By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Two weeks ago, Minneapolis Police Sgt. Jeff Jindra (pictured at right) received some welcome news. A U.S. District Court jury found that he did nothing wrong in questioning and handcuffing 14-year-old Damani Bediako in May 2003.
There was little time for the officer to celebrate the dismissal of that suit, however. The very next day, another civil case was filed in federal court against the nine-year veteran of the MPD. In that lawsuit, Philander Jenkins alleges that Jindra maliciously assaulted him during an arrest for drug possession.
According to the case complaint, on the morning of May 21, 2003, several Minneapolis cops executed a no-knock search warrant at a house where Jenkins was a guest. Jenkins claims that while he was lying facedown on the floor, handcuffed, Jindra kicked him in the head until his jaw was broken. Other officers present also purportedly assaulted him in the face and the abdomen, according to the complaint.
Jenkins was then arrested and transported to the Hennepin County jail. He told officers there that he'd been assaulted and required medical treatment. But they didn't believe Jenkins's statements and refused to send him to the hospital. It was only after a week that jail staff agreed to provide him with medical assistance. When Jenkins was finally examined at Hennepin County Medical Center, according to the complaint, it was discovered that his jaw was broken in several places. Metal plates were inserted into his head during surgery, where they remain to this day.
Jill Clark, an attorney representing Jenkins, says that because his injuries were not readily apparent, the cops didn't take any steps to cover their actions, such as alleging that the detainee initially assaulted them. "It's an interesting case because it is frankly a matter of record that he was facedown, cuffed hands and feet, when police were dealing with him," she says. "I'm not aware of any allegation of resisting arrest made by the police."
Jenkins is a semi-notorious character because of a subsequent run-in with the cops. In October 2003, he alleged that jail officials attempted to sexually assault him. The charge was made at almost the same time that Stephen Porter accused Minneapolis cops of sodomizing him with a toilet plunger. (Jindra was one of the alleged perpetrators in the Porter case as well.) Both purported sexual assaults were eventually deemed fictitious by legal authorities. Jenkins was subsequently charged with filing a false police report. That misdemeanor charge is currently pending.
But the recent string of legal victories for the MPD doesn't mean that problems don't persist within the department. David Shulman, the attorney who represented Bediako, blames the unfavorable verdict for his client on the fact that the jury was composed entirely of white people. He says that out of sixty potential jurors, only one was black, and that person happened to know Bediako. "Black people living in the Twin Cities know that they get stopped for no reason or for reasons that white people don't get stopped for," Shulman notes.
Clark says that the timing of the Jenkins case, coming just a day after Jindra was vindicated in the Bediako matter, was simply happenstance. She was forced to have the case filed by Friday in order to avoid running up against the two-year statute of limitations. "I didn't even know what happened in that case," she says.
Clark, echoing Shulman, argues that the Jenkins incident is part of a pattern of abuse by Minneapolis cops. "All you have to do is bring criminal charges against one Minneapolis police officer for assault and it would stop," she says.