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Appeals Court Backs Fridley Police on Indecent-exposure Arrest

The appellant hasn't decided whether he'll ask for a state Supreme Court review.

An appeals-court panel ruled Tuesday that Fridley police acted lawfully in arresting a man at Riverside Park in 2009 for indecent exposure.

A Fridley officer, responding to a complaint on June 16, 2009, found Lawrence Peter Hanson sitting at a park bench, wearing a camouflage jacket and bare legs, according to the ruling. When Hanson complied with the officer's request that he stand up, Hanson's buttocks and genitals became at least partly exposed, and the officer arrested him. 

Hanson lost an appeal at district court based on his claim that the arrest was unlawful. The state appeals court upheld that decision Tuesday ().

Hanson's attorney, Paul Baertschi, said he and his client haven't decided whether to petition the state Supreme Court for a review of the case.

But Baertschi said he "felt strongly about the case and disagreed with the ruling." He said the Fridley police officer "jumped the gun" by making the arrest, which he called "quite a stretch."

An "unsympathetic fact situation" has not helped his client in his court appeals, Baertschi added. 

Anoka County Attorney's Office Head of Operations Kate McPherson said she was pleased by the decision that the district court had ruled appropriately. She described the question of whether the Hanson's arrest was lawful as "routine" and not one that raised "novel" legal issues.

Police Reaction
Lt. Mike Monsrud of the Fridley Police Department said the department likewise was pleased with the Court of Appeals decision. In an email, Monsrud added:

There are many factors that come into play when officers make an arrest of a individual. Arrests are regulated by MN State Statutes, MN rules of criminal procedure, Fridley Police Department Policies and Procedures, and case law, to name a few. Fridley Police officers constantly train and are updated on changes to these regulations by our city and county attorneys.

We act very carefully to ensure that every arrest is done in a lawful manner in accordance with the law. The power to arrest is a great responsibility that police officers do not take lightly. The power to arrest is given to a police officer by society to help keep the peace and protect persons and property.

Some of our cases end up in court with arguments made over the validity of the arrest or the admissibility of some evidence. The Fridley Police Department understands that the judicial review of officers actions is a necessary part of the legal process. We do not always agree with the judge’s rulings, but we do respect them and abide by their decisions.

Last week, a judge on the grounds that he didn't know English well enough to have given Fridley police consent to collect DNA evidence from him. That decision freed Sule, but Fridley police quickly arrested him again on separate burglary charges, Monsrud said.

Pants on the Ground
An infamous recent state Court of Appeals case didn't bear on Hanson's but had enough similarities that McPherson said Hanson's case reminded her of it.

In 2008, Frank Irving Wiggins' loose-fitting pants fell to the ground when a St. Paul police officer ordered him to raise his hands. The officer raised Wiggins' pants for him and in doing so found a gun that was illegal for Wiggins to posess due to past violent-crime convictions.

The appeals court ruled last fall that the police officer's actions were reasonable and did not constitute an illegal search. 

That case, the appeals-court judges said, did present a "novel" police procedure.

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