Saturday, July 27, 2013

The price cops pay when they report misconduct by another cop.

A few days ago I was contacted by my friend Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality – http://cuapb.org .  She wanted to know if I could help some police officers that they were supporting in a whistle blower case. Most cops don’t like CUAPB because being called out publicly by Communities United Against Police Brutality usually means being accused of brutality. What many people, especially cops, fail to understand is that this organization is about justice, for everyone. Cops complain about CUAPB unfairly accusing them of brutality but the fact is that it is the cops who are continuously finding new ways to embarrass themselves. Today’s article in the StarTribune is just one more example.  

“Two Minneapolis police officers placed on leave are being investigated for allegations that they used racial and sexual slurs when talking to a Green Bay, Wis., police officer following an altercation there, sources told the Star Tribune Friday.
While the department declined to name the officers or describe the incident, the sources said that officers Brian Thole and Shawn Powell got into an argument last month with two black men in Green Bay, where Powell used to be a police officer. The officers were off-duty at the time.
Police were called but the dispute ended without further incident and no one was arrested, the sources said. Thole and Powell then contacted a higher-up within the Green Bay Police Department and used a racial slur when describing the men, as well as a sexual slur about Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau, who is the city’s first gay police chief.
The Green Bay Police Department sent an incident report to the Minneapolis Police Department about what happened, according to the sources. That report made its way to Internal Affairs and to Harteau, who placed the officers, who are white, on paid leave. They have been removed from the SWAT team, the sources said.” [i]

Most cops hate this kind of behavior even more than the public because they know it reflects on all of them.
I can virtually guarantee that Officers Thole and Powell assumed that their use of racial and sexual slurs would never be reported by another cop. There is a code of silence that prevents that in most organizations, thankfully not on the Green Bay Department. Thank you Green Bay Police Department for doing the right thing. You showed a level of professionalism that is clearly not present in the Minneapolis Police Department. Why would I say that? Let’s look at this case. Clearly the Minneapolis cops thought that their conduct was acceptable based on the way they work in Minneapolis. Why else would they think they could get away with that kind of language with another agency? That leads us right to the supervisors and other officers on the streets who tolerate their behavior. But what happens when cops do report misconduct on the part of other cops? Retribution!

Which brings me back to the cops at CUAPB: Officer Alan Watt and Sergeant Robin Erkenbrack of the Crystal Police Department wanted to know why Sgt. Greg Burstad, a Brooklyn Park Police Officer assigned to the now disbanded Metro Gang Strike Force was able to kick in the door of a home in Crystal MN, seize the entire contents of the home, and not be held accountable? When these two honorable officers started to push the investigation with the Crystal Chief their lives were turned upside down, and remain that way. It appears that the Crystal Chief is protecting Burstad although it is hard to understand why. In an arrest Burstad made in December of 2011 Burstad reported:  

“At that time I did pull my squad car along side the driver’s side portion of the suspect vehicle and attempted to stop Lee from running. I did exit my car and observed that A.L. was attempting to run northbound away from officers and I came around the front portion of my squad car and attempted to tackle him so that he could not get away. I was giving him numerous verbal commands to cooperate and get down on the ground so that he could be taken into custody. A.L. was not cooperating and I attempted to grab his arm and take control for A.L. I did receive minor injuries to my right kneecap and began struggling with A.L to get him to the ground. It should be noted at this time I was stuck between my car and the suspect vehicle in tight quarters in attempting to get A.L. into custody. I was able to physically wrestle and fight L. to the ground and attempted to handcuff Lee. It should be noted that I gave A.L. numerous commands to cooperate and put his hands behind his back but he was not responding.”

Now watch the video at this link and tell me what you see. This is the actual arrest.

I’ll tell you what I see: a black man with his hands in air, standing still, and a cop assaulting him with as many as 20 punches. And this cop is still patrolling the streets after a 5 day suspension for policy violations. Policy violations? Are you kidding me? How about assault?

As you read through the statements to follow by Erkenbrack and Watt, which are public information and were shared with me by the officers, I know that you will have the same question any reasonable person has: What? You will have that question because there is no way to understand what has happened to them. I do know that what is happening to them is wrong and needs to stop.  

Statement of Alan L. Watt
In early Fall 2012, I became aware of an incident related to the Ramirez family in Crystal in which the family experienced theft and burglary of their possessions from their apartment that involved the Metro Gang Strike Force. I learned that the family filed an offense report that was not being investigated and, in fact, was being covered up. I did not feel it was right that the family was being denied police services simply because another police agency may be involved. I also heard that the investigator, Brandon Johnson, was being pressured not to investigate the case. The only people who could pressure him would be police administration.
I heard from coworkers that the FBI was investigating the Ramirez incident. I contacted the FBI and told the investigator that I felt that because of past practices by police administration of engaging in other cover ups, I believed they were responsible for this cover up. I listed the following examples of police administration misconduct:
 I became aware that then Sgt. Fealy (now Chief Revering), Sgt. Gustafson and another officer had gone to a strip club off duty. While there, they got into an altercation with a patron they recognized as a Crystal resident known to the police department. During the course of the altercation, they had to be escorted out by strip club management. A complaint was made with Chief Banick but it was covered up and not investigated.
 I was present when Sgt. Fealy performed the second day of a two-day check out of former police officer Michael Keller. Prior to the end of shift, at approximately 2:00 a.m., he was packing up his locker and I later found out that he had been let go in the middle of the shift. I was told later by other officers that Sgt. Erkenbrack had found a note in her old desk stating that Sgt. Fealy and Ofc. Krob had made a bet about when Keller would be fired and the wager would be for a bottle of booze. I was told by Ofc. Krob that neither Fealy nor Krob was ever disciplined. Once again, the misconduct appears to have been covered up.
 I heard from other officers that Sgt. Todd Gustafson, supervisor of investigations, had brought a large, cone-shaped mortar round—a bomb—back from a search warrant and left it in the police department. The bomb squad was called by another police officer and they ordered the police department to be evacuated. They later determined that the bomb was a live round and had to detonate it. By bringing the bomb back to the police department and placing ¡t in the building, Gustafson endangered the officers, city workers and the public. Yet there was no internal affairs investigation.
 In yet a different situation, Chief Banick and Deputy Chief Fealy falsified a complaint against Ofc. Jessica Donahue regarding some property that had no dollar value (three homemade music CDs). Ofc. Donahue had recovered this property during an offense report incident. The property had been placed ¡n a secured area until it could be logged into evidence. She momentarily forgot to move the items into evidence as her father was dying of cancer. Deputy Chief Fealy went to the people listed on the offense report and attempted to solicit a complaint from them. After Donahue returned from funeral leave from burying her father, she was pulled into the office and told there had been a complaint. However, the people listed on the offense report stated they never made a complaint. Donahue got a letter ¡n her file even though there was no actual complaint. Donahue had a previous dispute with Fealy and Banick and this appears to have been retaliation.
On October 7, 2012, I sent an email to Assistant City Manager Kim Therres expressing my concerns about “the Ramirez family situation with former Chief Banick” (the lack of investigation and the following cover up). I also sent the message to City Manager Anne Norris. In a follow up email to Norris I asked “why former Chief Banick, current Chief Fealy, and Lt. Gustafson are allowed to commit acts which are morally, ethically and legally wrong without consequence” and I predicted that “I’ll be punished in some way” as retaliation for raising these allegations. (See attached.) I soon found that my prediction would come true.
On October 15, 2012, I was called to the chief’s office regarding leaving my unloaded side arm in a secured area in the police department eight months prior—a common practice among Crystal officers. I was told several times by Chief Fealy and Lt. Leslin that I was not in trouble and I did not need any sort of representation, even though I asked. I answered their questions but they kept badgering me to give them the answer they wanted.
On October 18, 2012, in the evening, I received a call from Chief Fealy asking me to come ¡n the next day, which was my scheduled day off. As a single father, I explained that this was too short of notice and that I would have to bring my kids. She demanded that I come in but not with my kids. I contacted my union rep, who sent a letter explaining my situation. Fealy later characterized this as “being insubordinate” and failing to respond” despite offering to meet her on the following Monday.
On October 19, 2012, I was placed on administrative leave. I was told I was not ¡n trouble and this was not a disciplinary leave. However, they took my badge, keys and other police equipment. I was told not to identify myself as a police officer while on leave. Further, I was ordered not to have any contact whatsoever—even socially—with any coworkers, city officials or any city employees except my union rep. This Is an illegal order in violation of my Constitutional right to free speech and freedom of association.
On December 20, 2012, I attended an interview regarding the incident noted above. However, now this became an investigation for discipline. I was later told that the result of the investigation was inconclusive but was still sent to a city-selected and hired psychiatrist, who stated “Mr. Watt is able to safely perform his duties as a peace officer at this time. There appears to be no physical impairment or condition at this time that would prevent him from safely performing those duties.” Despite this determination, I was still not allowed to return to work.
In a letter dated April 18, 2013, Chief Revering stated “Your anger and criticisms of superiors appear to be at odds with a common understanding of the employment relationship.” She added, “You have engaged in a number of angry outbursts toward coworkers and superiors” and “you failed to use calm and respectful ways of resolving problems.” No particular incidents or details were given. This is clear retaliation given that Fealy (Revering) herself has been involved in a number of specific incidents of angry outbursts ¡n the work place. Examples include:
Revering became angry at Ofc. Drake and threw a pencil that hit him in his eye.
At a staff meeting, Revering became angry at Sgt. Holm and began swearing and screaming at him. She followed him through the department as he retreated to his office while she screamed “do your fucking job!” over and over. This was so loud that it was heard throughout the department, including downstairs.
Ofc. Phil Johnson was supervisor of the shift and assigned Revering to an end of the city along with other officers coming on shift. In front of other officers, she began screaming about her objections to the assignment and that she was not going to do it. Ofc. Leslin moved Revering’s squad car as a joke. She thought I did it and followed me into the men’s locker room screaming where’s my fucking car?” and things to that effect.
On April 19, 2013, I was told I would be placed on 30 days of unpaid leave, during which time I could not work any outside job. As an afterthought, Revering then stated that this would be 30 business days—6 weeks—without income. As a single father of three children, this has created a genuine hardship for me and appears to have been the intent. In addition, I was told that despite the favorable determination by their psychiatrist, when I returned to work I would be banned from carrying a gun and making arrests, the most humiliating thing you can do to a police officer. This clearly shows personal retaliation by Chief Revering.
I was supposed to return to duty on June 3, 2013 however on May31 I received an email from Chief Revering (formerly Fealy) and copied to City Manager Anne Norris informing me that I am not to report to work and that I would remain on home assignment until further notice. I was also told that my pay is being reduced from investigator to patrol.
I remain on administrative leave to this day, with no indication as to when I may come back to work. I believe all of the things that have happened to me are retaliation for complaining about misconduct by police management, especially my complaint about the Ramirez cover up.
I have been a Crystal police officer for 17 years. I have received numerous commendations and much praise from business owners and community members for going the extra mile. I have never had any complaints by community members and no prior significant discipline to the best of my knowledge.
This statement is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.
Statement is signed by Alan Watt and Dated June 16,2013

Statement of Robin Erkenbrack
I am filing this complaint against Crystal Police Chief Stephanie Revering. I am experiencing illegal retaliation from her as a result of being a whistleblower for reporting corruption on the part of Revering and for expressing concern over the lack of investigation into a crime that occurred to the Ramirez family by a police officer from another police agency. Further, in this retaliation from Chief Revering, she knowingly has exceeded her authority in violation of Minnesota criminal statute 609.43, subdivision 2.
Corruption by Stephanie Fealy (now Revering)
On December 9, 2007, I was moving to a new desk ¡n the sergeant’s office. The desk I was moving to had been occupied by Stephanie Fealy (now Revering) and she had moved to another office. In the process of cleaning out the desk, I found a note taped to the back of a drawer. This note was a bet ¡n writing between Fealy and Jerry Krob, a background investigator, on when a new officer, Mike Keller, would be terminated. The reward for winning the bet would be “a bottle of booze.” See attached. At the time, Fealy oversaw training of new officers and would have control over whether new officers successfully passed training and kept their position. The date of the bet was 12/6/06, before Keller had even been hired. This was clearly gross misconduct on the part of now-chief Revering.
Upon finding the note, I followed department policy mandating that I report it and saw to it that it was submitted to police Chief John Banick. My reason for reporting this incident was that Sgt. Fealy, who was in charge of training, entered into a bet for value on when someone who was under her authority would be fired.  It should be noted that this was not a “gentleman’s bet,” a bet with nothing wagered, as both Fealy and Krob said in their statements. This was a bet to win a tangible item of monetary value, a bottle of booze, as evidenced ¡n the written bet itself. Subsequently Fealy saw to it that Keller was fired. It should be further noted that both Fealy and Krob used the term “gentleman’s bet” in their statements—a term rarely used—and an indication that they likely collaborated prior to giving their statements, the very thing I am now being accused of.
My report of this matter led to an internal affairs investigation in which Fealy admitted participating in the bet but the matter was apparently found not to be misconduct. In her statement, Fealy stated “Rob and I have had a conflict for quite a while.”  I don’t have a personal conflict with her. However, by her own admission, even before her retaliation against me began, she had a conflict against me. She also stated that I should not have reported the matter, even though that would have been in direct violation of department policy.
Concern about Ramirez Incident
In fall 2012, I learned about complaints by community members that the Crystal police department had failed to investigate a felony theft/burglary and dispossession from their home of a Crystal Hispanic family involving the Metro Gang Strike Force. I was asked to meet with two newly-elected city council members. During those meetings, I expressed my concern about misconduct on the part of Crystal police management for failure to investigate an obvious felony, and the need for an investigation into whom within police management blocked the Investigation and then participated in the resulting cover up. I know that Chief Banick was aware of the lack of investigation into this serious crime and then-Deputy Chief Stephanie Fealy worked closely with him and would have been aware of this situation. I also expressed my concerns to other members of the police department.
Retaliation Began
Stephanie Revering (formerly Fealy) was promoted to police chief in early Fall 2012 then shortly after meeting with the city council members, I was investigated for an incident that I was not involved in nor present for, then placed on administrative leave. I was pressured to retire and told that if I did not accept the retirement, I would face possible termination or demotion and that police administration would open up other internal affairs investigations on me. These statements were recorded by my union attorney. After refusing to retire, I was demoted from Sergeant to patrol officer. Although I was to return to work on May 24, 2013, I have since been told that I am to remain on leave. Further, I was told that my office was cleaned out, my department email was shut down, and I was required to turn in my badge. To this day, I still have not been given any particularized findings as to why I was disciplined/demoted or why I am still on leave. I have not been told when I can—if ever— return to duty. I have attached correspondence from the city.
I am a 27 year veteran of this department and have received numerous commendations.  In my 27 years with the department, I have never received a complaint by a community member or had any significant discipline that I am aware of. I have devoted my entire career to integrity in law enforcement. I love serving the residents of the city of Crystal.
It is my belief that the current situation I am experiencing is illegal retaliation for being a whistleblower related to corruption on the part of Crystal police administration, especially on the part of Chief Stephanie Revering.
I was ordered by Chief Revering not to discuss this matter with anyone other than union or legal counsel. Chief Revering exceeds her authority when she orders me not to discuss matters which involve her own misconduct as this is a matter of public concern.
This is a complaint of gross misconduct against Chief Stephanie Revering. However, one of the letters I received was signed by city manager, Anne Norris. Therefore, following the chain of command and proper procedure, I submit this complaint to Norris’ supervisor, the Crystal city council.
This statement is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.
Statement is signed by Erkenbrack and Dated 6-13-13. Mq.
Now the question is what does the community wants out of this. If you want your cops to continue to cover for each other, lie, and get away with assault you do nothing. You say
“There must be two sides to the story” or “It is an internal problem, nothing I can do.”
Or, you call your city council members and the mayor in Crystal and demand that the Chief of Police explain what she is doing to these cops and why.

CRYSTAL CITY COUNCIL
Name
Title/Representing
Voicemail
E-mail
Jim Adams
Mayor
(612) 805-5101
Laura Libby
Section I; Wards 1 & 2
(763) 670-2721
Mark Hoffmann
Ward 1
(763) 531-1006
Joe Selton
Ward 2
(763) 535-3564
John Budziszewski   
Section II; Wards 3 & 4   
(763) 531-1003  
Casey Peak
Ward 3
(763) 531-1008
Julie Deshler
Ward 4
(612) 306-5808

ADMINISTRATION
City Hall Switchboard: (763) 531-1000   (M-F 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.) 
Name
Position
Phone
E-mail
Anne Norris
City Manager
(763) 531-1140
Kimberly Therres
Assistant City Manager/HR Manager
(763) 531-1132
Chrissy Serres
City Clerk
(763) 531-1145

And if they can’t or won’t help you can contact the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association at http://www.mnchiefs.org/contact-us and ask them to get involved.

I know the Crystal Community wants good police officers who stand up for what’s right. Here is your chance to do something to support right conduct in the Crystal PD.
You can see Ramirez’ testimony about the night his home was seized at: The Uptake: Joint legislative committee on public safety agenda: Testimony on MN Seizure Laws. Youtube link -  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Im17SumqoWE
These cops need and deserve your help. Please take the time to help them. Feel free to forward this blog to your neighbors and friends.
Mike Quinn – Minneapolis Police Department (Ret)