Victims of Defunct Gang Strike Force Awarded $843,000
Three years after the Metro Gang Strike Force imploded in a scandal of alleged abuses, nearly 100 people who claimed officers violated their rights and improperly seized their property were awarded $843,379 or their property back.
The determinations, made by a court-appointed special master, were filed publicly Monday in U.S. District Court. The 96 people who were awarded some amount were just under half - 45 percent - of the 214 people who filed claims. A total of 56 people - about a quarter of the total claims filed - are appealing the special master's decisions.
All of the settlements must be approved by a judge.
"The money doesn't fix what happened to these people," Jason Johnston, an attorney for Strike Force claimants, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in an interview Monday.
Among the hundreds of pages of claim determinations filed, the special master found in some cases that Strike Force officers chose to "intimidate" people, seized property with "no explanation," "caused needless damage," and used an "excessive amount of force."
Some of the allegations could go back 15 years to 1997, Johnston said.
"They were afraid to come forward in fear of what might happen to them for coming forward. And so they didn't. They stayed silent, like so many others," explained Johnston.
Attorney Joe Flynn, who represents the now-disbanded Strike Force and the municipalities that contributed officers to the Force, acknowledged that in some circumstances "there were some things that could have been done differently," and that "record-keeping could have been improved."
But he argued the special master's determinations show, "a very limited amount of wrongdoing," and none of it criminal.
The settlements will be paid out of a total $3 million set aside for Strike Force claims. The remaining amount, estimated to be just under $2 million after claims dispersed, will go to train law enforcement officers statewide in cultural and racial sensitivity, proper property handling techniques, and a citizen's constitutional rights, Flynn said.
"(It's) going to leave a positive, lasting legacy to Minnesota police officers and communities that they serve," said Flynn.
No officer was criminally charged for the allegations contained in these claims.
The FBI closed its investigation and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced in 2010 that record keeping by the strike force was so bad, he simply could not build a case.
"We know bad police work was done in some cases," Freeman said during a news conference on Sept. 8, 2010.
"But what we can't say is that it rose to the level of criminality."