The Hit Parade Revisited

In an age of shrinking budgets, the city of Minneapolis is spending more money than ever to settle lawsuits against the MPD

The search, however, turned up far less. The only charge brought against Farahan stemming from the warrant was a petty misdemeanor count for possession of marijuana. That charge was subsequently dropped. In court pleadings, Farahan's attorney speculated that the search was retaliation for filing a lawsuit against the MPD.

Farahan's civil case never made it to trial. The city of Minneapolis settled the matter in April by paying him $90,000.

 

Kevin Buford
Call it the case of the parking-ramp pisser. Around 8:30 p.m. on May 12, 1999, Kevin Leroy Buford says he got off a bus in downtown Minneapolis and went to look for the public restroom in the Dayton's-Radisson parking complex. There he encountered Steven Tatro, an off-duty Minneapolis police officer working security in the ramp. According to the federal complaint filed on behalf of Buford, Tatro refused to allow Buford to use the restroom.

Buford left the ramp with the intention, according to the complaint, of urinating in a nearby alley. Tatro, according to the complaint, followed Buford and threw his flashlight at him. Tatro then pulled out his handcuffs and started whipping Buford in the face and head with the cuffs, eventually landing a punch on Buford's jaw. Other officers arrived at the scene and--after allegedly holding back a crowd of onlookers--took Buford to Hennepin County Medical Center. There, he had fragments of three shattered teeth and pieces of bone removed from his jaw.

The Civilian Review Authority and the MPD's Internal Affairs department both found that Tatro, who began his career with the department in September 1995, had used excessive force. Further, Tatro's police report denied that he had repeatedly struck Buford, but parking lot surveillance tape revealed that he had. By April 2000, the MPD had canned Tatro.

In a strange twist, however, Tatro and Buford ended up on the same side of the subsequent court maneuvers, both claiming that the city of Minneapolis was responsible for the incident. After Tatro's employment was terminated, the city refused to represent him in court--or "indemnify" him--claiming that his actions were so egregious that they were not in line with his duties as a police officer or an employee of the city. Lawyers for both men sued. In the federal complaint, Buford's lawyer argues "that the actions of the Minneapolis City Council in flatly refusing to indemnify Officer Tatro have as their purpose the aim, goal, and effect of refusing and denying Buford any meaningful remedy for his claims against Officer Tatro."

As both cases made their way through the courts, the city of Minneapolis continued to protest. His superior assigned to review the case, Doug Belton, and then-Chief Robert Olson testified that Tatro, whose prior personnel record was clean, was not entitled to defense or indemnification. Tatro never succeeded in compelling the city to defend him, but one judge ruled that he was acting as a police officer and therefore the city was liable for his actions. In 2003, the city settled with Kevin Buford, paying $125,000 to a man who just had to pee.

 

Robert Greenberg
Robert Greenberg had been arrested twice on misdemeanor charges related to civil disobedience by the time he participated in the so-called "May Day protest" on May 1, 2000. The massive WTO protests in Seattle had taken place six months earlier; subsequent gatherings around the country were marked by a heavy police presence, and many believed law enforcement agencies were gathering and sharing intelligence on groups involved in the actions. By the end of May Day, Greenberg had been arrested a third time and, he claimed later in a lawsuit, been badly beaten by several Minneapolis police officers.

According to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court, several demonstrators were participating in a "labor picket and protest" outside the Minneapolis Hilton hotel on 11th Street and Marquette Avenue downtown. At 11:20 a.m., someone bumped into Greenberg and blocked his path. The person was later identified as David Menter, a Minneapolis police officer working in plain clothes. According to the complaint, Menter continued to block Greenberg's path, and then "at least three other undercover officers" jumped Greenberg and threw him into a nearby alley. "Since the officers were not wearing uniforms and did not identify themselves as police," the complaint continues, "plaintiff did not at first realize he was being assaulted by police officers."

Greenberg suffered severe injuries to his back, neck, and shoulders from the skirmish, and after he was handcuffed, "one of the officers squeezed Plaintiff's testicles at least two times and then shoved his testicles into his body."

An additional document filed during the suit claimed that the MPD held a briefing for all officers prior to the demonstration: "Lt. Scott Gerlicher, the coordinator of the response to the demonstration, circulated to other officers several photographs of several people who he identified as likely leaders of the demonstration," including one of Greenberg. During the pretrial period, neither the city nor Gerlicher produced any documents or evidence showing that they had prior information on Greenberg. Nevertheless, the complaint concludes, "police officers involved in the protest state that they were ordered to arrest the people in the photographs for any offense that they observed."

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