Violence and Cowardice in the Same Package: How Efficient!


As a patrol officer in Minneapolis, Michael Griffin is paid at least $60,000 a year, but he is much more expensive to the city’s tax victims than his salary alone would suggest. Two lawsuits filed against Griffin for crimes committed off-duty will cost more than $400,000.

Last month, the city council approved a $140,000 payout for attorney fees in the case of Ibrahim Regai, who was punched and kicked by Griffin following an incident in a bar. Griffin, who was off-duty, took offense at something Regai said, followed him to another club, beat him to the ground, called another cop, and charged the victim with assaulting an officer. The charge was dropped after video evidence demonstrated that Griffin lied about the incident.

In a second episode, Griffin got into an argument at a bar with three men. After they left, Griffin called another officer to the scene to detain them. Griffin assaulted two of the men, knocking one of them unconscious then picking him up and kicking him in the face. The victim, Jeremy Axel, suffered a concussion and had to have several teeth replaced.

Despite losing the subsequent lawsuit, Griffin is still on the force, and hasn’t faced criminal charges. This is typical of Minneapolis, which has made nearly 100 payouts totaling $14 million for police misconduct since 2006.

As is the case nearly everywhere else, police in Minneapolis have a tendency toward “privileged” criminal violence while off-duty. Former Minneapolis Police Sgt. David Clifford was recently sent to prison after being convicted of first-degree assault in an unprovoked attack on a 40-year-old man.

The victim in the June 2012 attack, Brian Vander Lee, is a father of four who employed in the productive sector. He was talking on a cell phone when Clifford confronted him at a table outside a bar and grill. The SWAT operator, who took offense over something Vander Lee had said, hit him with a punch to the head that knocked him to the ground. As a result of falling head-first onto a concrete surface, the victim suffered trauma so intense that it required two brain surgeries and 40 hours on life support.


The heroic SWAT operator who sucker-punched the unarmed and puzzled victim – and then, displaying the valor for which his profession is celebrated, ran away — insisted that he acted in “self-defense.” Last July he was sentenced to at least twenty-five months in prison.

Although Minneapolis police are bold as Achilles in their dealings with unarmed, non-threatening bar and restaurant patrons, they are much more reserved when dealing with violent criminals. Rafael Lopez was robbed and severely beaten by a gang of at least 10 men on the street outside the Aqua nightclub in Minneapolis — less than ten yards away from the 1st Police Precinct station.

Bruised and bloodied, Lopez attempted to enter the station to file a complaint, only to be met by Officer Aaron Hanson, who angrily told him to leave. As Lopez tried to explain what had just happened to him, two of Hanson’s comrades “came out, put their gloves on and were yelling at me, telling me to get out,” he later recalled.

Lopez had tried to help a friend named Josh Rivera, who was beaten even more severely than he had been. Desperate for assistance, Rivera’s wife Magdalena called 911 A few minutes later – long after he could have provided any help – Officer Hanson ambled outside. After Magdalena described what had happened to her husband and their friend, the officer blithely explained “that he didn’t need to deal with this because it happens all the time,” she testified in an official complaint. Without offering to call an ambulance, or even asking if anybody had been seriously hurt, Hanson quickly retreated into the station and locked the door behind him. It was “literally 10 seconds and he was already going back inside,” Magdalena observes.

Later that morning, Lopez went back to the station to file an incident report.

“He figured police surveillance cameras on the street and at the police station captured the assault,” related the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. “He hoped the videos would lead to the identity of the assailants, whom he suspected were members of a gang because they were all wearing white and red shirts. It turned out he wasted his time.”

A few days after the September 2, 2011 assault, the Minneapolis PD dispatched an official notice to Lopez informing him that “this case does not meet our threshold for investigative assignment at the present time.”

The gallant men of the Minneapolis PD couldn’t be bothered to investigate a violent gang rampage that took place less than thirty feet from a precinct station – in full view of the department’s surveillance cameras. But they can be counted on to mulct the productive citizenry on behalf of the municipal government that pays them, and whose subsidized insurance indemnifies the victims of criminal acts committed by law enforcement officers when they’re off the clock.


3:41 pm on March 11, 2014