Copped Out

Minneapolis says rogue officers are on their own

Skarda argues that his office's position is justified because Tatro's behavior is so egregious. "There's things that stand out in this case that are different from your standard allegation of use of force," he observes. A videotape exists of the incident, in which Tatro punches Buford repeatedly, striking him in the head and torso. "Based on the videotape, the officer consistently lied in his police report," a summary written by the MPD's Internal Affairs Unit reads. "The videotape confirms actions that happened, but were denied by the officer in his statements."

Goins sees the Tatro case as indicative of a broader movement: more and more government agencies abdicating responsibility for officers working off-duty. "It's a trend. It's disturbing. I think the public should be concerned about it," Goins says. He then points to another case he is handling, involving two off-duty Minnesota state troopers who allegedly sexually assaulted a woman in a Maplewood motel six years ago. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety argued in court that the state was not responsible for defending or indemnifying the troopers. So while Goins's client won $200,000 in personal damages, the judgment is essentially worthless: The individual troopers don't have the money. Goins, who is taking the matter to the Minnesota Court of Appeals for a second time, still hopes to recoup money from the state.

Attorney Albert Goins argues that the city is responsible for officers' off-duty behavior
Daniel Corrigan
Attorney Albert Goins argues that the city is responsible for officers' off-duty behavior

In the same vein, Goins argues that it should be the City of Minneapolis, not Officer Tatro, on the financial hook for Kevin Buford's suffering. Goins even professes some sympathy for the former officer. "He's being victimized to some extent because the City of Minneapolis and the parking ramp are trying to wash their hands [of him]. The city cut him loose."

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