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CAIR files complaint against Minneapolis Park Board over 2018 police incident

Four Somali-American teens were handcuffed by park police at Minnehaha Park last year. 

By Miguel Otárola

ANTHONY SOUFFLÉ – STAR TRIBUNE FILE
Park Police Chief Jason Ohotto and then-interim Superintendent Mary Merrill talked in July 2018 as they walked from a meeting with the family of the four Somali-American teens who were detained by park police.

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations announced it is filing a discrimination complaint against the Minneapolis parks system for what it says is a failure to provide information about a 2018 police incident involving four Somali-American teens at a city park.

On July 2018, four teens ages 13 to 16 were handcuffed at Minnehaha Park by park police after a 911 caller reported four armed boys involved in an assault. The teens were unarmed, and a video of the encounter recorded by a bystander went viral.

No charges were filed and police body camera footage was not made publicby the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

CAIR-MN had requested a police report of the incident but has yet to receive it, leaders of the nonprofit organization said at a news conference Friday. They said they were filing a discrimination complaint against the Park Board with the state Department of Human Rights.

“We believe the Minneapolis Park Board police is acting in bad faith,” said Jaylani Hussein, CAIR-MN’s executive director. “The Minneapolis Park Board has refused to provide public information and data regarding this incident and have played the delay game.”

In addition, CAIR-MN said it is also seeking an advisory opinion from the state to determine whether the Park Board has followed the state’s data practices act.

The Park Board released a statement following the news conference.

“The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has responded to CAIR’s data requests and has provided them with the public data we can legally provide,” the statement read. “We will review and respond timely to any complaints CAIR files with any federal, state or local agency.”

According to Ellen Longfellow, CAIR-MN’s civil rights attorney, the Park Board said it did not send the police report because it was tied to a separate employment investigation.

“We totally disagree with that interpretation of the Minnesota Data Practices Act,” Longfellow said, adding that it has been months since they heard anything about an employment investigation. “We don’t know what they’re trying to hide.”

CAIR-MN is also considering suing the park board, Hussein added.

At the time of the incident, one of the handcuffed teens said they felt discriminated against by the park police. After public outcry over the incident, the Park Board voted to form a park police advisory council made up of residents.

Source: StarTribune

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