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October 18, 2003
Man who accused officers of assault denies he's an informant

A journalistic kerfluffle of another sort has erupted in Minneapolis, as the man who has accused Minneapolis police officers of sodomizing him with a toilet plunger denies that he is a police informant:

"I'm not an informant, never will be," Stephen C. Porter said, responding to a story in the Star Tribune that reported he'd worked for the police. He asked his friends to believe his word. "Stick with me, I need you," he said. He added that his friends no longer talk to him.

Members of the community were outraged that the Star Tribune printed the story that Porter worked with police in the past, and questioned the motivation of both the newspaper and its sources:

Spike Moss, vice president of The City Inc., lambasted the media for reporting that Porter was a confidential informant for Jindra.

"Why would you participate in a setup to get him killed?" Moss said.

In an interview before the news conference, the Rev. Randolph Staten of the Coalition of Black Churches said that by publicly identifying Porter as an informant, Porter's life has been placed in jeopardy.

"What are the police trying to do, get him killed?" Staten said.

The Star Tribune stood by its sources, which managing editor Scott Gillespie said were "multiple", and its decision to run the story. It's difficult to see how the newspaper could have acted differently, given that they had this information in hand, and I'm no fan of the Strib. The coverage on the Porter story has been, until now, very one-sided; witnesses have been talking on and off the record, details of the allegations have been specific and revolting, and community reaction has been angry and is not abating. The charges lend themselves to a one-sided treatment anyway, because the police and FBI investigators cannot comment for the record on their progress or lack thereof without getting accused of a "rush to judgment", by either side. The Strib then comes across information that may call some of this into question, and I don't think they had a choice in the matter, I think they're forced to print it once it's properly sourced. If they hadn't, and it came out later that they sat on it, they would rightly have been accused of bias, especially anti-law-enforcement bias.

On the other hand, the only place this information could come is from within the Minneapolis Police Department, and that means one of two things, neither of them good: either it's false and some people in the MPD are out to torpedo Porter ... or it's true, and some people in the MPD are out to torpedo Porter. Publicly outing someone as a police snitch puts their life in serious danger, and in this situation it also manipulates the community into a state of apathy towards Porter, if not outright antipathy. But it does more community damage than whether or not people like Porter, too. Whether or not it's true that Porter is/was a snitch, after seeing him outed by elements within the MPD, how many people in Minneapolis will be coming forward to assist the police, especially in confidence? Would you trust them to keep your name secret? The damage that a few individuals have done to law enforcement in Minneapolis may take years to assess.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 18, 2003 10:35 AM

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