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Sorting through allegations of brutality
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Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson, left, and Mayor R.T. Rybak speak at a news conference Thursday about allegations of police brutality. They promised a full investigation. (MPR Photo/Art Hughes)
A day after a Robbinsdale man publicly described his alleged sexual assault by two Minneapolis police officers during a drug raid, city officials are urging the public not to rush to judgment. Mayor R.T. Rybak says it will probably take at least 90 days for the FBI to complete its investigation. But activists and community leaders say the allegation is another example of excessive force by Minneapolis police.

Minneapolis, Minn. — So far, the most detailed account of events surrounding the brutality allegations against two police officers has come from the accuser and his supporters.

In a hastily called news conference Wednesday, Stephen Porter, 25, briefly described how the officers allegedly sodomized him with the handle of a toilet plunger. He answered no questions and collapsed moments after leaving the news conference. He was taken away in an ambulance, but was not admitted to the hospital.

City officials announced an FBI investigation into the matter on Tuesday, but provided few details of the allegations then. A day after Porter's news conference, Mayor R.T. Rybak says he wants the public to know what he knows about the case. But he also says he doesn't want to undermine the FBI investigation, which could take six weeks and possibly more.

"The questions that we're asking in private -- that I'm asking in private -- are, 'How much can I say, I want to say more, the public needs to know more. How quickly can we get these things done,'" says Rybak.

What is the problem with these police officers? ... Maybe they should check them out. They want the streets to be safe, but what if the cops aren't being safe?
- LaKeisha Johnson, Minneapolis resident

Rybak says the claims require an answer from city officials as early as possible, even if what they can say is limited.

"Something hit a level of allegation that we considered outrageous enough that we needed to stand up -- and not only take the action -- but stand up and tell folks that we took the action immediately," says Rybak. "We felt in this case it was very important for people to get the information from us, and not rumors."

John Delmonico, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, says he's frustrated by those who rush to judgment. He says Porter is a known drug dealer who has several prior drug and theft arrests in the past.

"What's bothered me is the fact that so many people have jumped on the bandwagon to believe these allegations," says Delmonico. "These alleged community activists are parading the victim in public with a script to read, not letting him answer any questions. And yet they say, 'We want to wait for the facts to come out.' I think when the investigation's done, you'll see the officers did nothing wrong."

Despite officials' pleas for patience, opinions about the matter are easy to find.

Taneka Redmond and LaKeisha Johnson work at the Variety Beauty Supply store in north Minneapolis.

"If the cops are turning bad now, it's just ridiculous," says Redmond.

"What is the problem with these police officers? What's going on?" added Johnson. "Maybe they should check them out. They want the streets to be safe, but what if the cops aren't being safe?"

At Lucille's Kitchen restaurant, Minneapolis resident Damien Tucker says he's not surprised to hear such allegations against police. He says he once watched officers restrain his father with little provocation.

"Four officers pinned him down on the ground. And I saw that when I was a kid. I know most police officers are decent people, but there's a few that would be a 'gang in blue,'" says Tucker.

Porter's attorney, Keith Ellison, says his client is in pain and is not prepared for the severe public scrutiny he's now subject to. Ellison can't say what, if any, legal action he plans. He says police too often get away with using excessive force, because it's their word against the criminals.

"You might reasonably and rationally believe you could stick somebody in the anus with a plunger, and probably you'll get away with it. Because you figure this person's a criminal, this person's been in trouble with the law, they're African-American. First of all, this guy doesn't even know who to tell," says Ellison.

If the FBI investigation results in charges against the officers, they face up to 10 years in prison. If the investigation clears them, Porter could be charged with lying to federal officials.

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