On a day when citizens weighed in again on police tactics during the Republican National Convention, St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington and Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher announced stepped-up efforts to use video and photographs to help prosecute those suspected of criminal acts.
Harrington said a new RNC investigative unit has begun to take a closer look at more than 6,000 hours of surveillance video taken during the convention, held Sept. 1-4 at the Xcel Energy Center.
Authorities are seeking the public's help to identify victims of an assault on E. 7th Street and damage to a vehicle on Shepard Road during the raucous opening day.
Two hours after Harrington and Fletcher spoke, a seven-member commission led by former federal prosecutors Tom Heffelfinger and Andy Luger held a public hearing in St. Paul as part of its investigation into RNC security planning.
While some citizens have accused officers of excessive force, the commission is not focusing on individual cases of misconduct by police or citizens, Heffelfinger said Thursday. It is looking for problems in training or supervision.
Heffelfinger said he was not surprised by the timing of Fletcher's and Harrington's appeal.
"What the chief is saying is, 'If you know something, tell us,'" he said.
The RNC investigative unit's task, Harrington said, is to follow up on written reports and examine photos and video.
Footage released Thursday shows people described by authorities as anarchists running west from Jackson Street and Shepard Road. Someone pounds on the hood of a vehicle, denting it, and then strikes the windshield, cracking that, said police spokesman Peter Panos.
An Internet photo shows a man allegedly being roughed up by anarchists in the 200 block of E. 7th Street downtown, Fletcher said.
A "zine" compiled by the anarchist group FRIENDS said the man tried to intervene when someone cracked windows with a hammer.
"He wants to be a cop, a hero, but he's made a mistake," the account said. "This isn't a peace march; this is the thrashing body of a wrecking machine."
Harrington said the man may not see himself as a crime victim, but police "want to make sure this is made right." Anyone with information is asked to call 651-266-5471.
In the stories they told Thursday evening, participants at a hearing described a loss of trust in law enforcement, a feeling of betrayal by the city of St. Paul and a sense they had stumbled into a police state.
Police riot gear obscured names and badge numbers, they complained, making it harder to file a complaint. It seemed the system served the needs of the delegates, others noted, and not the rights of people who came to legally demonstrate. There was a perception that "if you weren't in a suit and a tie you were there for some ill purpose," said Meredith Aby, spokeswoman for the Coalition to End the War, which organized the permitted marches.
Others with stories to share with the panel should send them to firstname.lastname@example.org by Nov. 14.
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