6/2/2010Minnesota: Appeals Court Upholds Discrimination Suit Against Police
Minnesota Appeals Court fines Minneapolis police who harassed former judge who is black.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld a $44,783 judgment against the Minneapolis Police Department for the discrimination suffered by a black motorist at a towing yard. On September 5, 2006, James Cannon went with his wife and son to the Wrecker Services Inc. lot at 9:45pm to retrieve the Green Ford Contour that had been taken from James Cannon, Jr. Cannon paid $250 for the car's return.
While waiting in the small lobby of the tow company for over 45 minutes, the Cannons were joined by four more individuals, all black, likewise forced to wait for the return of their vehicles. One of these other vehicle owners became angry at the delay and knocked on the bulletproof window to get the attention of a Wrecker Services employee. That employee dialed 911. According to witness accounts, there was no other disturbance as the Cannon family and the other drivers waited patiently for their vehicles. Arriving on the scene, Minneapolis Police Officer Julie Hagen declared that the next person to touch the window would go to jail.
"I want you to shut up and behave yourselves," Hagen yelled to the group. "You need to act like adults!"
When Cannon's wife Lois suggested that Hagen's tone was inappropriate, Hagen responded that she would "use any tone I damn well please."
James Cannon decided to leave and said he intended to file a complaint against Hagen, but Hagen said it did not matter because there was nothing he could do to her.
"Yeah, you got my badge number," Hagen said mockingly. "My badge number is 1019, got that? 1019."
Hagen was wrong. The Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights found Cannon's discrimination allegation credible, as it was supported by the other individuals who were present. James Cannon has added credibility as a judge for the Minnesota State Office of Administrative Hearings handling workers' compensation claims. He also served on the civil rights commission between 1988 and 1998, although none of the members considering Cannon's claim joined the commission before 2002. The appeals court upheld the commission's judgment.
"Based on the calm atmosphere in the waiting room at the time the officers arrived, Cannon could have in good faith concluded that Officer Hagen's conduct was so at variance with what would reasonably be expected in those circumstances that discrimination was the only explanation," Judge Harriet Lansing wrote for the court.
The court found that Cannon's attempt to oppose discrimination by filing a complaint was met with intimidation as Hagen yelled mockingly at Cannon. These circumstances matched the requirements of a very broad city anti-discrimination ordinance. The appeals court upheld $15,000 in compensation for Cannon, plus $22,283 in attorney fees. The police department was fined $7500 -- an amount that must be paid to the city of Minneapolis.
A copy of the decision is available in a 190k PDF file at the source link below.