MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – A federal class action claims a Minnesota “Metro Gang Strike Force” assaulted illegal immigrants, falsely imprisoned them and stole their stuff, including jewelry, cars and cash.
The 34-officer force “intentionally targeted” immigrants and had a “pattern and practice of using their apparent authority as police officers to extort cash and property from people … particularly from those concerned about their immigration status who would naturally perceive that they had no ability to assert legal rights,” the class claims.
Officers’ behavior is “so severely deficient as to reach the level of gross negligence and deliberate indifference to the deprivation of constitutional rights of members of the public,” according to the complaint.
Two plaintiffs, a married couple, say members of the cop gang stole $7,500 worth of jewelry and other property from them “and converted the property to their own use.” Another plaintiff says the cop gang stole $2,800 in cash.
The six named plaintiffs say the police gang failed to inventory what they seized, that even the Hennepin County Sheriff admitted they were poorly supervise, and that they failed to document their actions.
The force – which disbanded on Oct. 10, 2008 when its chief, defendant Ron Ryan, retired – included officers from Minneapolis, St. Paul and a number of surrounding cities and counties. The Metro Gang Strike Force and its predecessor, the Minnesota Gang Strike Force, operated for 11 years under Ryan, according to the complaint.
In the 37-page complaint, the plaintiffs describe incidents ranging from insults about their national origin to unwarranted physical violence and outright theft.
The class claims the officers targeted the Minneapolis car impound lot to seize property. Officers called the lot to ask if any “Mexicans” were around, then would show up and take what they could from people, and sometimes would call Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers as well.
Officers knew of immigrants’ vulnerabilities and “exploited them for personal gain,” according to the complaint. The class claims that task force members knew that immigrants frequently carry cash with them, and seized it at will.
The class claims that Ryan admitted to a state auditor that it was “copper mentality” to steal from suspects. Ryan “asserted that ‘coppers like to take as much as they can, that’s just the nature of the beast,'” according to the complaint.
The class seeks an accounting, reimbursement, appointment of a receiver and preservation of task force documents and records. They also seek damages for assault, conversion, false imprisonment, and state and federal civil rights violations.
Class counsel includes the law firms Zimmerman Reed of Minneapolis, Fishman Binsfeld & Bachmeier of Bloomington, Minn., and the Alvarez Law Firm of Coral Gables, Fla.