For October, we’ve selected the City of Minneapolis for its handling of an excessive force complaint against Officer Blayne Lehner.
Here’s the background: Lehner and his partner respond to domestic disturbance call at an apartment building where they find two women arguing with one another. According to the news reports, the encounter was captured on video. The owner of the apartment building was so disturbed by what he saw–Lehner pushing one of the women without cause–that he filed a complaint with the department.
Later, Police Chief Janee Harteau agrees that Lehner’s conduct was unacceptable. The Chief terminates Lehner’s employment with the police department.
Only now a labor arbitrator has overturned that employment decision and has ordered the city to reinstate Lehner along with compensation for the time he has been off the force.
News reports also show that Lehner has been the subject of previous complaints and lawsuits:
City records show that since 2000, more than 30 complaint investigations have been opened against Lehner. The vast majority of investigations were closed with no discipline. One case from 2014 with the Office of Police Conduct Review is still open. Records show Lehner was suspended twice in 2013. However, the reasons for the discipline were not listed. Lehner was also issued two letters of reprimand in 2012.
In 2015, Lehner was sued by a man who claimed the officer kicked him in the face, breaking a few of his teeth and causing him to briefly lose consciousness. In a rare move, the city decided not to defend Lehner. However, the city later settled the case for $360,000.
James Pasco, executive director of the National FOP, as quoted in today’s Wall Street Journal:
The fact of the matter is no self-respecting member of the law enforcement community holds any brief for a bad cop.
Of course. It would be news if Mr. Pasco would have said the opposite. Yet, too often police unions lobby against measures that would bring greater accountability to the bad cops.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani says that President Obama is fomenting anti-police hatred. Giuliani was not specific about what Obama said or did to support such a claim.
The cold-blooded murders of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos have sparked a lot of hot takes, but perhaps none so bold and drastically wrong than the one offered by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who cast the blame squarely on “four months of propaganda, starting with the president, that everybody should hate the police.” He said black leaders, in particular, have contributed to “an atmosphere of severe, strong anti-police hatred in certain communities.”
Giuliani went out of his way to be clear that he’s not blaming a handful of bad apples. He thinks the culprits are everyone protesting police misconduct everywhere….
Needless to say, neither the president nor any major protest leader has claimed the police are all racist or said anything remotely resembling “everyone should hate the police.”
Police union officials have gone even further than Giuliani. They claim the Mayor of New York City is partly to blame for the murders.
From the Washington Post:
FEW FEDERAL government agencies have grown as quickly as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which includes the 21,000 agents, double the number in 2004, who patrol the nation’s frontiers with Mexico and Canada. That growth has been accompanied by an alarming number of incidents involving the use of lethal force, particularly along the Mexican border and all too frequently under circumstances that suggest the agency is indifferent or hostile to the most basic standards of restraint, transparency and self-policing.
Reports by news organizations and independent experts — including one report that was suppressed by Customs and Border Protection for more than a year — have finally prompted the agency to address its problems with accountability. The agency’s new commissioner, R. Gil Kerlikowske …has promised that the agency will be more forthcoming about future incidents involving the use of deadly force, which would be a constructive change from its deeply ingrained habit of stonewalling. To that end he is establishing a rapid-reaction force of investigators whose mission will be to gather evidence following incidents and allegations of abuse.
According to news reports, three White House officials will be attending the funeral for Michael Brown today. Vice President Joe Biden will not be attending and that is no surprise. Why? Because the Brown family has been demanding a vigorous, impartial investigation into the shooting and Biden is fond of saying that he “has the back” of the police force. Biden’s presence would be awkward, to say the least.
Here is a clip where Biden is urging a police audience to get behind President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.
Biden has kept a low profile since the unrest began in Ferguson–and no wonder. The last thing protesters there want to hear is that the White House “has the back” of the police. Indeed, that’s why there is so much concern about the local county prosecutor who is handling the investigation and why there have been calls for Governor Nixon to appoint a special prosecutor. A special prosecutor would be more likely to follow the evidence impartially.
Beyond the Brown shooting, we have seen other abuses by the police there. The false arrest of reporters, the tear gas rounds fired into the yards of homes, and the reckless weapon handling by officers against protestors. One wonders if Biden has been on the phone to Obama … saying the administration’s approach thus far has been all wrong… It should “have the back” of the police–not the reporters, the residents, the protesters.
Beyond Ferguson, African-Americans (and others) have been protesting in other cities. On Saturday, thousands of New Yorkers turned out to protest the killing of Eric Garner by New York City police. Other cities have other incidents to relate.
Make no mistake, Biden has been part of the problem. The long simmering tensions in communities around the country did not spring out of nowhere. Misguided policies and unaccountable bureaucracies bear much of the blame. And so do powerful politicians like Biden, who have been deaf to the cries of police abuse and harassment.
[Police Chief Patrick] Flannelly said after an internal review of the incident, he and six other members of the command staff unanimously felt Davidson used both conduct unbecoming an officer and an excessive use of force and should be fired….Flannelly said he still has full confidence in Davidson’s abilities.
More from Wane.com:
Flannelly said an electronic malfunction delayed the review of the case by about three months, but did not affect the outcome.
Electronic malfunction? Hmm.