City Desk

Pershing Park Case: Plaintiffs File Response To Sporkin Report

Peter Nickles

The Sporkin Report continues to reverberate among plaintiffs seeking damages in the infamous Pershing Park case. Late yesterday, attorneys in one of the cases filed their own response [PDF] to the Sporkin findings [PDF]—repeating their position that a federal criminal investigation into the missing or destroyed evidence should be on the table.

The lawyers join a growing contingent seeking such a twist in the seven-year-old case.

Councilmember Mary Cheh has called for the feds to investigate the discovery abuses. Police Union Chief Kristopher Baumann has argued for a federal criminal investigation as well.

The scope of the Sporkin Report was limited to the missing running resume, a minute-by-minute accounting of police activity on the day of the mass arrests, and the gaps in the radio tapes during the incident. The limitations included not assigning blame for the evidence problems. Yet plaintiffs argue that the retired judge made a case that further inquiries are required.

Plaintiffs attorneys write:

"Unfortunately, Judge Sporkin was unable to identify who, within the District government, was responsible for destroying the produced hard copies and two computer-saved versions of the JOCC Running Resume. Sporkin sates that he was presented with conflicting accounts from various responsible parties but fails to go into much detail or to share his suspicions as to the parties responsible. As a result the Report states that '[b]ecause the contradictory statements in the record are incapable of being reconciled, we cannot rule out the possibility of untruthfulness or something worse.'

Plaintiffs will seek to resolve this matter by deposing the relevant actors under oath, but believe that this matter can be referred to the U.S. Attorney for criminal investigation."

The missing running resume has long been head scratcher. It's difficult to fathom a police activity more documented than the events surrounding the anti-World Bank/IMF demonstrations. And no chief was better to suited to this task of documentation, memo production, mock exercises, and pre-planning than Charles Ramsey. He had been brought in as chief to modernize and make efficient a department floundering in a rundown headquarters with beat cops stuck buying office supplies out of pocket.

The demonstrations were not just an opportunity for the police to show their might or for a chief to parade around in his lanyard. They were also big-time cash cows. Everything from overtime to new digital cameras were suddenly available to the rank and file.

There is a considerable paper trail documenting departmental activity before the demonstrations, during the demonstrations, and after the demonstrations. Every detail was fleshed out in memos and e-mails.

There's tons of e-mails dedicated to figuring out how to staff the holding area for the arrestees, what equipment they would need, who would qualify for overtime, and how many civilians could get in on the extra dough.

Even the rations that officers would be eating merited its own little docket. Before one protest event in spring 2001, Assistant Chief Alfred J. Broadbent, Sr. sent out a memo [PDF] to all top officials concerning meal selection.

Under the subject "Taste Test of Heater Meals Plus," Broadbent wrote:

"In an effort to provide quality meals to the members who are assigned on posts during demonstrations, which may be long in duration, the department is seeking out vendor providers. Heater Meal Plus is one such vendor. A selection of their meals will be made available to the department for field testing on Wednesday, April 11, 2001. To ensure a fair representation of test-tasters, please designate one official of your command to respond to ROC North...on Wednesday, April 11, 2001, at 1000 hours, to obtain the test meals for disbursement to the members. It is suggested that sworn members of the CDU and patrol units be the primary targets for the test. Ms. Minor will demonstrate the proper preparation of eating the meals...."

Every protest generated tons of after-action reports. Even the smallest events demanded a memo. In one report, an official wrote:

"We also observed that under noisy conditions it was difficult to give directions to the officers on the line. I would suggest that we look into giving the platoon lieutenant some sort of small lightweight bullhorn or other amplification device. I believe that right now, each District only has one. The one in the Second District is large and extremely heavy and not practical to carry around to be available when needed. If possible we need some smaller and lighter weight ones that could be easily carried and used."

The point here: If the department could document a taste test and fuss over bullhorns, it surely could have kept a tight watch on the running resume. The fact that it has vanished from the record continues to baffle. Sporkin is just the latest official to question how such an important document could disappear.

Now it's up to a U.S. District Court judge to decide if federal law enforcement should take one last look.

*photo by Darrow Montgomery.

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