DRE officer: "I don't know what the big deal is I just gave them marijuana" [FIRST IN SERIES]

Categories: Crime, Police
dre scandal rect.jpg
Both Willers brothers allegedly served and protected... with drugs.
Last spring, a number of Occupy protesters who hung out in downtown Minneapolis' Peavey Plaza went public with accusations that law enforcement officers offered them drugs in exchange for participation in the State Patrol's Drug Recognition Expert program -- a program intended to help officers identify the specific nature of suspects' intoxication.

-- FOR BACKGROUND READING ON THE DRE SCANDAL, SEE FULL CHRONOLOGY OF CITY PAGES' COVERAGE AT BOTTOM OF THIS POST --

The allegations prompted the DRE program to be suspended (it still is) and motivated an internal investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. In September, the Hennepin County Attorney's office announced that due to "insufficient evidence," no criminal charges would be filed in connection with the DRE scandal. With the investigation complete, the BCA's 513-page report about the investigation was publicly released earlier this month.

This week, City Pages is running a five-part series highlighting select passages from the report. Today, we share the story of the Willers brothers, both of whom were accused by law enforcement colleagues of giving pot to DRE subjects. Other posts will highlight the techniques officers reportedly used to entice DRE participation from Minneapolis drug users, the difficulties investigators had in sorting through contradictory reports about officers' involvement in the alleged drug distributing, what the officers themselves said about the moral justification (or lack thereof) of the DRE program, and the stonewalling tactics some officers used when confronted with accusations of wrongdoing by investigators. We'll wrap it up next Monday with an interview with Dan Feidt, the journalist, film producer, and activist primarily responsible for the original video report exposing the DRE scandal.

-- The Willers brothers --

Karl Willers, 25, is police officer in Hutchinson. His brother, Kenneth, is a deputy in Nobles County. Both took part in DRE training last spring.

On June 1, after allegations about officer misconduct during DRE training went public, State Trooper and DRE participant John Schmutzer was interviewed by investigators. At one point during the interview, the investigator asked Schmutzer whether he'd ever observed an officer providing narcotics to a subject 'for the purpose of practicing drug recognition.'

Schmutzer's response? "Maybe." Here's how he elaborated (emphasis mine):
The last day of the class last day of certifications I had an officer get into my squad car as we were heading to lunch. This was a shortly after [the YouTube video had been posted] regarding um the occupiers down in Peavey Park. Ah there was a great amount of discussion regarding that video ah in the classroom and then ah we went out to try to find more evals and came back. We broke for lunch an officer got in my squad car. When he got in my squad car he said I don't know what the big deal is I just gave them marijuana. It's not like I hurt anybody.
Schmutzer later identified that officer as Kenneth Willers, and said he took Kenneth's statement as a confession that he had indeed given subjects pot. But when Willers was confronted by investigators about Schmutzer's allegation, he "adamantly denied making any such comments, even in jest."

Karl Willers was also accused of giving DRE subjects marijuana. From an MPR report:
A Chisago County sheriff's deputy told state investigators he was "in shock" after he saw his training partner give two young men marijuana to smoke in the back of a squad car.

Deputy Andrew Mahowald told the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension that his partner, an officer with Hutchinson police, offered the pot to the men in a black case and explained to Mahowald, "they are going to smoke for us."

But when BCA investigators approached Hutchinson Officer Karl Willers about the allegations against him, Willers' attorney instructed his client not to talk.
Though neither brother was charged with a crime, the Star Tribune reports that Karl Willers remains subject to an internal Hutchinson Police Department investigation. Details about the status of that investigation aren't public.

DRE SCANDAL BACKGROUND READING (EARLIEST TO MOST RECENT):
-- Minnesota police giving Peavey Plaza Occupy-ers drugs as part of impairment study, report says [VIDEO]
-- State Patrol "looking into" Occupy drug allegations; Mpls police claim no involvement
-- State Patrol: "No evidence" officers gave Occupy-ers drugs
-- Police did indeed give Occupiers free pot, new evidence suggests; DRE program suspended
-- DRE drug scandal: City of Minneapolis denies involvement as outstate officers take heat
-- Dan Feidt, producer of DRE drug scandal video, talks about Occupy, police, and the war on drugs
-- Sgt. Rick Munoz, DRE program boss, is pretty much the biggest jerk ever
-- DRE drug scandal: No criminal charges for alleged dope-distributing officers


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