Over the last few weeks, allegations have surfaced that members of the Minnesota police force have been giving cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs to young protesters, before returning them to Peavey Plaza-- Minnesota's version of Zucotti Park.
Seemingly part of a longstanding government program that teaches police officers to recognize the various effects of drugs and alcohol, the program's website states that police perform 12 "evaluations" on drug-impaired subjects before finishing their training.
The catch? Rather than work with non-profit organizations who are already treating the addicted, which is customary, the police may have been picking up activists and giving them drugs, before soliciting some information about the movement and returning them, under the influence, near the Occupy camp.
"They gave me a full bag of weed and they gave me a pipe to smoke it out of," one Occupier said at a hearing earlier this month.
The Occupy Minnesota site explains: "Local independent media activists and members of Communities United Against Police Brutality began investigating police conduct around the Plaza after witnessing police dropping off impaired people at the plaza and hearing rumors that they were offering people drugs. We videotaped police conduct and interviewed participants, learning some very disturbing information about the DRE program."
While it should be noted that Communities United Against Police Brutality and, to a similar extent, the Occupy Movement may have a motive in undermining the police, their videos are certainly intriguing.
In one, which is a full 35 minutes, people can be seen coming and going from police cars seemingly of their own free will, talking about how "they're doing tests" in which the officers are giving out free drugs, and you, too, can participate as long as you're 18.
Here's the video (skip to around 55 seconds in, if you want to get straight to the gist):
The police originally maintained that it was all part of a long-established program, and they just tend to look for volunteers in that area because it is known as a "hang out" for drug users-- it had nothing to do with the Occupy movement.
But now, CBS Minnesota is reporting that the Minnesota Department of Public Safety has actually launched a criminal investigation into the matter, suspending the program and even putting an officer on paid leave while it investigates any unethical activity.
“Training law enforcement officers to detect drug impairment helps to keep our roads safe, but we need to ensure that all participants follow guidelines and operate within the law,” DPS commisioner Mona Dohman said.
Dan Feidt, who filmed much of the incriminating video, maintains: “It’s very unethical for police to encourage people to take drugs with any kind of reward, whether that’s cash, food, cigarettes, or whatever — that’s still the equivalent of giving them drugs anyway...It trains officers to treat people like objects, I think it’s unacceptable, I think it’s inhumane, clearly when people were put through this program as training subjects, they weren’t given information about treatment even though they might want that.”
Even Russia Today took an interest in the story, interviewing Feidt and showing some of his clips:
Occupy Minnesota explains the risks, specifically to the Occupy movement, of the alleged police behavior:
It would appear now that they are no longer relying solely on [working with nonprofit organizations who are already helping drug users], instead recruiting users directly and, participants say, providing them with drugs. After the sessions, these individuals are then dropped off in public areas without supportive care, creating a public safety hazard. In an example at Peavey Plaza caught on film, an individual who said he’s been smoking courtesy of the police for an hour, crossed a line of Minneapolis police barricades, climbed to the top of a large sign and sat 15 feet above the sidewalk swinging his arms and legs in front of a police camera.
One Twin Cities columnist, Ruben Rosario, commented:
Now, the first thing that popped into my head after watching the folks on this 36-minute video was that classic "this is your brain on drugs" 1980s TV spot with the image of an egg sizzling in a frypan.
My second thought was, "If true, where was this taxpayer-funded smoking-pot cops program when I was young and foolish?"