The Minnesota Court of Appeals has cut in half an award to a Minneapolis couple who alleged police discrimination in a 2006 incident at an impound lot.
As described in this 2008 article in City Pages, this case goes back to a September 2006 incident in which a group African and African Americans had to wait for more than an hour to get their cars out of an impound lot. A police officer was called when one banged on the Plexiglas of the impound lot clerk’s “cage,” and events were off and running.
The white female officer, Julie Casper, immediately began yelling at the group of predominantly middle-aged black folks. “The next person to touch the Plexiglas, swear, or raise their voice will go to jail for disorderly conduct,” Casper purportedly bellowed at the group. “I want you all to shut up and behave yourselves.”
The Cannons were taken aback by the hostility. Lois attempted to make the case that it wasn’t necessary for the officer to use such a belligerent tone. The response from Officer Casper: “I will use whatever tone I damn well please.”
James attempted to intervene, explaining to the officer that they’d been waiting for close to an hour. This tack didn’t work either. “I don’t care if you’ve been waiting four days,” the officer yelled back.
At this point the Cannons decided to leave. Lois wrote down the female officer’s badge number and informed her that they’d be filing a complaint regarding her conduct.
The Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights (on which Cannon had previously served) awarded Cannon $10,000 for mental anguish, $5,000 for future mental anguish and then doubled the award for a total of $30,000. It also added Cannon’s $22,000 in legal fees.
The court said Cannon “had a good-faith and reasonable belief that Officer Hagan’s conduct was discriminatory in nature.”
The three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals said…
The record indicates three instances of adverse action on the part of the officers. First, after Cannon stated that he would be filing a complaint, Officer Hagen responded that Cannon could not do anything to her. This testimony was specifically credited by the commission; and a statement of this nature could certainly seem intimidating and harassing to an individual who had just voiced a desire to file a complaint against that person. Second, when Lois attempted to obtain Officer Hagen‟s badge number in order to file the complaint, Officer Hagen responded by yelling, “Yeah, you got my badge number! My badge number is 1019, got that?” Depending on the speaker‟s tone and volume, this conduct also amounts to both intimidation and harassment. And finally, when Cannon and his family attempted to leave Wrecker‟s, Officer Meath followed them into the parking lot and wrote down the license-plate number of their vehicle. The acts of following Cannon and his family outside and writing down their license-plate number could also be intimidating, as even Officer Meath conceded. We therefore conclude that the record contains substantial evidence to support the commission‟s conclusion that Officer Hagen and Officer Meath engaged in adverse actions following Cannon‟s statement that he was going to file a complaint.
But the court said Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights lacked authority to double the award to Cannon, and knocked the award down to $15,000.