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October 10, 2018

Promvongsa given $60,000 for his abuse

Minneapolis, Minn – Anthony Promvongsa won a $60,000 settlement from the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force and the City of Worthington as a result of his lawsuit challenging their maltreatment of him during a 2016 traffic stop.
“I feel vindicated and relieved to put this horrendous incident behind me. While no amount of money can bring back a feeling of peace, this settlement shows what happened to me was wrong and the police are making changes to ensure it never happens again,” stated Anthony Promvongsa. 
In addition to the $60,000 payment, the City of Worthington agreed to a number of radical policy changes dealing with use of force. These changes include requiring that officers must document in their own reports when they witness other officers using force. This change is a direct result of Sergeant Tim Gaul not mentioning Agent Joe Joswiak’s use of force in his report from the Promvongsa incident. Additional changes to use of force designed to ensure accountability for officers include: 
  • Officers must submit forms detailing their use of force within five days of the incident.
  • The report must be reviewed by a superior officer who is required to review all available video and incident reports before signing off on the use of force.
  • Ending the practice of supervisors on scene approving use of force. 
  • Annual review of use of force reports by the chief of police.
  • Disciplining any officer who is deceptive in reporting, delays reporting, or does not file a report. 
Along with these new rules required by the Promvongsa settlement, police officers will receive POST-certified training on use of force, felony stops, and de-escalation on an annual basis. In addition, the police department will have officers’ complete additional annual de-escalation training through PATROL (Peace Officer Accredited Training OnLine). 
The police department will also make changes to the Citizen Complaint process including making the form available for completion online and changing the deadline from 90 days to six months, as well as allowing forms to be submitted later under compelling circumstances.
“We hope these changes and the monetary settlement will result in the Worthington Police Department and the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force taking a long hard look in the mirror to identify and address acts of abuse committed by their officers,” stated ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson. “We hope both law enforcement groups recognize the abuse and mistreatment by police of the people they are sworn to protect and serve is unlawful, immoral and it damages the relationship between police and the community. Residents of Worthington should be empowered to step forward if more abuses occur because the complaint process is more accessible and usable.” 
In July 2016, Promvongsa was pulled over by Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force Agent Joswiak, who also serves as a Worthington police officer, and Worthington Police Sergeant Gaul after being accused of tailgating two off-duty drug task force agents. Within seconds of Promvongsa’s vehicle being stopped, Agent Joswiak rushed the vehicle with his gun drawn and started screaming at Promvongsa to “Get the f--- out of the car, mother f---er, show me your hands.” He then immediately yanked open the door and began violently pulling Promvongsa from the vehicle before Promvongsa could even remove his seat belt. Agent Joswiak began to knee and punch Promvongsa while Promvongsa was still in the vehicle. After a couple of seconds, the audio from Sergeant Gaul’s squad car dash camera appeared to be intentionally shut off by Sergeant Gaul.  
As a result of this plainly unconstitutional use of force and assault, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed an excessive force lawsuit in November 2017 against the Worthington Police Department, the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force and the City of Worthington on behalf of Anthony Promvongsa. 
Attorneys in the case were Jen Cornell and Allyson Petersen of Nilan Johnson Lewis PA along with Ian Bratlie and Teresa Nelson of the ACLU-MN.