NAACP calls for changes after video shows Metro Transit police using 'excessive force'

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The Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP is calling for changes after a video surfaced showing a Metro Transit police officer slamming a man into the ground during an arrest over not paying a $1.75 fare.

Representatives from the NAACP say the arrest, charges and use of "excessive force" against Draon Armstrong, a 21-year-old black man, highlight continued concerns about disparate treatment by police against the African American community, a news release says. (Similar concerns had previously been highlighted in a NAACP report "Picking Up the Pieces".)

Metro Transit told the Star Tribune the incident happened around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday on the Green Line near Target Field station, with the paper noting Armstrong was charged with fare evasion and obstructing the legal process – both misdemeanors – after he was caught riding the light rail without a ticket.

Video captured by his sister that aired on FOX 9 last week shows him being taken to the ground.

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"The video footage of Draon Armstrong being slammed to the ground by the Metro Transit officer further supports our claims that Minneapolis is one incident away from becoming Ferguson," Jason Sole, chair of the Criminal Justice Reform Committee of the Minneapolis NAACP, said in the release.

However, Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington told FOX 9 that the officer was following department policy, noting when someone is resisting the "safest place" for the offer and the individual is on the ground "where he can't hit, or kick or strike anybody."

Minneapolis NAACP responded to the chief's comments, saying it will not tolerate police officers "masking abuse against people of color under the guise of department policy," the group said in the release.

The NAACP is calling for the Metropolitan Council to do several things, including: conduct an independent investigation of the officer and issue its findings to the public; address racial profiling concerns within the Metro Transit Police Department; review and revise the police department's policies regarding arrest protocols, dissemination of tickets, and the use of excessive force; and issue a public response to the NAACP's concerns.

Nekima Levy-Pounds, the president of the Minneapolis NAACP, said in the release that she looks forward to the Met Council's "timely response to our demands."

Metro Transit said it is reviewing the incident, MPR News reports.

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