DRE officer on finding drug-using subjects: We went to "shitty areas" like Franklin Ave.

Categories: Drugs, Police
franklin blight rect.jpg
DRE trainees would look for subjects in relatively poor parts of Minneapolis, like East Franklin Avenue.
-- This is part three in a series of five snapshots from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's lengthy investigation into officer misconduct associated with the state patrol's Drug Recognition Expert program. For background reading, see chronology of City Pages' coverage at the bottom of this post --

The officers who took part in this spring's Drug Recognition Expert training came from all over the state, with many hailing from areas outside the Twin Cities metro. So it's no surprise most reported being unfamiliar with the urban environment of Minneapolis and the city's drug culture.

-- DRE officer: "I don't know what the big deal is I just gave them marijuana" [FIRST IN SERIES]
-- DRE 'victims' to file civil lawsuit against alleged pot-distributing officers [SECOND IN SERIES]

For instance, consider the testimony of 30-year-old Anoka County deputy Christopher McCall. McCall told investigators that he and his partner (a Nobles County deputy) were "unfamiliar and uncomfortable" with downtown Minneapolis, the area where they were expected to find drug-using DRE subjects.

To take another example, during an interview with an investigator, Nicholas Otterson -- a DRE trainee, state trooper, and Hutchinson native -- said that when the training began, he and his colleagues were unsure how to find subjects. Here's how he said his instructors helped him out (emphasis mine):
Um, they would make comments here and there because everyone was wondering you know how -- how exactly do we go about doing this and basically we were told you need to go out on these streets into the you know less affluent you know, the shitty areas and you know there's all homeless people, a lot of prevalent drug use and find people that are impaired by drugs and get them to volunteer for an evaluation.
In a similar vein, another part of the BCA's reports says: "Officers were instructed to go to areas in the metro area where they would likely encounter individuals who were under the influence of drugs, such as the Franklin Avenue area in Minneapolis."

But DRE trainees weren't limited to the "shitty areas" of Minneapolis in their quest to find subjects. For instance, Bryan Bearce, a state trooper from Little Falls, said he and his partner looked for subjects both in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Bearce said DRE trainees weren't discouraged from venturing into the suburbs, though they had a "richer target area" in the cities.

Of course, the epicenter of last spring's DRE scandal was downtown Minneapolis' Peavey Plaza, which at the time was home to the region's Occupy movement. Olmsted deputy Michelle Ness told investigators she and her partner discovered the usefulness of Peavey "almost by accident" (emphasis mine):
We were just driving along and we kinda looked over to Peavey and we're like whoa concentration of potential clients. So we actually parked our squad and we walked out on Peavey Plaza and we, we really didn't know what was going on I mean we were truly like not sure so we walked up to this, this group of maybe ten people and we're just you know Brian and I were both very just like outgoing, friendly we're not I mean we're just kinda you know relaxed. We're like hey what's going on, why are you guys down here and just chatty and we talked to these people for probably a good ten minutes just kind of asking 'em what was going on, how ya doin', what are you guys here for. Oh occupy Minnesota. Oh yeah, yeah you know. You know so we, they were kinda looking at us and looking at our patches like where are you from. And then it started the well let me um we'll tell you why we're down here. So we gave the speech of this is why we're here. And ah you know all of 'em were laughing like oh you'd give me a pack of cigarettes if I went with you. We're like look we need people that are high though Oh yeah I just smoked weed you know half an hour ago. Like alright let's start over, so I remember my partner was like okay who here smokes marijuana. And literally everyone raised their hands except for one woman. And I looked at her and I kind of laughed and pointed to her I'm like what's up with that she goes well I'm pregnant right now. Oh okay-okay. So then you know at that point we were getting, I'd say bored with people who were just doing marijuana we were looking for other harder drugs. Alright who here uses ah you know cocaine. And a couple raised their hand. Who here used meth I mean it was like a, they were just it was funny really that the, they'd be so honest and so you know here's two cops asking who uses what drugs they were just like ooh me and raising their hands.
Shortly after Ness and other DRE trainees started hunting for drug-impaired subjects in Peavey, local activists filmed a documentary where young people hanging out there alleged some officers had given them marijuana. That, in turn, led to the suspension of the State Patrol's DRE program, and the investigation detailed in the BCA report.

-- 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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swmnguy topcommenter

Having grown up in SW MN, I recognize these officers as a type.  My hometown used to hire 20 year-olds just out of Willmar Vo-Tech as cops.  They would tailgate me all through town, as I drove around in my rusted out '68 Plymouth Fury.  I once got pulled over for going 32 in a 30.  No ticket; just a stern warning I could barely keep a straight face through.  Once in college, I had to let my hair grow because I'd been cast in a play and the costumer wanted my to grow it out so he'd have something to work with as the production neared.  I got followed in my car everywhere I went.  My car was so rusty the wire harness to my tail lights corroded, and I rewired it with lamp cord.  One of my lights was flickering, so I got pulled over.  I hopped out, popped the trunk, and reconnected the wiring right in front of the cop  He was so excited when I opened the trunk, and then so crestfallen when all that was in it was a spare tire, a jack, and my winter survival kit (grain scoop, rubber tire welcome mat, sandbag, coffee can with candle, 100' yellow rope, tow strap, waterproof matches, candy bars, blanket, lantern).  Yes, with my hair touching my collar I was clearly the Town Loadie.


There was one cop who was widely known as the drug dealer.  He would target kids, especially girls, who were one offense away from "getting sent up," usually to Sauk Center.  He would make them report on everyone they knew, and he would "pay" them in drugs,  Sometimes he would give them enough dope to sell, and then they had to tell whom they had sold them to.  There were rumors that he was doing worse to the girls, but I don't know about that for sure.  I did used to see him at parties, supplying all the weed.  I made sure to never partake while he was around, and to politely refuse when he offered.  He was a character right out of a movie.  Crooked, racist, sexist; truly a vile human being.  But a cop, so everyone called him "sir."


In an ever-changing world, it's somewhat comforting to know that nothing has changed in rural MN law enforcement.

Matthias Weigel
Matthias Weigel

Ah, Michelle Glass with yet another poignant and witty comment. You know how I know you didn't read the article?

Kaitlin Konen
Kaitlin Konen

When I spoke briefly with some of the occupiers and DRE subjects they told me that officers were picking drug users up from Rochester, Duluth, Big Lake and Hutchinson, bringing them to the Cities and “observing” them while on the drugs they provided and then just dumped them at Peavy Plaza. Ugh, makes me sick.


As a rural Minnesota nationalist, I resent that these officers couldn't find our own shitty areas and drug users for their "investigations."  Keep those dollars circulating in local communities instead of sending personnel and funds to the Twin Cities! 

CinBlueland topcommenter

 @Sallyjos What officers? They've cut the PD to the bone, the PD Union has demanded certain levels of pay vs officers on the street.

Look, the real cops know where the problems are, they can't do anything about it because of politics. And funding.

If we got rid of these "Community group" funding and actually put a cruiser/cop on the corner.. Crime would go down.


 @CinBlueland  Did you even bother to read the article and the report behind it? You're attacking me for issues facing the Mpls police department, not  DRE program. If you weren't so heck-bent on trashing my comment (what would a stupid hick know, anyway?), you'd realize that I was snarking about the DRE program's practice of bringing officers from Greater Minnesota law enforcement agencies (like Hutchinson, where I live) to be trained in DRE. 


The officers in question aren't  from Minneapolis and aren't union members, at least not in Hutchinson.


But, go ahead and talk right past the content of the article, the issue of deploying scarce city and county government resources outside those communities in a poorly managed program in the Twin Cities, and anything else people might say, so that you can beat me over the head with your hobbyhorse.


There's no point in my arguing. Find the nearest mirror, and hold a conversation with yourself. I'm out of here.

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