Civil Commitment in Minnesota: a brief overview

The meeting  opened at  6:15 PM, 16 attenders.  

This month’s topic was Civil Commitment in Minnesota, an overview.   Our presenter was Asst. Hennepin County Attorney Annsara Lovejoy Elasky who is currently working in the Adult Services Division of H.C.A.O. 

A recording of the meeting is posted here: https://youtu.be/nxXxdxKNLcg

Starting with the basics:

Definition of Commitment:   This is a court order for treatment of  any of the following alone or in any combination:

  • Mental illness
  • Chemical dependency
  • Developmental  disability 

Persons who may be judged needing commitment may:

  • Suffer from mental illness, OR excessive and habitual use of drugs or alcohol, OR a developmental disability (identified before age 22)
  • Are likely to harm themselves or others by failing to provide a major necessity OR be threatening to attempt harm to themselves or others, OR  have recently displayed serious physical problems (chemical dependency, only)
  • There is no “less restrictive” treatment option available
  • Can be any age – juveniles (rare) and adults can be committed

Civil Commitment is a series of  orderly steps:  

  • The Hold: getting to be evaluated
  • The Petition
  • Pre-petition screening
  • Court hearings
  • Court order

The Hold:  There are two types of initial holds

  • 1) Peace/Health Office (the transport hold)     This gets a person who is in crisis out of the community and into a hospital (which may be a treatment facility, a state-operated treatment program, or a community-based treatment program.    This is an information-based hold.   Specially trained social workers can obtain this hold as can police officers who can document need with written witness testimony from a reliable witness.
  • 2) Emergency hold (the 72-hour hold)  This must have detailed  information supporting the hold.   The 72-hour hold is used to keep a person in a facility for further evaluation and/or treatment.   The 72-hour hold is an option the “examiner” at the hospital can use.

The Petition  – Four requirements:

  • Petitioner – the entity seeking the commitment. In Hennepin County, this is likely to be a treatment professional (who may have taken evidentiary information from family, friends or by-standers)
  • Doctor, physician’s assistant or mental health professional has to recommend commitment (aka the Examiner’s Statement) 
  • There must be a detailed statement on why commitment is appropriate (this is where the gathered, documented testimony is recorded)
  • The Petitioner then contacts “Prepetition Screening”

Prepetition Screening:  Program of Hennepin County that collects information on the patient while at the hospital and makes a recommendation to support or not support a petition.  They forward their findings onto the County Attorney’s Office.

The County Attorney reviews, signs, and files the Petition (The C.A. is the lawyer for the petitioner)

The Court appoints an attorney for the patient (Respondent).  

Court Hearings:

  • The Court issues a “Court Hold”, which extends the 72-hour hold until the Preliminary Hearing
  • An Examination and preliminary hearing is held 3 days after the filing.     
  • Within 3 days of the Preliminary Hearing (in Hennepin)  a trial is held. 

An exception:  When a defendant in Criminal Court is incompetent to participate in the trial, the Rule of 20 is key.   See the expanded statement at the bottom of this report, marked **

At Court:  In Hennepin County, the defendant will make appearances on 2 days.

  • Day 1:  Examination and Preliminary Hearing:
  • Examination:  The court-appointed psychologist/psychiatrist reviews the records and interviews the patient.   They write a report to the Court with their opinion about commitment.
  • Preliminary hearing: The respondent can agree to stay in the hospital or ask for a hearing where the Court will decide if the hold should continue.   A concern is the risk of serious physical harm if a person is released before the trial
  • Day 2: Trial
  • Many cases achieve a settlement without a trial for something less than commitment, but the Court remains involved.   Roughly 70% go to a Stay of Commitment where the person agrees to take prescribed medication and to stay in contact with their court-ordered contact, if at any point during the stay period the terms are violated, the respondent is then placed on Commitment.
  • If there is no settlement, trial proceedings offer each party a chance to offer evidence.   The Court will ask for testimony from the Examiner.   The Court takes the matter “under advisement” and issues a written decision later (in Hennepin County).   In H.C., the average case that does not settle, will take about 2 weeks between the initial intake to the issued decision.

The Court Order: The Court issues a written order which details the terms of the “stay agreement” (i.e. the Commitment) to requesting entity or entities, OR Dismisses the case.

  • If  the outcome is a Commitment, an order is issued for 6 months.   This order does not mean being in a hospital for 6 months, it is an order for treatment.  The Court can name more than professional treatment center to control treatment and often does. 
  • The patient’s participation is NOT voluntary.
  • The entity which controls treatment has the authority to determine that treatment.   The court has conferred authority to continue treating a person against that person’s will.

WHERE DO THE PATIENTS GO?

  • Most patients are treated at community hospitals or privately run chemical dependency treatment programs.
  • Some patients, whose illness is severe, go to hospitals or programs run by the state (e.g. Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center, Community Behavioral Health Hospitals, CARE programs).   St. Peter is for people who might be dangerous to others.   Juvenile placement was difficult as it only had three beds at one point.

MEDICATIONS. 

  • Court authority is needed to force neuroleptic medications.   These are  antipsychotic medications, which are used to treat many psychiatric disorders.   This does not include other medications like sleep aids or antidepressants that might be helpful
  • The Court Authority is filed as a separate petition (called Jarvis Order) by a medical professionals.  This petition must show that the patient is not competent to decide whether to accept medications and they are refusing to take them.
  • Many petitions for MI also have a Jarvis petition for neuroleptic tagging along during the commitment process

CASE MANAGER

  • After a patient leaves the hospital, they are assigned a County Case Manager to monitor progress and compliance.  
  • This person works with the hospital for a discharge plan covering the living environment, managing appointments, and so on.   There are different levels of contact depending on needs, but a standard is 1 meeting in person  a month and 2 phone meetings.  
  • The Case manager can revoke the release and bring the patient back to the hospital  or treatment program if things are not going well.  
  • The Case manager can also ask the court to extend the Commitment Order.  

HOW CAN I HELP  Collect [and document with date, dime, place, names] as much information as you can under the circumstances.

Make sure the information you have (about specific behaviors, symptoms, and danger to self or others) is communicated accurately to the treatment facility. 

———————————————————————————-

**Rule 20.01 states

  • the defendant may not waive counsel in the proceedings.   
  • The defendant must be able to rationally consult with their counsel OR understand the proceedings, OR participate in the defense. “Competency” is the ability to participate in the proceedings

Rule 20.02 Defense of mental illness.   The M’Naghten Defense is that a person, because of mental illness or cognitive impairment, at the time of  committing the criminal act, had a mental defect to the extent that they did not understand the nature of the act or that it was wrong. 

[EQ: For more detail, see Rule of 20.01 and 20.02  here:  https://www.revisor.mn.gov/court_rules/cr/id/20/

IF the defendant is incompetent to participate in Criminal Court, the criminal court judge refers the case for civil commitment.     Misdemeanor charges are dismissed.   Gross misdemeanors and felonies are suspended for later review (every six months).   If the defendant is committed and in jail, the Commissioner of Human Services has 48 hours to get them to a DHS facility for competency restoration (this was/is challenging during Covid-19 pandemic).  

———————————————————–

Questions and Answers

QQ  How can someone consult an attorney before they are charged and have a court-appointed attorney?   What about family members?

AA:  The Hennepin County Board has a Defense Panel.   People can talk to an attorney for advice, explanation of how the proceedings go forward and related topics.   When someone is appointed to be the defendant for that client, then that attorney should be the contact.    It helps that if, as sometimes happens, people show up for the same complaints repeatedly over the years, that first contact will be that person’s attorney which makes continuity.  

QQ: Do some reports or complaints carry more weight than other people’s?  

AA: The Petitioner must have an “Examiner’s statement” and that person must be a licensed medical professional.Information gathered by police officers (including the testimony of others), information gathered by family members are all weighed on that Examiner’s statement.  COPE is a really good resource for people who are not medical professionals but who are worried about a family member.   After the client has been hospitalized, family members should contact the hospital.

QQ: Is your office training the social workers?

AA: HC conducted a number of workshops for officers and others, on a variety of related topics, so, yes!

There is a division of cases:   Hennepin County Atty. Office handles more of the criminal cases while Minneapolis A.O. is in charge of the misdemeanors.   Atty Okronkwo handles many of the “gap cases” which are the repeaters.  It’s notable that Hennepin County has a Court Intake Social Worker, who reaches out to people who are often in the gap-case group and asks if they are interested in participating in a treatment program on a voluntary basis.   She does get some into treatment. 

QQ: Do 911 operators have any way of knowing a bit of information they can pass along to officers that would make the job easier?

AA:  There was a database about previous bases being built before Covid interrupted that.   BCA Information is accessible to all officers, and that would be the data source.  It is possible they’re still working out who would have access to information.
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STATE OF THE PRECINCT

Viewing the crime reports for the period 8/2-8/8 in the 2nd Precinct
Violent Crimes:  5 Robberies, 6 Agg. Assault, 2 Domestic Ag. Assault.
Property Crime:  4  Burglaries, 50 Larcenies (larceny is items NOT taken by force, violence or fraud),   23  theft from motor vehicles, 9 auto thefts
The Second Precinct reports 11.22%  of violent crimes in the city.    That remains the lowest reporting precinct in MPD.
CPS Juarez pointed to the Larceny numbers and reminded us that that number could be cut way down if people will remember to take all their stuff out of their cars when they leave.   Clear the car; lock the car and, if you have  a garage, put the car in the garage.   It’s especially important to remove all weapons from your car, every time.  

CPS Juarez reported that a man was held up at the Mobile station on University Avenue, but got a good look at the robbers.   Officers arrested two people whom the man identified as his assailants!

QQ:  Robbery and assault seem to be tied to bar closings:  Can’t we shut down the streets like other cities do?

AA: We have the budget to pay officers for the overtime we’d need for that, but people are not signing up for it.   Perhaps that will change now that U of M students are returning.  

CPS Ali was happy to report that Minneapolis had a very successful NNO.   There were 36 events in the Second Precinct alone and they were well attended. 

A final note:  CPS Nick Juarez reported that he is leaving the Second Precinct as of August 13.   The good part of the announcement is that UMPD promptly recruited him, and so he won’t be moving far.  He speculated that UMPD had not had a rep at 2-PAC since Officer Nystrom retired, so maybe he’ll be back as the U of M representative.

June report, Part 1

We opened our meeting with a special announcement:   The Bush Foundation has announced its 2021 list of fellows.   Twenty-four people were chosen from a diverse and competitive applicant pool of 538, including people from Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and 23 Native American nations located in those three states.
 Among the twenty-four people selected is Hennepin Country Attorney, Sandra Filardo.   In her acceptance, she stated, “[This is] an opportunity for me to develop my leadership abilities. …I am excited and eager to begin this fellowship.   This is a chance to make substantial, lasting, and impactful changes to [a] criminal justice system that unfairly treats marginalized community members.   I look forward to collaborating with communities in the region, increasing community engagement efforts, and making the work a more just place for everyone.”  

Congratulations, Sandra!

—————————————————————-

Our speaker this month was Eder Castillo, a prosecutor  at the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, practicing white-collar prosecution and post-conviction litigation.

First, define terms:

What is a Scam?  A scam is when someone lies to you to take something of value.   It could be money, personal information, or property. 

What is“identity theft”?  This is a scam that targets your personal information instead of money or property. 

Scams  are growing in number and expense.   The Better Business Bureau 2020 statistics reported 46,575 Scam reports.   The median reported loss was $115.   The likelihood of loss if the scam is successful is 46.7%
[Doing the math, if 21,750 scams were successful, the aggregate loss would be $2,501310!   It’s highly unlikely that all scams were reported, so the true number is likely substantially higher. — EQ]
The true loss is not just measured in dollars, however.   63.7% of people lost time straightening their affairs out.   52.1%  reported loss of self confidence and peace of mind.   36.5% lost personal information.

Spot a scam:  the four P’s:

  1. Pretend – Scammers pretend to be from a credible organization, to gain your trust.  You won’t be wary if you get a call that looks like it’s from the Red Cross.
  2. Problem or Prize – Scammers will say you are in trouble with the IRS or that you’ve won a big prize.   Startling you with a surprise — problem or prize — may get you to suspend judgment. 
  3. Pressure – the sooner they can get you to act, the less likely you are to recover your good judgment.
  4. Pay – Scammers will insist that you send money through electronic means, gift cards or checks, so they don’t have to meet you in person. 

Ways scammers will contact you
31.9% through a website21.8% through social media like Facebook18.2% by email9.3% by phone
5.3% by internet messaging (WhatsApp)4.2% online classifieds4.1% text message2.7% other1.5% in person1.0% USPS
Scams begun via a website or social media contact were more likely to result in a loss than scams initiated over the phone, even for adults ages 65 and over. They begin by sending you a notice that looks like it’s from a trusted organization.  The most frequently impersonated organizations are The Social Security Administration, Amazon, Publishers Clearing House, Apple, Microsoft, PayPal, Medicare, Walmart, Dominion Energy, Cash Advance/Advance Americas.      A common trigger is a warning notice that your data may have been breached, so you “need to reset your password!!  Click HERE” but that click will give the scammer access to your computer.    If you want to reset your password, make sure you initiate the contact.  Do not  ever “click HERE”.  Log off, log back on, go to your account at that organization and check  your messages there.  Iif you have an account, you have a message cache. 

In 2020 the Better Business Bureau  measured and reported the riskiest scams on the BBB ScamTracker [https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/] but in summary the top ten categories are Online purchase, Employment, Fake check/money order, Advance fee loan, Home improvement, Romance, Cryptocurrency, Tech support [i.e. CLICK HERE!], Travel/vacation/timeshare, Investment.  The BBB also rates the scam “Risk Index” for each category.
[EQ: there is a full report here:  https://www.bbb.org/globalassets/local-bbbs/council-113/media/bbb-institute/riskreport2020/2020-BBBScamTracker-RiskReport.pdf

People are susceptible to different scams at different ages.  Your time of life is a signal of what your interests are and what scam you might fall for. Listing the top three per age group:
Ages 18-24  Online purchase                  Fake check/Money order  EmploymentAges 25-34  Online purchase                  Employment                    Fake check/Money order
Ages 35-44  Online purchase                  Employment                    Investment
Ages 45-54  Online purchase                  Employment                    Advance for loanAges 55-64  Romance                           Online purchase               InvestmentAges 65+    Travel/Vacation/Timeshare   Online purchase                Romance
COVID-19  opened a whole new space for scammers.   People’s defenses were down due to fear, isolation, charitable impulses, and confusion.Among the more common scams were:
Identity theft by offering fake stimulus checks.   The scammer would request the target’s SSN “to confirm” identity.False offers for COVID testing and vaccines – this has passed its time as vaccines are now available.   Some scammers still offer a way         to set up an appointment “so you don’t have to stand in line.”False treatments were offered.Fake Covid-19 charities of all kinds.Fake funeral assistance.  

People also opened the door to scams by posting their vaccination card online to celebrate but failed
          to mask the identity info on the card: date of birth, etc.
Scammers favorite payment methods:Scammers will rarely ask for cash because that is a one time thing and difficult to transfer.   Instead, they will say whatever will get you, the target,  to purchase a gift certificate or credit card, and ask you to read off the GC number or CC account, expiry date and security code. 
35.6% wanted credit cards.   31.2% wanted online payment like PayPal.   12.8% accepted a bank account debit. Those add up to 79.6%(the rest wanted payment by gift card,  wire transfer, check, cash, cryptocurrency, or money order)

10 Tips for avoiding a scam:  (learn more at BBB.org/AvoidScams)

  1. Never send money.
  2. Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited email or text messages
  3. Don’t believe everything you see.  Scammers can mimic official seals, fonts, and more.   Just because something looks official does not mean it is.   Caller ID can be faked and show up on your phone.
  4. Don’t buy online unless the transaction is secure.   Make sure the website URL starts with “https” — that “s” means “secure”; there may be a small lock icon on the address bar.  Practice researching companies at BBB.org
  5. Be extremely cautious with anyone you’ve met online.
  6. Never share personal information with anyone who has contacted you, unsolicited.
  7. Don’t be pressured to act immediately
  8. Use secure, traceable transactions when making payments for goods, services, taxes, debts.
  9. Work with businesses that have proper identification, licensing, insurance.
  10. Be cautious about what you share on social media. Facebook,  Linkedin, and special interest groups (Sierra Club, ASPCA, NextDoor etc.) are not secure.

Fighting spam calls on your phone – iPhone

With IOS 13  and later, you can turn on Silence Unknown Callers so you won’t get calls from people you ‘ve never contacted OR have never saved in your Contacts list.   
Go to Settings > PhoneScroll down and tap Silence Unknown numbers.   Turn on that feature.Calls from unknown numbers are silenced and sent to your voice mail; they’ll appear in your recent calls first. 
If an emergency call is placed, this feature will be temporarily disabled for the next 24 hours.
Fighting spam calls on your phone – Android phones
Use caller ID AND spam protection.   Caller ID and spam protection are on by default.   You can turn it off.   To use this feature,
Open your device’s Phone app   
Tap   More :  Settings > Caller ID & spamTurn Caller ID & Spam on or offOptional: To stop spam from ringing on your phone, turn on Filter suspected spam calls.   You will not get missed-call notification but you will see the filtered calls in your call history and you will be able to check any voice mail you receiveCaller ID by Google shows the names of companies and services with a Google My Business listing, but it also shows near matches.   To change the name of your school or business if it triggers too many false positives, contact your admin.

MARK CALLS AS SPAMOpen your device’s Phone app and go to Recent calls.Tap the call you want to report as spam.   Tap Block/Report Spam.   You’ll be asked if you want to block that number.   You may be able to tap Report call as spam, or just  tap Block.
Where should I report a scam?
Start with your local Police Department.    In Minneapolis, online, go to https://www.minneapolismn.gov      Click on “Report an Issue” then “Forgery or Fraud”  Options include Identity “Theft and Internet Fraud” [which includes a link to the Federal Trade Commission]
You can also report by calling 311 or 612.673.3000 and a call assistant will lead you through the process.   Note that 311 is still on limited hours and you may be on hold for some time.   You can ask for a reply robo-notice from our 311 service.

Minnesota State Attorney’s Office:  ask to initiate a scam report at 651.296.3353They also have an online form to fill out:   ag.state.mn.us/Office/Complaint.asp
Federal Trade Commission.   You can be linked to the FTC from the local police department.   The FTC is the most large scale.   It collects data from the entire country, and is more likely to notice trends and surges in activity.   The FTC also has the power to prosecute at a very large scale because their data comes from the entire country. 
FTC phone number is 1(877) 382-4357   which is also 1(877) FTC-HELPTheir online report is at   ReportFraud.ftc.gov
After your information is stolen

The Federal Trade Commission helps here, also.   See the online form at IdentityTheft.govThe form will give you a checklist of steps to stop the damage to your personal sites.   The form is very helpful in deciding what to do first, next, and thereafter.   Take the time to look it over, to prepare yourself or to counsel others.
Protecting yourself and others from ScamsIt’s very important to assure yourself that falling for a scam is not a “dumb” thing nor is avoiding scams a “smart” thing to do.   Scammers are very good at making you overlook normal safeguards — that’s how they stay in business.  

Factors that decrease your risk include1) Ask questions when you are unfamiliar with something2) Know that you can influence and empower your own life3) Believe that government institutions get their authority from individuals like you4) Tend to be skeptical when dealing with a new situation.
Factors that increase your risk include1) Feeling financial distress2) Feeling lonely3) Panicking during stressful situations. 

Atty. Castillo concluded by urging attenders [and readers] to include other people in this group (2-PAC) and to share this information with other people and other groups.    Information is the #1 resource that stops scams. 

June report, Part 2

STATE OF THE PRECINCT
Violent Crime: In the period, May 19 through June 17, the Second Precinct reported 69 violent crimes, total.   The breakdown was 4 rapes, 27 robberies, 38 aggravated assaults, 13 aggravated domestic assaults.    That number was more than twice the total for the same period in 2020, but still only 12.32% of the city-wide total.
Property Crime:   In the period, May 19 through June 17, the Second Precinct reported 275 property crimes, total.   The breakdown was 37 burglaries, 181 larcenies,  81 theft from motor vehicles, 57 auto theft.

Incidents are concentrated in Marcy Holmes east of 35W from Dinkytown through Stadium Village, and in NE Minneapolis along NE 8th Avenue, the Lowry central corridor, and along Central Avenue NE.
CPS Nicholas Juarez gave us a rundown:
A primary driver is still auto theft and the targeted drivers are DoorDash, Ubers and delivery service drivers who leave their keys in the cars or leave their cars running as they do a pickup or delivery.
Catalytic converter theft is another driver in the Second Precinct, but researchers, looking at crime trends, are seeing this is likely a much bigger thing than just the local scrap yards taking those in.   Looking at the national trends, Minnesota is #3 in the nation reporting catalytic converter theft. 

Local concerns:   we had shots fired in front of Nye’s.  That is still an active investigation (6/14).   Dinkytown had a couple of robberies and there have been some arrests, including juveniles and people in their mid-twenties.    We’ve had some arrests of an organized  group that was stealing cell phones from students in the Dinkytown area.   Inspector Loining authorized overtime in that area, including more squads on the street at the time when most of these incidents have happened.   These thefts were happening in the middle of the day when Dinkytown bars were closed.   They are now falling   back into “normal” patterns, with more occurring during closing times, between 10 PM and 1 AM.  

Street racers continue to be a big concern.   The news has carried stories of some deaths due to street racing.   This activity has occasionally popped up in the Dinkytown area.  Sargeants in that area are working on plans to disrupt the racers, diverting traffic from that area and other ways to stall the racers.   It is a dangerous activity:   you may have seen videos of racers downtown, doing doughnuts in the street, just for one example.   The city is working with the contractors to put construction fences around key sites, like the McDonald’s parking lot.  (The fences were planned, but the timetable has been moved up.)   Other parking lots in Marcy Holmes are patrolled very well by 20 companies, working with property owners.
QQ: A resident has been reporting speeding in the area between Lowry and 37th.  

AA:   We’re using the same procedure up there that we used when speeders were coming off the Hennepin Avenue bridge — putting a squad up there to slow the traffic and deal with those who don’t take the hint.   Lowry has been under  discussion for a long time.   It may be a shared road, but it’s also been slated for redevelopment, which would include traffic calming.  Nick pointed out he’s been here 13 years, and it’s been a “redevelopment target” all of that time.  In the meantime, the MPD works on traffic control, putting out squads at the time when the most speeders are reported to us.
[Dan Miller, a concerned NE neighbor reported that the redesign for Lowry is being worked on right now.   Reconstruction of  Lowry (Washington to Johnson) is scheduled for 2023.   Thank you, Dan!] 

QQ: Looking at people picked up for crime, it’s common that they already have previous felonies.    Is that common? 

AA: Yes.   If we stop someone and do a warrants check, there is a possibility that this person has outstanding court warrants.   For people in the Marcy Holmes area, there are people out there we’ve arrested over and over again.   A lot of people we pick up for auto theft or cell phone theft are repeat offenders.
QQ: A story in the Star Tribune was about “straw gun buyers”– people who buy many guns for resale to people who can’t buy for themselves:   [full story at https://www.startribune.com/straw-buyers-help-criminals-get-guns/600070088/]   Does that have any impact in the Second Precinct?
AA: Not really.   Most of the guns we recover are stolen.    There are local groups, and some much larger groups that deal these stolen guns.   The guns we recover have numbers ground off.   The straw gun buyers are buying from gun shows and licensed dealers, the same place you and I can buy.  They can do that because they do not have a felony on their records.   

The guns we see are stolen: one person on Nicollet Island had three shotguns stolen from her car; believe it or not, we see that quite a bit.  People leave their guns in the glove box or in a lock box in the trunk.   If a stolen gun is reported to the police, the serial number is entered in  a database, so if someone tries to pawn it, the number will come up on the Automated Pawn System .    But pawn shops are no longer the place to go.   You can sell or buy almost anything on Craig’s List.   People report they’ve spotted their bike on Craig’s List or Facebook Marketplace.  

A note from the Chat list: CPS Rashid Ali did a home security review.  He offered excellent recommendations and reminded the homeowner that security grant money is available.   Another neighbor suggested checking with your Neighborhood Association to see if they have the Home Security Grants.

COURTWATCH  Mpls Attorney Okronkwo and P.O. Holly Ihrke reporting.
Probation Officer Ihrke announced that Courtwatch will no longer track and report on specific people unless that report is requested by an attender.  

P.O. Ihrke reported that last month, the two neighborhoods that had the most arrests were Marcy Holmes and Holland.  The folks that are showing up on current reports have significant mental health issues.  They are actively being supervised by social workers and/or probation officers.    There is no one on her list that presents an active public safety issue. 

Atty Okronkwo received a summary  of court cases.   One person we’ve been following for a long time had his competency hearing and was found incompetent to stand trial.   This was not a surprise to any of the attorneys.    In consequence, his 15 misdemeanors and one assault charge were dismissed. He has a court date in six months.  The City has filed a “Notice of Intent to Prosecute” which means that any gross demeanor committed in the city or county will get a flag.     He had been held on a “Pre-petition screening” but the county has declined to issue a commitment on him.   If his behavior seems to be becoming more aggressive, we encourage people to call the police.   He is known in Dinkytown.   Videos from resident places have shown him smoking in a No Smoking area and engaged in other activities.   If there is documentation that he’s become more of a threat to himself or to others, that will raise the issue. 

QQ: We’ve been following this person and others for a long time.   Do people with mental health issues or substance abuse disorders ever “return to competency?

AA: That’s a really good question.   With these gap cases, it looks like nothing’s happening. 

P.O. Ihrke   For people with drug disorders or psychoses, there’s not a place for them to live if they are not willing to be sober and receive treatment.   When someone is found incompetent, they are assigned a social worker.   That person can find them resources, check up on them and so on.   But if they’re not at a level of being put in permanent placement, and they’re just “walking the line”, the social worker doesn’t have the power to do much.    When the criminal justice system is involved, there’s a little more we can do when people relapse. 

During the pandemic, “Harm reduction” has been more of a goal. [It was pointed out at a  2-PAC meeting on Covid response in the Justice system,  that crowding  people into the workhouse or HCJ had to be avoided to slow the spread of Covid-19]   Pre-Covid, if someone had failed treatment three times, they were taken to the workhouse and could try treatment there.   She emphasized that if someone is concerned for the person’s safety or their own safety, the public is asked to continue to call and report.  If you are concerned about someone on probation, you can call Hennepin County and ask.   Your call will be directed to their probation officer.   You can also contact  her  [Holly.Ihrke@hennepin.us 612-348-4189] and she’ll direct your call. 

QQ: How does the Rule of 20 fit in? 

AA:  If a person is committed, a social worker is assigned to the client.  They are part of the FACT program (Forensic Assertive Community Treatment program) which is for adults with mental health issues, who are in the criminal justice system.   

QQ: Between “Harm Reduction” and the County Workhouse, what placements are available for people with mental health needs. 

AA: A caretaker has to decipher if an episode is drug induced or if it is a clinical or medical issue.   If it’s chemical induced, the client can go to mental health chemical dependency treatment.  If it’s a physiological imbalance, they can get a social worker to do an assessment, and get into a housing program with the help of IRTS Housing.  [Intensive Residential Treatment Services –  see: https://www.peopleincorporated.org/  and click on the “services” tab] 


QQ: I was thinking about people who are not in a treatment plan, who are out in the community and you know they are not compliant with their treatment.  Does the community have to wait until something very serious happens?
AA: It depends on what part of the system they are  in.   If they’re on probation, their Probation Officer can file violations and revoke their probation.   If they are just in the Health and Human Services round, the social workers can make their reports but don’t actually have as much power.   It comes down to that person’s social network; a lot of these people don’t have that.   Inspector Loining in the Second Precinct tries to get a lot of community service people involved,  especially with the encampments that are popping up.  He’s trying to NOT take the law enforcement approach, but to get other help [social services and others] involved first.
Atty Okronkwo added that the “gap cases” are difficult.  He doesn’t feel the criminal system is always the best way to handle the gap cases.  Seeing an officer approach can further escalate a situation. That is not an excuse for behavior, merely a statement of what happens.
From the Chat:  There was just an announcement about a person on Central Avenue, carrying a kitten, yelling and  firing shots into the air.   CPS Juarez checked his online announcement and reported that the man was talked into putting the weapon down.  The animal was put into care at Minneapolis Animal Control.   It turns out that this person is known to the officers at the Second Precinct, and they’re aware he has some mental health issues.

Emilie Quast, Board member

MPD 2nd Precinct Advisory Council

e-quas@tc.umn.edu

May report: 911 today, more changes coming

The meeting was called to order at 6:15, 27 people attending.  

In 2019, 2-PAC heard a presentation on upgraded procedures being used at the MECC — Minneapolis Emergency Communications Center (911).   The events that marked 2020, understaffing, pandemic, protests, riots, and more, suggested that the system had to be changed again, which is exactly how our Emergency Services reacted to vastly increased calls for services.  

Joni Hodne, 911/MECC Assistant Director (Interim), confirmed the systems have been  upgraded a lot — and there are more changes coming.  

911 no longer uses the systems described in 2019.   The communication systems  used at that time  had restrictions that hampered the ability of operators to “fluidly” handle police calls.   Improvements are happening on several levels now, and will be further tuned in coming months.  

Briefly:  dispatchers had been using a scripted list of questions which didn’t yield the kinds of information that response teams wanted.    Instead, dispatchers are now trained to ask callers for information that will better guide responders to the location where they’re needed, and with information that offers the most safety for everyone involved.

Last summer’s high incidence of requests for help taught MECC where the greatest  communication problems and bottlenecks were.  Responses during times of high incidence of calls for help were not  working well during times of high call volume. The Central office needed to greatly improve communications with the dispatch centers outside the city.  

Last summer, the various centers (suburban, county and other response centers) were not able to communicate directly with each other.   When MECC phone lines were overloaded, new calls rolled over to a response team in a surrounding agency, but that  response team couldn’t freely communicate with the geographically closest responding agency.   

While the several command centers are still not all able to communicate on the same computer system (and are probably still several years away from that), the agencies identified the problems of overloaded phone lines rolling to the other agencies.   They developed a workaround that involved a dedicated radio channel for centers to communicate emergency information to other centers.    They also set up phone lines that were available  only to other agencies which allowed calls to flow from agency to agency more quickly than they could in the past.

Developing this relationship with other dispatch centers is helping today.   It will help in the future for both the city of Minneapolis and  for the surrounding agencies when they are the ones who need help to manage a crisis.

An important part of the new changes is new public information programs teaching people when to call 911 for police, fire and emergency services and when to use alternate resources such as 311 (612-673-3000 outside the city) both on the phone and through the city website https://www.minneapolismn.gov/government/government-data/request-public-data/  and https://www.minneapolismn.gov/report-an-issue/   and tip lines (612-692-tips).

The agencies are still working on creating a new pilot program for crisis intervention.  This program is in the very early stages of development.   Ms Hodne has offered to return to 2-PAC in a couple of months to give us a further update.   [The invitation is already extended — EQ]

In answer to citizens who’ve called but not seen a response, that does not always mean there was no response.  Unless you’ve seen officers come to the area, you may not notice that they have come, handled the situation and left for the next call.   You probably won’t know what the outcome of the situation is.  

Calls are prioritized, and calls reporting people in likely danger or property damage happening, will always get highest priority.   It’s always people’s safety and property protection at the top of the list.   “Noisy party” is disturbing the peace, but no one is actually in danger unless or until the noise turns into heated arguments and threats of aggression; that makes it time for a second call to 911. 

Generally, responses will be handled  more quickly if injury or property is at risk.  You can always wait a reasonable amount of time based on the type of service needed and call again if the disturbance is still occurring or escalating.

The operator can’t give out information to anyone who didn’t make the original call, so if you want to find out what happened or what the officers reported, don’t ask your neighbor or spouse to call for you.  Operators are not allowed to release that information to a different caller.  Certain information will still be private.   [Our CPSs are willing to look an incident up and release public information to you as time allows.   It’s very helpful if you have your Case Number to share with the CPS — EQ]

As mentioned above, Ms Hodne will be coming back with an update on 911 systems and services after the new procedures have had time to jell a bit.    I’m hoping that we’ll reach that time this coming fall. 


QQ:  Do you work with COPE?

Hodne:  Minneapolis is just one law agency that works with COPE  [FFI: see the opening paragraph here:  https://www.healthyhennepin.org/stories/cope   COPE stands for Community Outreach for Psychiatric Emergencies — EQ]

QQ: another attender offered this important announcement:    Violence Interrupter Contract. The Council has approved contract extensions with the Corcoran and Central Area Neighborhood Development Organizations to June 30, 2021, for continued violence interruption services under the MinneapolUS Strategic Outreach Initiative. More details are at https://lims.minneapolismn.gov/File/2021-00278  

EQ:  Thank you very much!  That is a very interesting document!


QQ: We’ve called 311 to report unusual activity in a public park and gotten no response.   We ended up calling 911.

EQ: I contacted Chief Ohotto.  If you have general questions or inquiries, contact: 
parkpolice@minneapolisparks.org    or   612-230-6550 (Park Police Office)
or  612-230-6400 (MPRB Customer Service)IMPORTANT:  All calls for service should go to 911You can request a supervisor’s attention, but that will probably get you a slower response, because Park Police are not on duty 24/7. 

Park Police cover all the parks in Minneapolis, but not residential areas.  When they are not on duty (late nights), MPD is supposed to cover the parks. [EQ:  To complicate matters, MPRB voted to sever ties with MPD last June.   I do not know how that has played out for calls for service in the city areas adjacent to parks property.]

COURTWATCH:   Nnamdi Okoronkwo  City Attorney’s Office, reported that Joshua Poplawski remains in HCJ, waiting for his Rule of 20 hearing.  

STATE OF THE PRECINCT
In the two weeks ending May 9, the Second Precinct reported 32 violent crimes including 13 robberies, 19 aggravated assaults and 5 domestic aggravated assaults.   This is 16.75% of the city-wide total.   We also counted 22 burglaries, 107 larcenies, 36 theft from motor vehicles (including catalytic converters) and 28 auto-thefts.  

Our Year-to-date numbers are 173 violent crimes, which is 11.2% of the city-wide total.
Hot spots in the Second remain Marcy-Holmes, and along University Avenue in both directions.   15th Ave SE and Lowry were also busy. 

Emilie Quast, board member
MPD Second Precinct Advisory Council
Minneapolis MN 55418
e-quas@tc.umn.edu

May 2021 meeting report

The meeting was called to order at 6:15, 27 people attending.  

In 2019, 2-PAC heard a presentation on upgraded procedures being used at the Minneapolis Emergency Communications Center (911).   The events that marked 2020, understaffing, pandemic, protests, riots, and more, suggested that the system had to be changing again, which is exactly how our Emergency Services reacted to vastly increased calls for services.  

Joni Hodne, 911/MECC Assistant Director (Interim), confirmed the systems have been  upgraded a lot — and there are more changes coming.  

911 no longer uses the systems described in 2019.   The communication systems  used at that time  had restrictions that hampered the ability of operators to “fluidly” handle police calls.   Improvements are happening on several levels now, and will be further tuned in coming months.  

Briefly:  dispatchers had been using a scripted list of questions which didn’t yield the kinds of information that response teams wanted.    Instead, dispatchers are now trained to ask callers for information that will better guide responders to the location where they’re needed, and with information that offers the most safety for everyone involved.

Last summer’s high incidence of requests for help taught MECC where the greatest  communication problems and bottlenecks were.  Responses during times of high incidence of calls for help were not  working well during times of high call volume. The Central office needed to greatly improve communications with the dispatch centers outside the city.  

Last summer, the various centers (suburban, county and other response centers) were not able to communicate directly with each other.   When MECC phone lines were overloaded, new calls rolled over to a response team in a surrounding agency, but that  response team couldn’t freely communicate with the geographically closest responding agency.   

While the several command centers are still not all able to communicate on the same computer system (and are probably still several years away from that), the agencies identified the problems of overloaded phone lines rolling to the other agencies.   They developed a workaround that involved a dedicated radio channel for centers to communicate emergency information to other centers.    They also set up phone lines that were available  only to other agencies which allowed calls to flow from agency to agency more quickly than they could in the past.

Developing this relationship with other dispatch centers is helping today.   It will help in the future for both the city of Minneapolis and  for the surrounding agencies when they are the ones who need help to manage a crisis.

An important part of the new changes is new public information programs teaching people when to call 911 for police, fire and emergency services and when to use alternate resources such as 311 (612-673-3000 outside the city) both on the phone and through the city website https://www.minneapolismn.gov/government/government-data/request-public-data/  and https://www.minneapolismn.gov/report-an-issue/   and tip lines (612-692-tips).

The agencies are still working on creating a new pilot program for crisis intervention.  This program is in the very early stages of development.   Ms Hodne has offered to return to 2-PAC in a couple of months to give us a further update.   [The invitation is already extended — EQ]

In answer to citizens who’ve called but not seen a response, that does not always mean there was no response.  Unless you’ve seen officers come to the area, you may not notice that they have come, handled the situation and left for the next call.   You probably won’t know what the outcome of the situation is.  

Calls are prioritized, and calls reporting people in likely danger or property damage happening, will always get highest priority.   It’s always people’s safety and property protection at the top of the list.   “Noisy party” is disturbing the peace, but no one is actually in danger unless or until the noise turns into heated arguments and threats of aggression; that makes it time for a second call to 911. 

Generally, responses will be handled  more quickly if injury or property is at risk.  You can always wait a reasonable amount of time based on the type of service needed and call again if the disturbance is still occurring or escalating.

The operator can’t give out information to anyone who didn’t make the original call, so if you want to find out what happened or what the officers reported, don’t ask your neighbor or spouse to call for you.  Operators are not allowed to release that information to a different caller.  Certain information will still be private.   [Our CPSs are willing to look an incident up and release public information to you as time allows.   It’s very helpful if you have your Case Number to share with the CPS — EQ]

As mentioned above, Ms Hodne will be coming back with an update on 911 systems and services after the new procedures have had time to jell a bit.    I’m hoping that we’ll reach that time this coming fall. 


QQ:  Do you work with COPE?

Hodne:  Minneapolis is just one law agency that works with COPE  [FFI: see the opening paragraph here:  https://www.healthyhennepin.org/stories/cope   COPE stands for Community Outreach for Psychiatric Emergencies — EQ]

QQ: another attender offered this important announcement:    Violence Interrupter Contract. The Council has approved contract extensions with the Corcoran and Central Area Neighborhood Development Organizations to June 30, 2021, for continued violence interruption services under the MinneapolUS Strategic Outreach Initiative. More details are at https://lims.minneapolismn.gov/File/2021-00278  

EQ:  Thank you very much!  That is a very interesting document!
QQ: We’ve called 311 to report unusual activity in a public park and gotten no response.   We ended up calling 911.

EQ: I originally suggested this person contact Chief Ohotto directly because she is clearly leading a safety initiative in her neighborhood.   I have since contacted Parks Police Dept. Chief Ohotto who wrote the following: 
People with general questions and inquiries should contact: parkpolice@minneapolisparks.org   or   612-230-6550 (Park Police Office) or 612-230-6400 (MPRB Customer Service)
All calls for service should go to 911.
Callers can/should request a supervisor’s attention if they don’t get a satisfactory response.   They can ask for the Park Police Chief, but that may get them a slower response.

Park Police cover all the parks in Minneapolis, but not residential areas.  Park Police are not scheduled 24/7.  When they are not on duty (late nights), MPD is supposed to cover the parks. 

COURTWATCH:   Nnamdi Okoronkwo  City Attorney’s Office, reported that Joshua Poplawski remains in HCJ, waiting for his Rule of 20 hearing.  

STATE OF THE PRECINCT
In the two weeks ending May 9, the Second Precinct reported 32 violent crimes including 13 robberies, 19 aggravated assaults and 5 domestic aggravated assaults.   This is 16.75% of the city-wide total.   We also counted 22 burglaries, 107 larcenies, 36 theft from motor vehicles (including catalytic converters) and 28 auto-thefts.  

Our Year-to-date numbers are 173 violent crimes, which is 11.2% of the city-wide total.
Hot spots in the Second remain Marcy-Holmes, and along University Avenue in both directions.   15th Ave SE and Lowry were also busy. 

Emilie Quast, board member
MPD Second Precinct Advisory Council
Minneapolis MN 55418

April report, part 1: Keeping kids on track and out of trouble

The April topic, the new Youth Justice Council, was presented by Judge Mark Kappelhoff, 4th Judicial District. Judge Kappelhoff has extensive experience in the U.S.  Dept. of Justice, Civil Rights Division, prosecuting cases of human trafficking, police misconduct, and hate crimes.   He was joined by Adesola Oni, Hennepin County Juvenile Probation, Lisa McNaughton, managing attorney for the Juvenile Court Division, Public Defender’s  Office, and Tom Arneson, Manager of the Juvenile Prosecutions Division, HCAO. 

The Youth Justice Council is a collaborative effort among stakeholders, community members and law enforcement.    They are committed to creating an equitable, fair and effective justice system that produces positive outcomes for youth, for their families and for their communities, which improves public safety. 

Their mission statement:  “To improve and reform the juvenile justice system by eliminating the unnecessary  use of secure detention, eliminating disparities based on race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, and providing resources to create effective community-based and culturally appropriate  services for youth and their families.”

The initiative is based on past events in the Hennepin County Courts Systems.   Hennepin County brought in The Annie E. Casey Foundation to help assess what was happening.  In 2005, Reform Juvenile Court Policies, Procedures and Practices led to the creation of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) 

Adesola Oni:   The late 1990s was a time when, all across the U.S., juvenile crime was rising in numbers, and much of it was violent crime.  All across the United States, youth were being locked up for any number of offenses.   The Annie E.  Casey Foundation began to challenge courts to look at what they were doing to youth and what they hoped to gain from it. They found evidence of an over-reliance on detention and institutional responses.   Eventually, they created JDAI, which looked at some of the sites across the country and began the work that led to reducing the numbers.

In 2005 in Hennepin County:

  • About 100 youth per day were put in detention.   As many as 500 youth were in out-of-home placement,   Annual numbers were over 4000 juveniles in detention in a system that didn’t have enough space for that many people.   People were put into detention just to ensure they’d show up for a hearing, as well as those who actually posed a safety risk.
  • There were significant racial disparities  in detention and outcomes, 
  • There was insufficient community or evidence-based programming,
  • There were inconsistent standards for detention/out-of-home placements,
  • There was inadequate data collection, collaboration, analysis,
  • There was little family and community engagement.

The JDAI Key Reform Objectives were to

  • Reduce reliance on secure confinement,
  • Reduce racial and ethnic disparities,
  • Redirect resources to effective community-based  and culturally appropriate  services for youth and their families,
  • Enhance collaboration among court & community partners.

Atty. McNaughton commented that, years ago, when she went into the center, she’d see kids sleeping on pallets on the floor because that was the only space they had.  JDAI made attorneys consider how thoughtful they were being about the kids, and to reconsider how they were processing their judgment.  Atty. Arneson added that in 2005 violent juvenile crime was at a peak in Hennepin County.  Later Judge Kappelhoff commented that today, a portion of the Juvenile facility is not being used because of the substantial reduction in population. 

JDAI Results: 

  • 80% decrease in numbers of youth admitted to JDC.   From 4,500 to 908 (2005-2020)
  • 65% decrease in average daily population at JDC. From 95 to 33 (2005-2020). The 2021 daily population has dropped to the teens!
  • 64% decrease in Out of Home Placements for youth in DOCCR (2009-2020)   

Results of Reform Efforts in Hennepin County:

Arneson:  “Diversion” is a broad topic; it involves keeping kids out of the Juvenile Justice System at any point including pre-charge.  Hennepin County has had a Diversion Program that goes back to the 1990’s but that has been substantially expanded in the last five years.  Today, the county has many different “diversion pathways” that can take place before a youth enters the Juvenile Justice system or commits a chargeable offense. 

  • It can be having a different response to kids’ behaviors in school.  Not everything that happens in school calls for a police response.
  • It can be having formal diversion programs, like restorative justice programs.  The HCAO works with programs in the community that are based on accountability for behavior.  This may start with intervention as a response, trying to address what is behind the behavior so it doesn’t happen again.    We’ve seen nationally and locally that diversion can produce better results, and produce them sooner than the courts systems responses. 

The power point presentation noted these two developments as a result of the JDAI program:

  • HCAO reinvested funds no longer needed to support the reduced jailed populations into community-based services for youth.  This was a 93% increase to over $4,446,000 by 2017.
  • By 2017, 63% of youth desisted from crime in the two years following their probation start.

In 2019, probation brought in an outside team of experts from the Robert F. Kennedy Resource Center for Juvenile Justice to conduct an independent review of probation and the Hennepin County Juvenile Court system. After complete its review, the RFK issued a report with its findings and recommendations.

In recent years, as a result of a collaborative effort among the Juvenile Court stakeholders, the number of Out-of-Home Placements have been reduced substantially, as well as the placements of youth out of state have been reduced.  This is the result of realizing that moving youth out of their home and community severed their ties to family and community support.   Planners also considered that youth would be returning to their communities at some point.

From 2012 to 2017

  • National levels for all youth in the U.S. dropped 25%, in Hennepin County that drop was 54%
  • National levels for  African American youth dropped 22%, in Hennepin County, the drop was 53%

From 2014 to 2017

  • National all youth dropped 8%, which matched the African American youth drop, nation-wide.
  • In Hennepin County, all youth dropped 42%, and African American youth dropped 45%

From 2016-Q1 to 2020-Q4, Out-of-Home placements dropped from 195 to 73, including placements in Greater MN, Hennepin County and out of state. 

Kappelhoff: while recent efforts among the juvenile justice stakeholders have produced a dramatic improvement in number of youth in the juvenile justice system, we continue to have a problem with disparities. The juvenile justice stakeholders are committed to addressing these disparities.   With this in mind, the court stakeholders, along with community partners have come together to create and launch the Youth Justice Council.  The Youth Justice Council drafted a charter with the following core principles:

  • Promoting and enhancing community safety through a lens of recognizing, and investing in the strengths of youth, their families and their communities, while ensuring access to resources and opportunities;
  • Decisions regarding who should be held in secure detention will be based on objective criteria and a validated Risk Assessment Instrument (RAI); and No youth shall be disparately impacted at any stage  of the juvenile justice system, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability;

The Youth Justice Council is chaired by representatives from the Humphrey Institute (Dr. Brittany Lewis), Juvenile Court (Judge Kappelhoff), and the Juvenile Probation Manger (Jerald Moore).  

The executive steering committee consists of representatives from HCAO, the Public Defender’s Office, a Community Representative, Juvenile Probation, DOCCR Administration, District Court, Human Services, Sub-Committee Chairs and Juvenile Facilities. 

Reporting directly to the steering committee is the Youth Justice Council Workgroups, Committees and Governance Coordination (Adesola Oni). 

Four focus sub-committees include: Eliminating Racial Disparities, Assessment Tool Workgroup, Underserved Youth Committee, the Youth Advisory Board (which includes 6 youth representatives.   These subcommittees are now meeting quarterly, the next meetings will be on June 9, September 8, December 8.

Eliminating Racial Disparities:  This is a place where representatives from county and city governments, law enforcement, the judiciary, HCAO, public defense, public education, philanthropy, community youth serving agencies, community advocates, parents and youth work together to eliminate ethnic and racial disparities in Hennepin County.   Open to the public.  FFI  contact:

Youth Advisory Board: This sub-committee advocates for positive change in the Hennepin County Justice System providing support for initiatives to improve the support and outcome of youth in the juvenile justice system and to prevent more youth from entering the justice system.    FFI contact:

Underserved Youth Committee:  Addresses disparities of treatment of underserved and vulnerable youth in the justice system, including LGBTQ+, youth who have been trafficked or exploited, girls, youth experiencing instability, homelessness, mental health issues, and others with complex needs.   For information and to participate contact:

The Youth Justice Council website is found at https://www.hennepin.us/residents/public-safety/youth-justice-council 

Questions:

QQ:   It seems like you are working to take negative labels off kids.  

Kappelhoff:  We are trying to help the youth in our community. With this in mind, we are trying to center youth in the conversation regarding the juvenile justice system and meet them where there are to provide better outcomes for them. 

McNaughton:  Yes about the labels, and it’s about dealing with trauma.

QQ:  A successful MPD Community Outreach Program, Bike Cops for Kids, discovered that a majority of the youth sentenced to Red Wing were from Minneapolis, so BCFK had a program that involved spending a day just hanging out with the boys.   One of the things the Bike Cops discovered is that many/most of the boys there “Had no path” for their future.    Is this lack of path/plan/life-goals something you are addressing directly?

Kappelhoff: We have a number of diversion programs to provide youth services and divert them out of the juvenile justice system. One of those programs is run by Headway, which has shown positive results for the youth who have participated in this program.  The goal is to identify a youth’s needs and to provide the services that will address those needs.

QQ:  When a person has a Police record, that is a public record, and it is available to anyone who wants to look for it.   That is a huge burden.   Is there anything that is going on that will “lift” that label from a person?

Kappelhoff:   Expunging the prior juvenile court records of youth who were in the juvenile justice system can be helpful for the youth as they seek future employment or other opportunities. The Youth Justice Council has a working group to identify and implement ways to improve the expungement process.

CPS Juarez:  Attending community meetings, it seems that people are talking about people getting back on the streets so soon after committing a crime. Is there something you can offer to let people know how the system works? 

Arneson: When a youth has committed [for example] a car-jacking and is caught, they are taken into detention.  In juvenile court, the crime must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, just as in adult court. If the evidence is there, the HCAO will charge them.   Something close to 90% of youth brought to detention on Carjacking offenses ended up being charged.   One issue is that what the attorney’s office sees, is just the tip of the iceberg.   There are many crimes that are not solved and thus do not end up with an arrest or a charge.   But when a youth is arrested for a carjacking offense, they are held in detention until charged and they appear in court. What happens down the road depends on many factors, including the youth’s age, history, and the circumstances of the crime.   We had one case involving an 11-year-old; they will be treated differently than a 17-year-old who has a significant record.   We can and have asked that a 17-year-old be tried in adult court, because the older youth has a series of cases or more serious cases.  A difficulty in explaining the juvenile system to the public is that we often can’t release details about a particular person or case. 

McNaughton:  Some people get confused about terms, car theft vs car-jacking, for example.   Law professionals have to be very careful how we describe these situations. 

QQ:  Is there any “presumptive” measure to determine the risk of releasing a juvenile — as number of similar incidents, that would figure in holding or not holding?

Kappelhoff:   In deciding the detention status of youth, the court uses a “Risk Assessment Instrument” (RAI). This is a validated instrument that ensures that neutral and relevant criteria are used to decide the detention status of youth who are arrested and appear before a judge. The RAI also is validated to ensure that detention decisions are not racially biased.   

CPS Juarez:  What support do you need from the community?   Is there anything we can ask from the public that would make the courts’ jobs easier?  How can community members step up, take on a bigger role to support your work.

McNaughton:   I want to see that our programs are vibrant and working for our kids.  I want to see that we have people who are connected to the kids, and who are sure these programs work for them.  That would be family members, community members, teachers, anyone who knows these kids.   

April report, part 2: Courtwatch and State of the Precinct

COURTWATCH:  Nnamdi Okoronkso, HCAO reporting

Joshua Poplawski was picked up on April 6 for trespassing on the U of MN campus.  This time he’s being held for a competency evaluation per Rule of 20 guidelines*, because he is not likely to show up on his own for that evaluation.

If Poplawski is found incompetent, Atty. Okoronkwo believes there will be a push for civil commitment.   The HCAO knows he will continue to trespass, placing himself in danger.   It’s been noted that in the time since Okoronkwo has been watching this list, several habitual trespassers have been assaulted or died from various causes.    Current HCAO interactions with Mr. Poplawski have not triggered a change of behavior and the bottom line is that this person is putting himself in danger by continuing to trespass.  He also uses a lot of resources without affecting his behavior.  

Atty Okronkwo related that Heidi Johnston, a former HCAO attorney who presented 2-PAC  Courtwatch cases several years ago, is very familiar with Joshua’s history and is working for solutions that will move him off his present trajectory.


STATE OF THE PRECINCT:

Jory Wiebrand, a serial rapist who preyed on women in Southeast and near Northeast Minneapolis for years, was given a sentence in late March to almost 46 years.  He may receive conditional release after he’s served 2/3 of his sentence, but conditional release means “under close supervision”.   He will be required to register as a predatory sexual offender, will be on conditional release for the remainder of his life, and is ordered to pay restitution to the victims.**

In the two weeks preceding April 12, Pct 2 had 29 violent crimes total which was less than 13% of the city data.   So far this year, 2nd Precinct officers have responded to 9417 calls for service.  Of these, 15 calls resulted in use of force which is 0.16%

Dinkytown remains the site of much of the 2nd Pct crime, including one murder on March 28.   Marcy Holmes is still the most active area, especially in the Dinkytown neighborhood, but it’s also creeping up along Broadway and NE University. 

Expanding on that, CPS Juarez reported that we’ve seen 10 robberies and 2 carjackings.   One thing that stood out was that the robberies are happening in the daytime, between noon and 3 o’clock.   For a long time, robbery time was around bar-closing, but that dynamic has changed for a variety of reasons.  

One thing they’re seeing is that people are just handing over their phone when someone asks to make a call or something, and the bad guy just takes off with it. 

There was a homicide in Dinkytown, in the street between the Chateau and the pizza place.   There were many observers and it was very traumatic for many people.  Officers found 12 casings on the ground, so there were a LOT of shots fired, not just two people exchanging one shot, each.  

This has been the pattern for this year, starting with the New Year’s house party on 15th Ave SE, and continuing in SE Como where multiple shots were fired at a house.

Calling 911 and 311:

In response to a flurry of comments on NextDoor, I asked two people who reported they’d called 911 and gotten case numbers.   Sadly, both incidents were closed without action:   Case #1 –  the report did not have enough suspect information for officers to follow.  Victims could not identify the possible male suspects.   Case #2 – there is no police report on file because the original call was about a driver who was yelling at cars.  

CPS Nick Juarez offered suggestions for making a 911/311 call that will get action. 

Be descriptive:   SAY what you are seeing that made you call 911.  

If there’s a car involved, tell the color, license plate number, make, model and any other information that will point to the right car. 

If there’s an individual out there:  male or female, race, size, clothing, anything distinctive in any way
When you are making a police report, you are telling a story.  Everyone the police interview is telling that story from their point of view. 

For example:   you can’t just say, “My bike was stolen.”     The officers need to know where you left the bike, what color and model it is, was it locked, what kind of lock, did you find pieces of the lock or of the bike on the ground, and anything else that will tell the officers what to look for.

The reason for all that detail is that it is the depth of detail that moves the report up the priority scale.   The report about someone yelling at cars, gave no indication that anyone was in danger or might be in danger of harm.   DO follow up with a second call if the situation changes.   If the guy shouting at cars starts throwing rocks at cars or at people, phone again!   (“I just called in about ‘that’ but now this guy is doing ‘this'” — that raises the priority of the call.)

The call takers are typing your words into the computer report, and the more description that appears on that report, the more officers have to work on.  Additionally, the call takers are assessing whom they should send:  EMT, Squad, Fire??

Juarez offered that everyone reacts differently to stress, but this is the time you have to take a breath and just focus on what you are seeing, tell your story so the operator can completely visualize that situation from your description. 

We have a lot of security cameras out there, but a suspect needs to be looking at the camera when it snaps.  Officers can take a recognizable photo around to other residents on a street, but again, that only works if someone knows the person.  If the suspect is someone who drove in from a suburb, that photo might not help much.   And, we don’t use facial recognition software.

*https://www.revisor.mn.gov/court_rules/cr/id/20/
 **https://www.startribune.com/serial-rapist-sentenced-to-nearly-46-years-in-prison-for-preying-on-women-in-minneapolis/600039194/

Coming in May:   we’ve heard about changes in 911 service, and will get an update on May 10.   Join us at 6PM by Zoom to hear the news at 911.


Emilie Quast, board member

MPD Second Precinct Advisory Council

Minneapolis MN, 55418

March report, Part 1

Cody Hoerning and Andrew Norton, Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA), presented a neighborhood proposal for increasing neighborhood social cohesiveness.   Strong neighborhoods are best able  to respond to neighbors in need.

Members of SECIA have been rethinking SECIA’s role as a community organization, as a neighborhood organization and as a platform to promote  cohesiveness in the community.

Conversations began over several years at various community gatherings like National Night Out.    Neighbors and elected officials shared ideas about how people can expand the sense of community that we feel on NNO and other neighborhood-wide events.   In 2020, after the death of George Floyd, protests turned into riots, and neighborhood conversations about public safety and other issues became intentional. 

In October 2020, people began brainstorming about how this could come together.  They brought their ideas to “New Projects Night”, an event where SECIA members present proposals to develop proposals and gauge interest.   In breakout meetings they discussed the logistics of moving this forward. 

Identifying  Issues and Challenges: Neighbors in Need

  • Lack of social connection
  • Mental health issues
  • Unsheltered neighbors (homelessness)

Lack of social connection:  In Como, residents are increasingly concerned about lack of connectivity.  This is more apparent in SE Como than in other parts of the city  because of the high numbers of student neighbors, who intentionally leave at graduation when they find a career job. 

But this is a national trend.   In his book “The Upswing” Robert Putnam defined “Social Solidarity” as an aggregate of trust, sharing, caring, donating  and joining that communities share.   From 1880 to 2020, indicators of social solidarity started low, peaked 1955-1965, and then fell faster than it had risen.   In 2020, American solidarity had fallen to the 1910 level.    Not surprisingly, the “Lack of Social Connection” chart has almost a negative correlation to the first chart over the same time span.  The second data set was derived by charting so-called Deaths of Despair, deaths associated with depression, alcohol use, other substance abuse.  On the right side of the chart, you see a sharp rise in deaths attributed to cocaine (and similar) use (2000 and on)  and Covid-19 in 2020.

The group identified some issues that SE Como has  with the traditional block club model.   The highly transient student population has been mentioned.   Additionally, people’s comments could be summarized as “I don’t watch my neighbors, I just see them”.     People reported they feel safe if they perceive a connected community and they feel safer on “active streets”.  Van Cleve Park is perceived as a safe place because of everything that’s going on there. 

For background, data reported by the National Institutes of Mental Health,  the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported in 2017 that at least 432,161 adults in Minnesota experienced serious psychological distress in the 12 months surveyed. This included 256,729 with serious psychological distress, 119,807 with bipolar disorder, and 12,836 with schizophrenia. Some people have multiple diagnosis;  additionally, there is overlap with people who are homeless and who engage in substance abuse.  All of these issues were adversely affected by the pandemic;  the 2020 statistics are certainly higher. 

Growing concerns:   In Minnesota, between 1991 and 2018, a one-night count of  homeless people rose from 3,079 to 11,371, statewide.
[EQ: in 2017, Minnesota’s population was 5.6 million people; SE Como’s population was about 6000 people.   Projecting the numbers, 4.6% of MN residents displayed serious psychological distress.   0.2% were homeless.   Those counts are pre-Covid-19.  Undoubtedly more people are in distress in 2020-21.]

IDENTIFYING ISSUES AND CHALLENGES:  NEIGHBORHOOD ORGANIZATION

  • SECIA does not really have a safety group.  
  • Many crimes in SE Como are preventable, following recommended practices. Cody worked with CPS Nick Juarez sharing after-incident prevention strategies.
  • Victims of crime reported that they received little follow up, restitution, or justice:
    •    MPD data indicate that about 1 in 3 violent crimes are cleared.
    •    MPD data indicate that 1 in 2 homicides are  cleared.  

[EQ:  A crime report is “cleared” when investigation leads to a charge.] 

What can a Neighborhood Organization Role Be?  Assuming the Neighborhood Organization  has developed a cohesive social structure, it can assist:
Pre-crime:  The association can help with prevention by coaching awareness of safety strategies, and the importance of watching out for each other.   It can consider if a welfare strategy might be needed.   
Crime event: handled by police.
Post-crime:  The association can offer support and improve safety strategies if there is recurrence.
There is evidence that support does matter, even in extreme situations.

Homelessness:  A 2013 report in the American Journal of Public Health, “Effectiveness of case management for homeless persons”, by Renee de Vet,  (v. 103:10, 13-26)  indicated that case management to prevent recurrent homelessness in people with severe mental health illness after leaving hospitals or other shelters led to a  60% reduction of homelessness. 

Gun Violence:  Advance Peace and similar programs identify and then surround a small number of people with intensive customized support  found that after a two-year program, all “A-P Zones” reported a 22% reduction in gun assaults and homicides.  El Paso Heights AP Zone reported a 39% and the Oak Park AP Zone reported a 21% reduction.
Social Determinants of Health:  These are conditions that occur in the environments in which people are born, live, and age, that affect health, functioning, and  quality-of-life outcomes and risks.  They include economic stability, education, social and community context, health and health care, neighborhood or built environment.   Como Cares believes it can work in two primary areas:

  • Neighborhood or built environment, including  access to healthy foods, crime and violence, environmental conditions, quality of housing.
  • Social and community context, including civic participation, discrimination, incarceration, social cohesion.  

SECIA has already done a lot to improve social and community context.   We offer the annual Como Cookout, gardening opportunities (native prairie, pollinator protection, vegetable gardens in SE COMO), participation in SE Seniors (an age-in-place volunteer organization that assists SE Minneapolis residents), Community Good Neighbor Fund (which supports music, art and dance events), community projects and town halls with elected leaders, coordination with the MPD Second Precinct Crime Prevention Specialist, an active Zoning and Development Committee, pollution and groundwater protection committees, and activism through Como Green Village.   The new Como Cares approach will continue to bolster these efforts.

Summing up: 
Our current approach in SE Como to organizing and public safety  is not working for a variety of reasons.

  • Community members feel safe when they have a network of support and are connected with neighbors.
  • Mutual-aid networks and events/projects to build community connectedness were popular in discussions.
  • We now have more neighbors who need help with mental health and shelter.

Actions to date and on-going:

  • Neighborhood and Community Relations meetings on safety
    • Team members have attended city meetings about safety
  • Activist and outreach worker meetings
    • Team members have attended meetings and presentations by organizations like LINC  MPD150, Coaching Boys Into Men
    • Coordinated with organizations which already help unsheltered neighbors in Mpls.  [listed below]
  • Distribution of food and hygiene kits
    • Supported and organized a local neighbor drop in day

Some of the organizations the Como Cares team is currently collaborating with include U of MN Off Campus Living, University Baptist Church, University Lutheran Church of Hope, SECIA, First Congregational Church — United Church of Christ, The Aliveness Project (future date for harm reduction training)


COMO CARES — CURRENT GOALS  

1.  Reach out to long-time and new neighbors to let them know they are a part of a caring community.  
Some long term residents may not have as many   connections as they would like.  We want to also reach out to short term residents, like students, and try to bring them into the conversation.

2. Care for neighborhood community assets and resources. 
This can range from sharing food and other resources, doing trash cleanups, making sure the street lights are on, finding resources to help with property repair. 

3. Provide neighbors in need with direct community support through a network of block/neighborhood communityassistance programs.

4. Bring a community-centric and racial justice approach to public safety and reduce calls for service from the police department.a. As we build healthy social structures, provide support for neighbors, we could reduce police presence in the area.
 b. This is taking the MPD150 idea to a neighborhood level.   [For information about MDP150, see https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=MPD150]

LEVELS OF ENGAGEMENT

Entry Level – Be a part of a caring community.  Build organic social cohesion on your block. Stay connected to neighbors.
Time commitment = low

Example: take a walk with a neighbor.

Event-Level – Respond when available and when help is needed locally for specific events

Time commitment = low

Example: shovel your neighbor’s walk if they need help with it.
Project- level – Support for specific longer-term projects
Time commitment = moderate

Example: Weekly park activities with local teens.

Team level – Participating in long-term care initiatives

Time commitment = high

Example:  Supporting unsheltered neighbors through regularly-scheduled drop-in days
Leader level – Communicating with neighbors, understanding hyperlocal needs and coordinating response
Time commitment = very high

Example: Neighbor communicates need after kitchen fire, works with team on response, facilitates response.


OTHER ENGAGEMENT OPTIONS:  Some individuals are unable to give their time due to commitments.  Other ways to support include:
Donations of goods to people in need.

Administrative and communication support.

Monetary donations.


COMMUNICATIONS: How will we communicate with neighbors?

  • Personal verbal communication:
    • Say “Hi!” when you see someone
  • Written communication:
    • E-mail
    • Write for E-Comotion and Tidbits
    • NextDoor
  • Social media
    • Groupme, messenger, discord, Facebook….
  • Assemble and deliver welcome packets to new neighbors
  • Apartment buildings:  we need ideas for outreach into apartment buildings. 

Como Cares needs ideas for recognition gear.  
How will people recognize us as a team   (suggestions:  t-shirts, vests?)
[EQ: Jeremiah Peterson’s Safety Walk teams had bright red vests to ID walk members.   Those vests disappeared several years ago.    Maybe someone with institutional memory can recall who paid for them.]

TRAINING – What types of training should we offer Como Cares team members?
First Aid

Mental Health

First Aid Anti-ViolenceAnti-Racism

Conflict resolution

Narcan training 
Harm reduction 101

Your suggestions??

Como Cares, current and future projects:In Progress Now:

  • Building team and networking
  • Training
  • Drop-in days for unsheltered neighbors
  • Hygiene and  food kit delivery to those in need

A story about the successful first Drop-In Day, a Como Cares event, appeared in the MN Daily newspaper:     https://mndaily.com/266140/news/dinkytown-organizations-offer-haircuts-and-more-to-unsheltered-neighbors/
Continuing projects:

Caring for public utilities (gardens, street lights, litter pick up)
More social cohesion events and New social cohesion events.   Offer your ideas here

SE Como mutual aid  network  in development:
Mental health and trauma-support events

What Questions do you have?   Send them to Emilie to forward to Andrew and Cody.   We’ll get the answers to you.
QQ  Do you have any funding for this?    Answer: We have written two grants, one to the Good Neighbor Fund supported by the U of MN, and one to AARP which offers a challenge grant.   The first Drop-In Day brought donations of skills and time (hair cuts) as well as supplies, clothing, food.The city has opened up some anti-violence funding.
QQ  Have you contacted Hennepin County about your project.   AA: Good idea!  Please suggest people to contact.
QQ  An attender remarked she had gotten a lot of help from Commissioner Irene Fernando and recommended meeting with her.  Would you be interested in presenting to another n’hood?   Answer:   Yes, eventually.   We’re only about 5 months in so far.  

QQ Next drop in days?   Answer:   We’re going to try to rotate locations.   We have a need for showers, which University Baptist may  be able to offer so that will be a place.   U of MN and the Parks have Covid-19 restrictions right now but those will be lifted eventually. 

QQ How do you let the homeless people know about these Drop-in events?   Answer:   There are parishioners in some of the churches that work directly with the homeless.   We went out to some of the sites and gave out information.   We also know of some of the homeless in Dinkytown and just gave them the information.  Also, The Aliveness Project does outreach and we know some people in that organization. 

Como Cares will be doing a Harm Reduction workshop with Aliveness in the near future.   Cody will try to get that info out to us. 

QQ:  What is “social solidarity”?   Answer:   Cody:  There are books on this, but it’s basically “connectedness”.   It’s when you give of yourself to the greater whole.  Andrew:   It’s how individuals come together to enhance each other’s lives.   [Referencing the studies Cody showed]  There was a peak in the ’70’s and then it started declining.   It’s really hard to create social solidarity in our area because of the high student-transient population.  We’re trying to rebuild the solidarity the n’hoods had back then [in the 70’s].   The way we’re trying to do that is reaching out to bring together. 

Cody:  After the George Floyd event, we saw a lot of people popup and come together.   People started to ask how neighbors can keep this going. 

QQ:  [Response to statement that in the University District, two-bedroom apartments are rented to four people.  The population is more than a bedroom count if you want to know how many students are living there.]   How do you know how to contact all these people?   Answer:  Andrew:  That’s what we’re working on.   We try to find a person in this [apartment] community to bring others together and create a larger community.    Cody:  we hear about people who have roommates going through a crisis and the contact person wants to know what to do to help.   If we can have the “tools” for appropriate response, hopefully we won’t have to bring in the city.  We’ve had some success with welcome packets in the past, but need a fresher approach.   CPS Juarez:  We get information to property managers and train staff to watch for “behavior change” or other markers; especially at mid-terms or finals.   Offer information for the tenant who comes in and wants to know what to do about someone who is changing.  If nothing else, a concerned person can contact MPD/CPS on behalf of that student.  We’ll go with protective services and take it from there.
Emilie Quast, Board member

MPD Second Precinct Advisory Council

Minneapolis MN 55418

March report, Part 2

Como Cares is a new community-building safety initiative that is just several months into development.   It’s being organized by  Cody Hoerning and  Andrew Norton, SECIA members, and Jessica Focht-Perlberg, SECIA Executive Director.   Como Cares progress to date was  reported in Part 1 of this report.

The  story about the successful first Drop-In Day, a Como Cares event, appeared in the MN Daily newspaper:     https://mndaily.com/266140/news/dinkytown-organizations-offer-haircuts-and-more-to-unsheltered-neighbors/

COURTWATCH
The new format for COURTWATCH was presented by Probation Office Holly Ihrke.  A group including P.O. Ihrke, Cody Hoerning, CPS Juarez, a Lt. from the Second Precinct.  

The new format will involve looking at incident locations, identifying what types of crime neighborhoods are experiencing,  and then following the higher profile events that may have elicited community impact statements, and giving updates on where these cases are in the court process.

Looking at the Second Precinct incident reports for February, Marcy-Holmes and Prospect Park were two high-incident areas.  There were seven felony charges in the Second Precinct, most were assault or felony theft related.   Both Zaccardi brothers are back in custody.    Scott Dennis Brozek is also back in custody and has pending charges.
Atty. Okoronkwo reported that he’s charged all the cases that have come to him.   Most are trespass cases from a parking ramp  in Stadium Village — 501 Washington Avenue, which is also the address of U of MN Parking and Transportation.  Likely those people were sheltering from the cold in a ramp stairwell.  505 Washington is the mail address of UMPD.

Using the MPD Dashboard to examine crime in the Second Precinct (or across the city) presents some “difficulties”.   Emilie explained that she can get the totals of Part 1 crimes from one place on the dashboard, but when she looks at the interactive incident map, the same symbol can be used for two different crimes or the same crime can be reported by two different symbols.  Plus, the symbols overlay so it’s difficult and not always possible to get down to the particular incident you want to look at.   She was concerned that a homicide was reported on the city in one viewing, but had disappeared from the map the next time she looked. 

CPS Juarez replied that the map symbol is fixed when a crime is first reported.   Some [perhaps] never get corrected if the charge changes.   A reported death may have first been called a homicide, but later changed to DOA, which would get corrected on the map. 

CPS Juarez gave a report of downtown activity on the first day of the Chauvin trial, and, happily, it was quiet.   He received no notices of  downtown activity. 

  From Nnamdi Okoronkwo to Everyone:  06:23 PM
https://mn.gov/doc/victims/crime-victim-rights-statutes/

2-PAC In April:   Over the last several years, 2-PAC has presented speakers from several of the 4th Judicial District’s Specialty Courts, which combine support, encouragement, and an expectation that the target will accept intense supervision and treatment.   In April, we will hear from Judge Mark Kappelhoff and some of his colleagues who will tell us how they are changing the Juvenile Courts  to improve outcomes for young people they see in their courts.

Emilie Quast, Board member

Feb. 2021 Report, Part 1

Echoes of War:  Combat Trauma, Criminal Behavior, and how we can do a better job, this time around. 

Brockton Hunter served as an Army Recon. Scout and sniper in the Gulf War, 30 years ago.   When he returned to civilian life, he initially found he had trouble fitting back in.  He graduated from college and then Law School, and has been practicing law in Minneapolis ever since, primarily in criminal defense.  He devotes a large part of his practice to working with veterans, and works as counsel for a non-profit, The Veterans’ Defense Project,  which focuses on policy, education, and advocacy,  to ensure that the courts in Minnesota, and across the country do a better job than they did for Gulf War veterans, and better help our current crop of veterans return to productive life in our communities.
In 2008, he helped pass the original Veterans Sentencing legislation and helped found the Hennepin County Veterans’ Court in 2010.   We now have about a dozen courts around the state.   Mr. Hunter is now revising the Minnesota statutes, and hopes that will be passed by this Legislature. 

In his presentation, Mr. Hunter explained why we see so many veterans come into the courts; what combat trauma looks like from the perspective of the veteran; how the courts are now doing a better job for our veterans than they have in the past; how they can do even better.

THE MINNESOTA MISSION
To improve the way the Minnesota justice system deals with troubled veterans,
by increasing understanding of the nature of combat trauma, its ties to criminal behavior,
and how criminal charges can serve as intervention opportunities to leverage
veteran offenders into needed treatment and help them become assets,
rather than ongoing liabilities,
to the communities they once risked their lives to protect. 

The Coming Storm:  Escalating numbers of veterans are entering the criminal courts in Minnesota, and across the country.   History tells us this will continue for the foreseeable future, creating  an increasing public health and public safety threat.Looking back to our recent history:

Lessons from Vietnam:   Of the 3 million  Americans who served in Vietnam, 1 to 1.5 million suffered psychological  injuries.  A decade later, followup revealed that, of those treated for psychological trauma, half had contact with the criminal justice system and been arrested at least one time;  over a third had been arrested 2 or more times; nearly 12% had been convicted of felonies.

Vietnam veterans faced more hostility when they came home.  They were actually blamed for fighting in an unpopular war.  They were called “baby killers” and worse.   The attitude was even more apparent when they encountered the justice system.   Veterans were actually treated more harshly than people who had not served but had committed the same crimes.  40 years later, hundreds of thousands are still incarcerated, chronically homeless, or addicted.  Some 58,000  Americans died in Vietnam, but at least that many or more committed suicide after the war.   Not all suicides are apparent, and experts suggest that as many as 150,000 contributed to their own deaths, when you include drug overdoses and other self-destructive behavior — that’s half of those who served.

Who gave service in Iraq and Afghanistan: so far, over 3,000,000 Americans have served there.  In 2012 the Institute of Medicine issued a report,  “Treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in military and veteran population: initial assessment.”(1)   The report first suggested that returning veterans revealed a similar profile.  As of 2012, over 500,000 were displaying post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).   Another 500,000 have traumatic brain injury (TBI)  Less than half of those have reported or requested treatment.   Experts are certain that these numbers are low, not accurate.
Additionally, over 300,000 women have served  in Iraq or Afghanistan.  They are now serving in combat roles, and are in the pipeline to become Navy Seals, Green Berets, and other frontline missions.  Right now, 20% have been diagnosed with PTSD, no doubt more have not received a diagnosis.   Women face additional stress:   they also are targets of military sexual trauma, committed by a peer or a superior — someone they are supposed to entrust with their lives.  Many of the women who come through the courts report sexual trauma, whether they’ve seen combat service or not.

How our current veterans are different from those 40 years ago.    The   Vietnam war was fought by draftees, who served one 12-month combat tour.  After that single tour, 90% went home.
In contrast, our current army is made up of volunteers and is much smaller.  To make up for the smaller army, the current army serves in multiple deployments.  Many have now served 2 or 3 combat tours, some have served as many as 8 full, year-long deployments.   Special Operations, Navy Seals, Rangers, and special teams will serve even more.  These will be shorter deployments but much more intense, since they are the “tip of the spear.”  Some Special Ops have had even 20 deployments.  

Experts agree these multiple deployments will lead to the highest rates of PTSD that we’ve ever seen.   PTSD is now referred to as  “exposure injury”.  

Civilians need to understand:  this is a warrior culture.  Focused service and self-sacrifice training doesn’t have a parallel in civilian life.  Warrior culture teaches that a soldier’s goal is completing the mission and taking care of the team, with little regard for self.   Mr. Hunter suggested the culture of selflessness is a barrier to accepting help when it’s needed.

Post-Vietnam Paradigm Shift:

Citizens no longer “Blame the Troops” as they did.  Today, we support our troops, whether or not we support the wars they fought.  Citizens accept that “we the people” elect the people who create the national policy to wage war.  

The goal of  the Veterans Defense Court is to turn the “Support the Troops” mentality into real, effective support for the troops who come home but struggle to reintegrate themselves into our communities.  Troops are aware they are not coming home to the hostility that ‘Nam veterans faced.   They are frustrated, however, that they are coming home to a public that does not know or much care about their sacrifice and courage, and isn’t interested in learning.   News stories are sanitized, if they’re printed at all. No one looks further. 

A piece of graffiti appeared on a wall at a base in Iraq:
America is not at war. 
The U.S. Marine Corps is at War. America is at the Mall.

When returning  troops meet indifference, they shut down, adding to their isolation.   Many turn to self-medication, or acting out, which finally leads to behavior that ends up in the justice system. 

People believe that since the U.S. has “only” lost 7,000 troops,  compared with other wars, this is a minor conflict.   Our low casualty numbers have a lot to do with high tech body armor, vehicle armor, battlefield medical advances which treat injuries that would have killed in earlier wars.  The fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan is brutal, close and very personal.  The following statistics were gathered by the US Army from troops returning from their 1st deployment to Iraq.    

94% of troops “received incoming small arms fire” — someone intended to kill them.86% knew someone seriously injured or killed.68% of troops had seen seriously injured or dead Americans.51% had personally handled human remains.48% had personally killed an enemy combatant.28% were responsible for the death of a noncombatant. 

The last group is particularly vulnerable.   Perhaps a child was caught in a crossfire or mistaken for an enemy combatant.  Enemy troops do attack our troops in heavily populated urban areas where civilians are likely to be “martyred”. Urban areas are also where the enemy uses suicide bombings as a weapon of choice to overcome our technical superiority.  Our troops must be on high alert:  friend/foe? friend/foe?   Miss a foe and your squad will die. Mistake a foe and an innocent person dies.  Military psychologists have a special term: Moral Injury — a special kind of trauma which occurs when someone believes they have done something morally wrong. 

It’s disturbing for us to think about these numbers or look at the pictures [which are in the youtube recording], and more difficult to put ourselves in these troop’s places.   But it’s very easy to understand why,  if this has happened in a person’s life, they’ll find it easy to turn to self-medication to find a temporary peace or perhaps dreamless sleep.

Combat experience can lead to criminal behavior:
Some self-medicate with alcohol or drugs.  Some engage in self-destructive, or reckless or violent behavior against the communities they risked their lives to protect.
Some have dissociative episodes or “flashbacks” in which they are reliving combat — this leads to armed confrontations with police who are perceived as “enemy.”
All have military training which can condition them to perceive an innocent event as a threat: Friend/Foe?”  Their training triggers violent response.
Mr. Hunter pointed to historical research which documents that this kind of trauma has been around as long as we have written history.  Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey”, some 3000 years old, depict a classic case of combat trauma, exactly as it manifests in today’s returning warriors.  Scholarship has clearly revealed veteran-caused crime waves after every major conflict as veterans return.   After the Civil War, U.S. prisons were filled with returning veterans who had brought their war home with them, and had ended up “at war” with the community they’d fought to protect. This actually led to the first prison reform movements as families of the prisoners petitioned for better treatment and consideration of the veterans’ war service.  World Wars I and II led veterans to the rogue motorcycle culture across the U.S.  As the older veterans disappeared, they were replaced in the 1960s and 70s by returning Vietnam veterans and that pattern may repeat with today’s returning veterans.
A modern treatise on veteran criminal behavior comes from the Military:  the 2009 Fort Carson EPICON Study.   EPICON is “Epidemiological Consultation”.   The study concludes that “Post-deployment violence is most often tied to a combination of pressures of multiple  deployments and exposure to combat,   that is, it’s the number and intensity of deployments. From the report, “Survey data from this investigation suggest a possible association between increasing levels of combat exposure and risk of negative behavioral outcomes.”  This study was launched after a significant rise in incidents by returning troops: one returning brigade (2000 individuals) was responsible for over a dozen homicides and hundreds of violent assaults in their first year after returning from their second deployment. 

The rising numbers of homeless people in the U.S. is another link to combat-related trauma.  A 2006 Wilder report on homelessness in Minnesota uncovered that 24% of Minnesota’s homeless males were veterans and more than half of those had “serious mental illness.” (2)   A further study explains how PTSD and TBI link to criminal behavior.   For further reading, see the Baker and Alfonsi study linked below.(3)  

Solutions, so far:  Changes are happening in legal response on the federal, state, and local government levels.    The federal government has made service a cause for sentencing departure.(4)   California and Minnesota started in 2007 and 2008 by passing legislation that permits a judge to take military service into consideration and permitting a closely monitored probationary treatment — much more likely to result in a change of behavior than a jail term with no treatment.  [See MN Statutes, 2006 revision, footnoted below (5)]   The bill opened the door to prosecutors and judges growing awareness that military veterans’ war experiences were life changing.   The next year, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling in Porter v. McCullom war experience should be considered a mitigating factor in decisions.(6)

In their ruling, the Justices cited the Minnesota and California laws.   This is where the Veterans’ Defense Project got its real start.   People from other states began contacting resources in the two states to find out how they could add this defense in their states.  Volunteers formalized their policy, and started writing “Defending Veterans”(7)   

Over the last 10 years, one of the responses across the country has been the development of Specialty Courts — Drug Courts,  DWI Courts, Mental Health Courts — based on the understanding that drug use or trauma is driving repetitive criminal behavior.  If you address the issues driving substance abuse and root those issues out, the clients won’t keep coming back to the court.   The Project got started in Hennepin County, and now includes over a dozen of the 87 Minnsota counties, but all counties do not offer uniform response, and, of course, most counties have no program in place.  The outcomes of the different programs are very different. 

Most court programs offer the client a legal incentive to get into the program and see it through. These programs are not a “Get Out of Jail, Free” card.  The Client is offered a “legal incentive”.  While in the process, the client will be subject to intense monitoring and accountability and the requirement to  cooperate with treatment.  In turn, the client will avoid jail time and this conviction, whenever possible.  This is not yet true in all Veterans Courts, and where it is NOT true, veteran participation declines. 

As time passed, Mr. Hunter and others became aware that some MN veterans courts were starting to fail.   With help of a MN grant, they organized a working group that included Chief County Attorneys of Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington Counties, the MN Public Defender, leaders from the VA and the MN Dept. of Veterans Affairs.  This group had monthly meetings at the State Supreme Court discussing/arguing over what could be seen to work and what was not working for these people.  Findings were distilled into a list of best practices, The Disposition Issue.  The client will be given an opportunity to earn their way out of a conviction, especially, a felony conviction — something that will stop them from improving their lives in many significant ways.  In summary:
Pre-Conviction Ajudication

  • Recognizes the service and sacrifice of the veterans on behalf of their communities.
  • Helps re-establish the broken trust between veterans and their government and communities.
  • Incentivizes commitment to complete traumatic treatment.
  • Offers hope of redemption  and the ability to once again become an asset, not an on-going liability.
  • Better protects the public in the short and long term.

These best practices are embodied in a piece of legislation now pending in the MN Legislature:The Veterans Restorative Justice Act

  • Presumptive stay of adjudication under certain conditions:
    • There is a connection between offense and military service-related condition
      • unless agreed to by both parties, a hearing must determine that connection exists.
    • Limited to Level 7 offenses (which come with a presumptive probation charge) and below unless agreed to by both parties. Level 8 and above come with a presumptive prison charge
    • A guilty plea is entered as a safeguard
      • ensures acceptance of responsibility as a first step toward rehabilitation
      • ensures swift sanctions if the veteran fails to comply
  • Transfer of Supervision
    • this provision standardizes and formally authorizes the best practices of most Veterans Treatment Courts.
    • enables the transfer of supervision from the county where the offense occurred to the county where the veteran resides, if they are different, without concerns for continuity.
  • End of Supervision Hearing
    • Dismissal of the charges is not guaranteed
    • A public hearing is required at the end of supervision
      • there is an opportunity for the prosecutor and the victim to challenge the dismissa
    • To justify dismissal, the court must find:
      • the Veteran has successfully completed conditions of probation and treatment;
      • the Veteran is no longer a danger to the public;
      • the court must consider the level of harm the veteran’s offense caused.

In summary, the VRJA addresses three major issues:  1) eligibility  for admission to Veterans Treatment Courts; 2) who will decide if a veteran meets the eligibility; 3) what will the legal benefit be for a veteran who volunteers for and completes the requirements imposed by a VTC.
The good news is that Hennepin County has a strong, well-functioning Veterans’ Court. 

(1) https://www.nap.edu/catalog/13364/treatment-for-posttraumatic-stress-disorder-in-military-and-veteran-populations (2) https://www.wilder.org/sites/default/files/imports/Homelessoverview2006_3-07.pdf(3) Baker, Claudia, MSW, MPH, and Cessie Alfonso, LCSW. PTSD and Criminal Behavior, A National Center for PTSD Fact Sheet. US Department of Veterans  Affairs. Retrieved 11 August 2007 from URL: http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/ncdocs/fact_shts/fs_legal.html?opm=1&rr=rr91&srt=d&echorr=true (4) https://guidelines.ussc.gov/gl/%C2%A75H1.11 (5) https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/609.115  Scroll down to  Subd. 10.Military veterans. (6)  https://www.courtlistener.com/opinion/1756/porter-v-mccollum/ (7) Hunter, Brockton,  and Else, Ryan.  The Attorney’s Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court.  Veterans Defense Project: 2014  ISBN  978-1932021813
QUESTIONS: QQ: Is there any way for individuals or groups to throw support behind the Veterans Defense Project?ANSWER:  The website address is http://veteransdefenseproject.org/    The dashboard includes ABOUT, the “Minnesota Initiative” and a DONATE button, and more.
QQ: In past wars, the whole country was impacted and involved.   This eroded with the media coverage of the war in Vietnam, but again, that was staffed by the draft. Anyone’s kid could be drafted.ANSWER: Today, 1% of the population are in uniform, and only half of those are deployed, so 0.5%.   Compare that with about 16% who were deployed in World War II.  Most Americans don’t know anything about the wars in Afghanistan, and don’t know anyone who served.  This war is distanced from Americans who are thus detached from this war, and returning veterans can sense that. 
QQ: What can Americans do to help veterans reintegrate before they commit crimes. 
ANSWER: Americans need to come up with plans to re-engage the veterans.    They return with significant, demanding adult-life experience.  They have training in leadership and team building, superior technical training, and other skills that can be put to use in our communities at a time when we need those skills.   Unless they get the help they need, to get up and move down a good path, they are never going to fulfill that potential.QQ: When kids sign up, what is the picture that is presented to them, starting with recruiters? What do recruiters really tell them about what they’re walking into?
ANSWER:  Through history, the recruiting ages are about 18-22, and that is an age when you are almost physically mature, but still think you’re invulnerable.  He related his own experience: he saw enlistment as a big adventure, an exciting  way to get out and see the world.   He’d seen the movies that glamorize war, and wanted to go out and live that movie. One advantage:  kids signing up today can know they’re signing up for war because we’ve been at war for 10 years.  Some do know that.  Others are “blissfully unaware.”    We know that recruiters are under pressure to  sign up enough to fill those uniforms.   Be aware that the level of service people will face varies from service to service and from job to job.  Not everyone is going to be out there kicking down doors and getting shot at.
There is one point he finds himself addressing often.    People don’t understand why in this time of voluntary service there are unprecedented numbers of re-deployments.   Why do they keep signing up?   Why did they want to go back? This belief leads people to be “dismissive” of the veterans sacrifice and damage.  The answer is that after a person has gone through heavy deployment, it changes you.  Veterans have told him that when they came back, they realized they didn’t fit here, anymore.   The only place where they felt valued and worthwhile and the only place they could contribute was back on the battlefield.   That’s where people understand them and that is where they feel they are part of something bigger than themselves.  They have had life and death responsibility and been in charge of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment, on their own, 7,000 miles away.  Back here, some can only find work behind the counter of a convenience store.  
QQ:   Someone who has traveled extensively and spent time in Spain would like to know how we can rebuild the image of America?   When we travel, people ask why America was even in Vietnam.   Why didn’t we do things differently then and now?ANSWER: He has had the same kinds of questions from people around the world.   There’s no question that our image has suffered.QQ:  She was asked  in college to get up and help make returning veterans feel comfortable.   When she asked how, the answer was by talking to people.   How often do people do that, and who are these people?ANSWER: There is a program called The Yellow Ribbon Initiative.  They ask people to get out and get involved in a variety of ways, doing outreach to veterans.   They have been great partners in helping start Veterans Courts.   [FFI: https://www.yellowribbon.mil/cms/about-us/   NB: This is for enlisted people and their families; support and reintegration are the stated goals of this organization, which depends on volunteers for much of the work.]

Minnesota also has a non-profit “Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans”.   They provide assistance with housing, employment and legal services.  They created the “Vet-Law” program, which attracts attorneys to come to the VA to participate in legal clinics for vets.  They also have a Stand-Down event at Fort Snelling once a year.  (A stand down is where many organizations come to a single spot to offer assistance and counseling to vets at one big day-long affair. The Hennepin County event can have 2000-3000 vets attend during the run of a long day.) [FFI: https://www.mac-v.org/ ]  

The Youtube recording: https://youtu.be/xO_A76aorQc


Emilie Quast, board member
MPD Second Precinct Council
Minneapolis MN 55418
e-quas@tc.umn.edu