DRE 'victims' to file civil lawsuit against alleged pot-distributing officers [SECOND IN SERIES]
Panda (pictured) is one of five DRE subjects party to the civil lawsuit. Last spring, he said officers got him "high as fuck."
-- This is part two in a series of five snapshots from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's lengthy investigation into officer misconduct associated with the state patrol's Drug Recognition Expert program. For background reading, see chronology of City Pages' coverage at the bottom of this post --
Five subjects who participated in the State Patrol's Drug Recognition Expert program last spring will soon file a civil lawsuit against the officers who allegedly gave them pot, Fox 9 reports.
CITY PAGES' DRE SERIES: DRE officer: "I don't know what the big deal is I just gave them marijuana" [FIRST IN SERIES]
The attorney representing the 'victims,' Nathan Hansen, said he was concerned that DRE subjects weren't given a consent form. Officers didn't even ask "a perfunctory question about medical history," Hansen told Fox.
Fox spoke with Michael Bonds, aka "Panda." Panda was hanging out downtown last spring when he says he was approached by officers and offered pot in exchange for serving as a DRE subject:
"I got stoned with a couple of cops," said protestor Michael Bonds, who goes by the name Panda.
Bonds, who suffers from epilepsy and schizophrenia, told FOX 9 News he also got a cheeseburger and cigarettes for participating. Though he freely admits his marijuana use, he says the individual choice to consume drugs becomes something else when the police become the dealers.
"They're supposed to be enforcing the law, not breaking the law," he said.
Here, from our original blog post on the DRE scandal, is what Panda had to say about his interactions with DRE trainees last spring:
One young man who identified himself as Panda said he got "high as fuck" in front of a couple police officers. He said he was walking down the street downtown when an officer told him he smelled like marijuana.
"I started walking faster... [but then] he asked me if I wanted to smoke more. I stopped in my tracks, said 'yes,' and then I smoked with a cop," Panda said, adding that the weed given to him by officers was "some of the best shit I've had in a while." He said officers bought him a double cheeseburger at McDonald's on his way back downtown.
Interviewed hours later after he sobered up, Panda said police offered him a quarter-ounce bag of marijuana if he'd become a police informant and snitch on the activities of fellow Occupy protestors.
While the extent to which DRE-participating officers used free marijuana as an enticement for participation in the program remains controversial, numerous officers interviewed in the BCA's report say offering food, cigarettes, or even liquor to potential subjects was routine.
For instance, in an interview with investigators, DRE trainee and state trooper Nick Otterson said officers "could buy people candy or could buy people you know cigarettes in order to entice them to come with ya." He also says he bought subjects McDonald's.
Another DRE traineer, state trooper John Schmutzer, says that when potential subjects would ask 'what's in it for me?' officers would say "I can provide you with some cigarettes, I can give ya some McDonalds [sic] I can give ya some alcohol if you're of age. That's how it was done."
But Hansen is particularly troubled by the allegation officers offered DRE subjects marijuana without any concern for how smoking it might affect people like Panda who have pre-existing medical and mental conditions.
"These people were treated as less than animals," Hansen told Fox. "They would never give their dogs or horses these drugs."
In response to the news that a civil lawsuit is forthcoming, Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman released this statement: "The DRE training program remains suspended even though no criminal charges were filed. In addition to the Internal Affairs investigation, we are engaged in a review of the structure, processes and curriculum of the program."
DRE SCANDAL BACKGROUND READING (EARLIEST TO MOST RECENT):
-- Minnesota police giving Peavey Plaza Occupy-ers drugs as part of impairment study, report says [VIDEO]
-- State Patrol "looking into" Occupy drug allegations; Mpls police claim no involvement
-- State Patrol: "No evidence" officers gave Occupy-ers drugs
-- Police did indeed give Occupiers free pot, new evidence suggests; DRE program suspended
-- DRE drug scandal: City of Minneapolis denies involvement as outstate officers take heat
-- Dan Feidt, producer of DRE drug scandal video, talks about Occupy, police, and the war on drugs
-- Sgt. Rick Munoz, DRE program boss, is pretty much the biggest jerk ever
-- DRE drug scandal: No criminal charges for alleged dope-distributing officers
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