The list of offenses and injustices from this police “strike force” reads like fiction, or a television show like The Shield, but it was all too real.
The Metro Gang Strike Force was shut down in 2009 following controversy about the behavior of officers in the unit. Just this week, 96 victims named in a lawsuit against the unit received payouts, and the payments tell a tale of a rogue unit plagued with illegal seizures, questionable raids, and even brutality.
According to a piece summarizing the payouts in the Star Tribune, the $3 million lawsuit was filed just two weeks after the unit was disbanded. Six-hundred pages of documents released last week detail just what the unit was doing wrong, and with 96 victims receiving payment, these events weren’t anomalies or cases of “bad apples” within the ranks.
Among those receiving payment:
- A parent whose toddler was kicked in the head by a Strike Force officer
- An SUV owner whose truck was returned 18 months after seizure with 20,000 additional miles on it
- A man who lost collectible autographed hats, his class ring, a blender, and stump digger in a raid
- Two people harassed and targeted because of their Hispanic origin
- 15 people who were victims of excessive force
- And more
In all, $840,000 in payments were ordered to victims and property was ordered to be returned. One-hundred and twenty claims were denied. An additional $2 million will be used in training officers on proper seizure protocol, and racial sensitivity.
The unit was accused of trashing homes, “beyond the disarray” expected after intense searches. They seized things that had nothing to do with a criminal case. They took animals, televisions, household appliances, and in some cases it seems, anything of value.
While officers are allowed to use force when necessary, there are tight restrictions on what constitutes necessary force. Mark Gehan, appointed special master by the U.S. District Court and in charge of issuing the payouts, issued a $6,000 award to a women whose not-yet two year old child was kicked in the head by an officer who was actually aiming for her.
“I am unable to discern why it would be necessary to kick claimant’s mother,” said Gehan. Officers, who raided the home looking for cocaine and found nothing but marijuana instead, called the raid “high-risk” and said their force was “commensurate with the danger.”
Militaristic raids like this, though the Strike Force is now gone, seem to be more and more common. Cops seem to operate on the “raid now, ask questions later” premise and the people are left picking up the pieces and usually without access to compensation for their troubles.
Many times, raids like this end in criminal charges, whether it’s for the drugs that cops were looking for or for resisting arrest in the confusion of the raid. If you are facing criminal charges like these, let us help you. Contact our offices today to discuss your case and the options available to you.