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Minneapolis Civil Rights Law Blog

Why traditional advice on standing up to bullies no longer works

School bullies have been around as long as schools have existed, and bullying itself dates back much further that. Because bullying is nothing new, a lot of parents and grandparents think they have the solutions figured out. They tell their kids and grandkids to just “stand up to the bully and fight back. This will get them to leave you alone.”

In principal, this is an effective strategy. And it used to work decades ago. It rarely works today. Bullying hasn’t changed all that much, but the delivery system has changed dramatically. Fighting back isn’t always possible, and even when it is, it could just lead to more danger and escalated violence.

Crime victim sues for network for defamation over TV movie

Certain cable networks have developed unintended reputations for the kind of programming they tend to favor. The History Channel, for instance, has been dubbed the “Hitler Channel” by some who believe that the network’s shows focus far too heavily on the Nazis in World War II.

As another example, the “Lifetime” network has been criticized on many occasions for releasing made-for-TV movies predominantly featuring female crime victims being stalked, sexually assaulted and murdered by men. While many of these movies are based on true stories, the network has been known to take liberties with the details, and that has angered some real-life victims whose stories were adapted.

The alarming rise in SWAT team use and deadly errors: Part II

In our last post, we began a discussion about the increasing use of SWAT teams by U.S. law enforcement agencies. There are certainly dangerous situations that necessitate the use of “Special Weapons And Tactics,” but calling in the SWAT team should be the exception and not the rule. Yet these paramilitary teams are increasingly being used for inappropriate purposes like executing search warrants to non-violent drug offenders.

Whenever law enforcement agencies conduct surprise raids while wielding serious firepower, the risks are inherently higher than they would otherwise be. Even law-abiding citizens may react unpredictably to a surprise home invasion, and gun owners may draw their weapon out of fear for their own safety. Sadly, those who do are often shot and killed by SWAT officers.

The alarming rise in SWAT team use and deadly errors: Part I

Earlier this summer, police in St. Paul executed a “no-knock” warrant on a home. They burst in with guns drawn and immediately shot and killed the family’s two dogs. After conducting a search, they left with what amounted to marijuana paraphernalia confiscated from a man who admits that he is a “recreational marijuana smoker.”

Believe it or not, this story is among the more peacefully resolved incidents involving a raid by a SWAT team, which stands for “Special Weapons And Tactics.” Although SWAT teams have been a law enforcement mainstay since the 1970s, their use and their firepower have increased substantially in recent decades. One statistic says that SWAT raids have increased by 1,400 percent since the 1980s.

Minneapolis holds summit to discuss Minnesota's heroin epidemic

Like every state in the U.S., Minnesota has a serious drug problem, and the main culprit is heroin. Last year, Hennepin County alone experienced 132 deaths from opioids – a class of drugs that includes heroin and other opiate drugs like OxyContin and methadone. Of the 132 fatal overdoses last year, approximately 56 were traced directly to heroin.

The problem is bad enough that a special heroin summit was held last week in Minneapolis. It was attended by a diverse group of professionals that included law enforcement, prosecutors, chemical dependency treatment experts and medical officials. All sides seemed to agree that heroin and other opioids pose a serious threat. What they could not agree on, however, is what to do about it.

Minnesota's drunk driving arrests and convictions declining

We recently finished celebrating Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of summer and a period that generally has Minnesota law enforcement agencies on high alert. Like many holidays, Labor Day weekend is associated with higher rates of drunk driving.

According to news sources, however, Minnesota’s arrest and conviction rates for driving under the influence appear to be declining. To put the numbers in perspective, the DUI arrest rate in 2006 was close to 42,000. Last year, the number of arrests was down to 25,700. Of those, approximately 19,000 ended with criminal convictions.

MDHR settles gay discrimination complaint filed by same-sex couple

The legalization of same-sex marriage in Minnesota went into effect just over a year ago. It should come as little surprise that implementation of the law has not been without problems. This is particularly true in cities and towns far removed from the Twin Cities metro, where opposition to same-sex marriage is more widespread.

Last month, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights settled what may be “the first public accommodation case for the department related to same-sex marriage,” according to MDHR Commissioner Kevin Lindsey. The settlement was negotiated in response to allegations that a gay couple was turned away from a lodge in Little Falls that they had sought to book for their wedding and reception.

Marijuana odor sufficient cause to search a vehicle in Minnesota

A 25-year old man was charged with four counts of felony drug possession after he was pulled over by Cottage Grove police in May 2013. Officers reportedly discovered a duffel bag containing drugs and drug paraphernalia after searching the vehicle. The search was initiated after an officer allegedly smelled marijuana smoke.

When the case went to trial, the man attempted to have the evidence found by the officer suppressed on the basis that his trunk was searched illegally. Initially, the man's request was granted by a district court; however, the ruling was appealed by the county prosecutors.

Man faces possible DWI charge after high-speed chase

A Minnesota man was detained on Aug. 19 after police fired shots at his vehicle. The incident began on Highway 2 in Beltrami County and ended at the Red Lake Reservation. When police received a report about a possible drunk driver, they began following the 33-year-old Grygl man in his truck. Police pursued the man for 30 miles during the alleged drunk driving incident and reached speeds of 90 mph.

When the accused man entered the reservation, Tribal police tried to put an end to the chase with stop sticks. After the man's truck drove into a ditch, he apparently continued to drive before police squad cars boxed him in. After that, the man is accused of making an attempt to run over a county deputy. The deputy then shot at the man's truck two times.

Official appointed to oversee child abuse claims against clergy

The media has a way of adding fuel to the fire, at least when it comes to allegations of criminal sexual conduct. In the most recent example, the media has reported that a former official of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is now overseeing allegations of sexual abuse brought against the Twin Cities archdiocese. 

Specifically, the official has been appointed as the archdiocese’s director of ministerial standards and safe environment. His duties will include directly responding to sexual abuse allegations and also forwarding those reports to the police. 

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