St. Paul police officer acquitted of assault

Paper: STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul) Newspaper of the Twin Cities

Date: 03/24/95

Conrad deFiebre; Staff Writer

A veteran St. Paul police officer who was videotaped shoving and slapping a handcuffed shoplifter was acquitted of misdemeanor assault Thursday.

Jeffrey Jacobsson, 36, was found not guilty after a three-day trial. Ramsey County District Judge Bertrand Poritsky ruled that the level of force Jacobsson used against Willie Howard, 35, of St. Paul, was a reasonable way to get him to remove clothes the officer believed had been stolen. "It is appropriate for a police officer to inflict minor, temporary, noninjurious pain upon a subject in order to get that person's compliance," Poritsky said. "In my view, that is exactly what the defendant did in this case."

The incident occurred last Oct. 18 in a security office at Dayton's in downtown St. Paul. After reviewing the videotape of Jacobsson's actions, Dayton's security officials complained to Police Chief William Finney, who initiated an investigation. The charges were filed and prosecuted by an assistant city attorney from Minneapolis. Jacobsson testified Thursday that he had not realized that Howard had been handcuffed by another officer until after striking him. Jacobsson said he had pushed Howard against a wall, then slapped him after Howard had cursed at him and refused an order to remove his clothing. Jacobsson said that after being slapped, Howard became cooperative and removed the clothing. Howard was convicted of felony theft and served a 90-day jail sentence. After Thursday's verdict, defense attorney Earl Gray said that Jacobsson was charged only because of "a knee-jerk reaction" by officials. Jacobsson, a downtown beat officer with 14 years on the force, was assigned to desk duty after being charged. He still could face an internal investigation, police officials said.

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