpetrator is. The law does not discriminate and is blind as to who engages in illegal behavior.

    All this being said, now for my disclaimer: Individuals suspected of a crime are presumed innocent until convicted in a Court of Law. Nothing in this comment is to imply that I have passed judgment on any Officers of the Task Force until the allegations are proven “beyond a reasonable doubt”, in accordance to established Rules of Evidence, Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Rule of Law.

    Unfortunately, there is the likelihood that others were not afforded the same courtesy and Right of Due Process if the allegations are true.

    Thank you for this opportunity to spout off, I need to get off my soap box now for I am getting a nose bleed.