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Officer counseled for 'terrorist' comment

The St. Petersburg officer used the term to describe the Uhurus.

By LEANORA MINAI
Published March 27, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - A St. Petersburg police officer has been counseled for calling several members of the Uhuru group "terrorists."

Officer Damien Schmidt, a 22-year veteran, will receive a memorandum of counseling "for improperly utilizing the term "terrorist,' " according to a sergeant's report.

The Uhuru movement, an activist group that raises social and economic issues affecting Africans and African-Americans, has accused police of racial profiling and harassing blacks. The group runs a campaign, "Watch the Police!"

Schmidt's counseling stems from a minor traffic crash he investigated Feb. 26 at 13th Avenue S and 16th Street.

Schmidt said three Uhuru members interferred with his investigation by yelling that he didn't need to get the names of children in the accident, according to police records. Schmidt said the Uhuru members also would not move from the scene and called him a racist. Schmidt was unable to finish the accident investigation.

Sateesh Rogers, one of the Uhuru members, told police supervisors that he told Schmidt, "Speaking is not illegal." Another Uhuru member told Schmidt they were citizens and had a right to watch the investigation.

"You're not citizens! You're terrorists!" Schmidt said, according to police records.

Police supervisors said there were conflicting statements about the context of the terrorist comment. Schmidt said he told the Uhurus, "I look at you as a terrorist group."

Schmidt later said he should not have made that statement. "I understand the issues this raises with the department and the community," Schmidt said in a memorandum. "I understand at this point the Uhurus do not meet the definition of a terrorist organization."

- Leanora Minai can be reached at 727 893-8406 or at minai@sptimes.com

[Last modified March 27, 2004, 02:05:20]


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