Can local cops, particularly one mentioned in a pending racial-discrimination lawsuit filed by five black Minneapolis police officers, be held responsible for the questionable conduct of associates in an off-duty capacity? That issue is discussed by St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Ruben Rosario. Nearly a dozen Minneapolis and St. Paul cops belong to the Twin Cities chapter of City Heat, a Chicago-based, off-duty law-enforcement motorcycle club. The club Web site’s photo gallery contains pictures of some members wearing recognized symbols of hate and racism on their “colors” vests. One unidentified member is wearing a KKK cross emblem with an “I’m here for the hanging” patch right below it. Other members wear “No blacks” patches and an assortment of swastikas, Confederate flags, Iron Crosses and other items that hate-crime watchdog groups say are often displayed by members of neo-Nazi or white-supremacist groups.
None of the dozen or so Minneapolis and St. Paul cops who belong to the club’s local chapter is seen in the posted pictures wearing any of the items. But the pictures could become an issue when the lawsuit goes to trial, possibly later this year. The lawsuit – which names the city, its police force and its chief, Timothy Dolan – alleges that the five cops were wrongly disciplined, stripped of or denied promotions or retaliated against as a result of their race or ethnic origin. The suit singles out one of the motorcycle club members, who is vice president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, as an alleged example of “racially discriminatory” conduct, and comments made by white officers that are allegedly tolerated by the police department.