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Police woes as the Gang Strike Force story heats up

PLUS: Pawlenty on Obama, and Sid Hartman writes a love letter to Joe Nathan.

The sordid details of the Gang Strike Force just keep getting more, well, sordid. Most recently, there was Thursday’s resignation of Sgt. Randall I. Olson, a Strike Force supervisor. The Strike Force has come under fire recently for what seems to be wild abuse of seizure laws (prompting a review of those laws, according to MPR), but, as Randy Furst of the Star Tribune tells it, Olson went beyond the call of duty in a notable way: Olson allegedly stalked a woman “by using the unit’s electronic monitoring equipment and obtaining her phone records.”

Ruben Rosario and Mara H. Gottfried of the Pioneer Press give a few more details: “Olson, 43, previously was the subject of a Minneapolis police internal affairs investigation involving the woman, who said he fathered her child.” The PiPress writers speculate that Olson’s resignation could be strategic. Now that he has left the force, he cannot be compelled to testify in any internal probes.

As this story develops, the Minneapolis City Council must be relieved that another police-related headache has ended, although that end came with a hefty price tag: The City Council settled a police brutality case, paying nearly a half million dollars to the claimant, Eldridge Chatman. As the Associated Press relates the story, Chatman had the bad fortune to be on hand when police were serving a warrant on a neighbor’s apartment. For reasons that the police refuse to detail (the police report says he “refused all commands” and, according to the AP, “showed defiance in his body language”), an officer, Craig Taylor, called Chatman over and then struck him in the face with enough force to cause Chatman to lose bowel control; another officer then struck Chatman in the stomach with a baton. While the police report claimed Chatman was not injured by this, Chatman claims the blow caused bleeding in his brain that required multiple surgeries. “Chatman was not charged with any crime,” the AP dryly notes.

Tales like this sometimes seem to erase the line between the behavior of police and the behavior of criminals, but you can always count on criminals to redraw those lines as quickly as they can. Let us take the tale of Kenny T. Jackson as an example. As reported by Sarah Lemagie of the Star Tribune, Jackson allegedly went on a rampage Tuesday, trashing a house — when police arrived, he was still breaking things. At the house, the police found the source of Jackson’s ire: his 4-year-old son. What had the boy done to inspire such a scene? According to the police report, he had worn a blue shirt, which Jackson had torn off him; he then reportedly beat the boy. According to Jackson’s father-in-law, the man is a member of the Crips, and was enraged that his son was wearing the colors of a rival gang. When the police arrived, Jackson fled and unsuccessfully tried to hide in the trunk of a car.

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The Star Tribune’s Kevin Diaz takes a look at Barack Obama’s appointees as U.S. envoys abroad. While Obama had promised to reduce the number of non-career ambassadors, as it turns out, most of his appointees have been wealthy donors. Included in this list is Sam Kaplan, an attorney from Minneapolis who helped raise $100,000 for Obama’s presidential run. Kaplan will be the United States’ next ambassador to Morocco.

While Gov. Tim Pawlenty still isn’t saying whether he will run for president, he hasn’t let that stop him from campaigning against Barack Obama, most recently ripping into he president in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt.” As reported by James Rowley, Pawlenty railed against Obama’s stimulus package, claiming the money was “misdirected” and “largely wasted”; “Only $160 billion of it was stimulative,” Pawlenty insisted, saying the stimulus money had done little to create new jobs. Rowley points out that “Pawlenty’s views are at odds with statements of his own economic development director, Dan McElroy, who has traveled the state touting the benefits of Minnesota stimulus projects funded by federal money.”

According to the Star Tribune’s Jennifer Bjorhus, the daily paper has proposed a new board of directors, including former Wall Street Journal publisher L. Gordon Crovitz. MinnPost’s David Brauer offers his first thoughts on the proposal: While Brauer is intrigued by the choices and pleased to have local representation on the proposed board, including Minnesotans Michael Sweeney and William Farley, it’s still the owners who are in charge of the paper, and while they have been adamant that the Star Tribune is a long-term investment (“which for a private equity firm means ‘five to seven years,’ ” Brauer says), the specifics of the future of the paper haven’t been made clear yet.

WCCO’s Heather Brown talks to representatives from area homeless shelters, and discovers that the average length of stay in one shelter is up from 30 days to 50 days. People Serving People President Jim Minor tells Brown that his shelter’s population is at its highest since 2000, saying, “When they can’t leave and there’s more becoming homeless, then our numbers will continue to grow.”

“I think I’m the only submarine in Minnesota that’s licensed that I know of,” a Woodbury dentist tells the Pioneer Press’s Richard Chin. Kyle Edlund built a 12-foot-long midget submarine he bought on Craigslist. Chin details the rather obsessive creator of the sub, a 66-year-old from Eveleth who built it in his garage and who describes the skepticism of his friends: “I think some of them thought I was on the road to suicide.”

“It wasn’t pretty,” says the Star Tribune’s Sid Hartman, “but one of the great closers in baseball — the Twins’ Joe Nathanwas able to retire the Texas Rangers on Sunday.” Hartman has a great deal of affection for Nathan, detailing the relief pitcher’s dogged ability to get the final outs in a close game and saying that without him, the Twins “wouldn’t be in the American League Central race.”