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On Friday, September 21, 50 year old Anthony Jackson was brought into the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment facility, the only detox facility in the Twin Ports, by Officer Richard Jouppi who has served with the Duluth Police Department for two years. Officer Jouppi has also served as with the St. Paul and Omaha, Nebraska departments. Jackson, who allegedly had been involved in at least one fight earlier in the night was brought in on a wheelchair and seemed to have a very limited ability of standing due to some physical handicap rather than being intoxicated. The scene that played out that night is disturbing and raises questions about how police conduct themselves with not only people in their custody, but also with the people who work with police in handling such individuals.
The Reader had a chance to talk to a former employee of the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment center named Bradley Barrows and asked him some questions about what he did there and his interactions with police that came into the facility with intoxicated individuals.
Reader: At what time did you work for the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment in Duluth?
Barrows: I worked there from February 2011 to around October 2011, about eight months.
Reader: In that time what were the usual duties and procedures that went on at the center?
Barrows: For what I was doing, I was the clinical assistant. We would admit clients when they were either brought in by themselves or by the police or hospital. We would have to admit them, make them change into scrubs. We would take vitals like blood pressure and pulse to make sure they’re not going into withdrawl. The nurse would give them medication if it seemed fit, or have them go to the hospital if it seemed fit. Basically we would safely detox people from alcohol or other substances.
Reader: It is standard procedure to have the people going in to wear scrubs or the clothes you provided them?
Barrows: Yes, it is standard procedure. We don’t want people bringing anything on to the unit like knives or even chain wallets.
Reader: Typically when officers bring in people who are under the influence, how does that usually go? I’m guessing things usually run smooth.
Barrows: Yes, they run fairly smooth. They bring people in, book them, give us information, like why they’re there. Or maybe why they’re there, of course the person is intoxicated. We would have them wait and stay with us until people changed into scrubs, just mainly to help us. Sometimes people would come in agitated.
Reader: Would you say that between officers and people working at this facility that cooperation is essential in helping these people?
Barrows: Yes, it is.
Reader: Have you ever witnessed any kind of abuses by police bringing people into the center?
Barrows: Yeah I would say that they would be very abrasive and aggressive. I have no idea what happened before they would get there and why they’re using aggressive action like that, when they come through the doors it’s much different. I’ve seen them slam them into chairs, nothing like what happened in this incident. Not as much, but there would still be excessive force I would say.
Reader: Have officers ever seemed to be rude or unprofessional to you?
Barrows: Oh yes, oh yes. Along the lines of “what are you doing at this facility?” if we had something go wrong. We would say, “we’re just trying to do our job.” They have threatened us with arrest for intervening in their work when we weren’t intervening and also basically being told to “shut up.”
Reader: Anything you’d like to add?
Barrows: What can I say? We live in a police state. I’m not surprised to see this happen.
The video that was released one week later by the Duluth Police Department is unsettling. This is our observation of the video. Jackson is seated in a wheelchair and is of course intoxicated. The young woman CADT staff member (we’re withholding her identity in this article as she did not return our phone call) asks the man to remove his jacket. Although Jackson is belligerent, he complies but makes the statement, “want me to throw it at you?” Officer Jouppi comes to take the jacket away from Jackson and that’s where things start to turn in an aggressive manner.
Rather than trying to reason with the man for a minute or simply just jerk the jacket away, Officer Jouppi goes to restrain the man’s right wrist, bending it back behind his head. Officer Jouppi claims that he did this to “prevent Jackson from following through with his threat to strike a staff member.” It seems uncertain as to if Jackson was seeking to throw his jacket or not because Jouppi was already physically grabbing on to the jacket before the wrist hold.
While Officer Jouppi is applying his wrist hold, he makes the mistake of letting his guard down to the man’s left arm while he is right up in his face. The intoxicated man open-handedly pushes Jouppi’s face away. This action by Jackson causes Jouppi to full out punch him five times in the face and head then tips him and the wheel chair over to the ground.
The female staff member comes to assist Jouppi and he replies, “shut up, back up, or I’ll arrest you too.” The female worker complies and puts her back to the wall and she seems obviously terrified and confused by the threat. “You don’t think that people in a wheelchair can’t assault people?” says Jouppi to the staff member. This seems ironic because Jouppi just let himself be assaulted a few seconds earlier. Luckily for him, Jackson seemed to have no real intention of harming the officer, he was just being drunk and uncooperative.
The most awkward thing about the video is when Jouppi and a fellow female officer try to get Jackson back in the wheelchair. The now handcuffed Jackson is hoisted up by Jouppi by his wrists behind his back, which seems to be more intended to cause him discomfort than actually help him. The female officer assumes the main burden of Jackson’s weight by supporting underneath one of his shoulders. The female staff member moves to try to help but then seems to decide to stay out of the situation, she puts her hands up and shakes her head in confusion at the female officer and resumes the position of her back against the wall. The trust between the staff member and officers seems to have been destroyed in the incident that night.
Felony assault charges against Jackson were dropped. Earlier that night, Jackson allegedly “trashed his room in the public facility he was living in,” according to Jouppi’s attorney. Jackson said he “had a .38 pistol and a .45 pistol,” it seems certain that he was not armed with the weapons mentioned by Jouppi’s attorney upon entering the facility. Jouppi himself faces a fifth-degree misdemeanor assault charge, has been placed on paid suspension and may be dismissed from the Duluth Police Department stemming from this and five other incidents on his record.
Police play an important role in our community. Their motto is “To Serve and Protect.” It’s a daunting challenge to be of service to the public day in and day out. My uncle was with the Wichita Police Department, a good friend of mine’s father was the Bayfield County Sheriff for the better part of two decades, a family friend when I was growing up was a Bayfield County Sheriff’s Deputy. I know these men are good people and had to make tough decisions sometimes, but I know they usually upheld what is right. Jouppi’s actions or the actions of Lt. Pike at UC Davis where he sprayed a line of peaceful protestors with military grade pepper spray is not serving or protecting. In the case of Lt. Pike, it ended up in a $1 million settlement going to the students who were peacefully protesting that day. I’m not even going to speculate on the overall costs of the Rodney King beating. Realize that this is your tax dollars hard at work and every time there’s an investigation or video of police brutality, it costs the people’s trust and money every time. What is concerning is that police brutality is becoming more and more common place. Between the common crook to a person expressing their First Amendment rights at a protest, they are becoming quicker and quicker to lash out and beat people down.
We are all human beings on this planet and need to start treating and helping each other out as such. People who get dragged into the detox center probably need more serving and protecting than the average citizen and although they are annoying and hard to deal with, every person no matter what their problem deserves some dignity.