Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Open Letter to City Council Re: Officer Jouppi

We are writing as a members of the Duluth community who are appalled by the fact that former Duluth police officer Jouppi ever had the chance to beat up Anthony Jackson. 

We have read the `last chance’ agreement which was signed by Officer Jouppi, the Duluth Police Department, and the Union which stipulated that, due to repetitive conduct that breeched the public trust (at a minimum), all parties stipulated that Officer Jouppi was incompetent to perform his duties as a Duluth police officer and that the public can’t trust him.

Despite this, Officer Jouppi remained on the force and was enabled to batter Anthony Jackson, a multiply disabled Anishinaabeg elder who was both in custody and in a wheelchair when Officer Jouppi appears to have struck him about five times and, according to the notorious video of the incident, bullied a witness and threatened her too.

One of the violations that was described in the `last chance agreement’ was Jouppi’s tipping off a suspect, who as it turns out was a friend of the officers, in a rape investigation. We are outraged that anyone who would tip off a rape suspect, helping them to avoid questioning and possibly, prosecution, could remain on the force, period.

We understand that Chief Ramsay has to honor agreements with the union, and we understand that it may be hard to be competitive in hiring. Informal discussions with some officers have led us to suspect that perhaps we need to take a serious look at the resources we are giving our police department to work with, to ensure we are enabling the department to be competitive enough in hiring so as to ensure we aren’t stuck with perpetrators wearing badges on our police force. Officer Jouppi, as the last chance agreement, and his beating of Jackson make clear, is a serial bully at best.

We appreciate Chief Ramsay’s statements to the effect that he does not condone Officer Jouppi’s conduct vis a vis Mr. Jackson. However, we have not heard of any action that has been taken by the city, the department, or the courts, that would effectively prevent this kind of atrocity from happening to another vulnerable person.

It is hard to believe that Chief Ramsay would not have liked to have gotten Jouppi off of the Duluth Police force before he ever had a chance to prey on Mr. Jackson. This is speculation, of course, but when we did talk with officers about this, they indicated that disciplinary action in this case was guided to a great degree by the agreement between the Duluth Police Department and the union which represents Officer Jouppi.That agreement needs the most careful scrutiny, and revision so as to prevent another dishonest, much less violent, officer from serving in the Duluth Police Dept.

We implore you, as city councilors who we hope will show the utmost regard and respect for the right of all our citizens to be safe while dealing with police, in custody or otherwise, to take all necessary steps sufficient to ensure that there is no agreement standing that would tend to enable police misconduct, breeches of the public trust, and most certainly not police brutality.

Furthermore, we respectfully request that as soon as is practicable, the City Council schedule a public meeting on this situation. The citizens of our community have the most at stake here and it is time we are heard.

Thank you for your attention to this most grave matter.

From: J. Reyna Crow, Kathleen Spenser Harbaugh, Kris Eilers, Robb Nilsson, Jesse Dittmer (Michigan), Sara Marie Bellanger (Mpls, from Duluth), Jesse Peterson, Michele Naar-Obed, Jeremy D Nydm, Debra Topping (Fond du Lac band member), Chris Stark (Duluth/Mpls), Xotzin Omecihuatl (Denver), Gail Trombley (Superior)

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