counter statistics

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Rich Stanek is running for Hennepin County Sheriff

I think this is a bad idea. This is the text of an article published in the Spokesman Recorder on March 3, 2003. The article is no longer available on the Spokesman website.

Star Minneapolis cop to lead state Public Safety
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder
Originally posted 3/5/2003

But should communities of color feel safer with this man at the helm?

By Abdel Shakur
Staff Writer

Incoming Public Safety Commissioner Richard Stanek has quite the personnel record after 17 years with the Minneapolis Police Department. His two-inch-thick file is filled with over 40 letters of commendation, awards, and specialized training.

Judging from his file, you would think that Captain Stanek has never done anything wrong. However, anyone familiar with police brutality in the Minneapolis police department will tell you different. Records detailing Stanek's history of brutal and racist behavior may have been erased from Minneapolis City Hall, but fortunately the courts and the Black community have a long memory.

In 1992, Black motorist Anthony Freeman was involved in a traffic accident with Stanek after allegedly running a red light. Freeman said that after the accident Stanek broke his window, dragged him out of his car, yelled racial epithets and beat him in the middle of the street.

Under oath, Stanek admitted to using the word "nigger" in the presence of his fellow officers on other occasions and to telling racist jokes. In denying Freeman's account, Stanek claimed that he wasn't even conscious that Freeman was a Black man until hours after the incident, when he had to fill out insurance forms. The City settled the case out of court.

A year after the incident with Freeman, Stanek was one of four officers named in another police brutality suit filed by Ronald Kennerly. In that case, Kennerly said that officers beat him, threatened him, and placed him under arrest without probable cause. A female neighbor who tried to intervene was beaten with a flashlight and also placed under arrest, according to the complaint.

Again, the City settled.

In 1996, Jerold Wahlin filed a suit against the City and a local club, claiming that Stanek, who was moonlighting as security, struck him twice in the head with a flashlight and smashed his head into the club floor a number of times. Stanek admitted to using the flashlight, but said he only did so to stop Wahlin from attacking an off-duty Drug Enforcement agent who was also working security. The City decided to settle this case as well. All tolled, allegations of brutality against Stanek have cost the City over $50,000.

These cases have done nothing to diminish Stanek's career prospects in the department, however. Stanek has the distinction of being the youngest person to hold the ranks of lieutenant, captain, and inspector in department history.

Stanek's rise on the force has only been surpassed by his meteoric political rise in the state legislature, to which he was elected in 1995. Stanek has kept his day job in Minneapolis while moonlighting as a highly influential representative for Maple Grove.

In 1999, against the objections of both Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and Police Chief Robert Olson, Stanek passed legislation eliminating Minneapolis' residency requirement for police officers. Stanek was also instrumental in defeating a statewide racial profiling initiative sponsored by former DFL legislator Gregory Gray.

"Rich Stanek doesn't give a good rip about the civil rights of Black people and people of color," said Gray. "It's not so much racism as it is just not giving a damn."

Gray's bill, which called for mandatory data collection in police departments statewide, was undermined by a proposal from Stanek that departments instead receive state funding for camera equipment on patrol cars.

"I put a premium on honesty," said Gray. "Rich told me what he was going to do and he went ahead and did it. At least he stands by what he says."

Gray said he didn't expect Stanek's appointment to have a more negative impact than former commissioner Charlie Weaver, who Gray said was "not a man of his word."

However, Gray does not think Stanek's connection to the Minneapolis Police Department will help the city's crisis in police-community relations. "It would have been nice to have someone in the Department of Public Safety that could help to bridge some of those gaps between police and the community," he said.

Before leaving his legislative post to take his new job, Stanek passed a bill earlier this year that required driver's licenses to openly reflect the visa status of foreigners. Representative Keith Ellison, who sat on Stanek's Judiciary Policy/Financing Committee, said he supported a less conspicuous, encoded license proposal that would have allowed law enforcement access to some visa information, but not the general public.

Ellison called Stanek's proposal "ugly" and said it was an example of Minnesota putting its "weakest and most selfish foot forward."

With major cuts underway for schools, libraries and social services, Ellison said Stanek, and the police interests he represents, will become even more important to maintaining order in the state. "Stanek is their muscle, and he's the one willing to direct police to control the more vulnerable members of our society," he said. "He's even more dangerous than what they have had in the past because he is articulate and he can be smooth."

Ellison said he was concerned that Stanek's rise represents a shift in government into a literal "police state," where police both write and enforce laws.

"I wonder what his leadership will do to this state," said Ellison. "People have to realize that, in a democracy, civilian power is always supposed to trump police power."

Abdel Shakur welcomes reader responses to

What is troubling to me here is that there were multiple cases of police brutality against Rich Stanek that were settled by the City of Minneapolis.