BY ED FELIEN
The cops in Minneapolis have got to be brought under control.
They must be held to the same standards of behavior as the rest of us.
Our civil rights in Minneapolis are protected by the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission. If some person, some business, or some institution violates our civil rights we have the right to a hearing before the Civil Rights Commission. The commission can subpoena witnesses and compel them to testify under oath, and they can award damages. Except, if our complaint is against the Minneapolis Police. The City Charter specifically exempts them. The mayor and City Council can change that immediately. They can change the charter and make the police accountable when they violate our civil rights, the same as everyone else.
If you and I were involved in a homicide, the police would immediately separate us and take a statement from each of us. We would have a right to have a lawyer present, but we would remain in custody until we gave a statement. When Officers Dustin Schwarze and Mark Ringgenberg killed Jamar Clark, they were asked to wait together in the back seat of a squad car, and they didn’t give a statement for 72 hours. Ditto the officers who killed Terrance Franklin, Thurman Blevins and Travis Jordan. This is something that can change with the directive from the chief, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a resolution from the City Council signed by the mayor articulating that everyone has a right to equal treatment under the law.
There must be a full public accounting of the killings of young black men by white police officers. Did the officers follow protocol and established procedures? We needed the mayor and chief of police to publicly evaluate the actions of those officers. They have refused a public accounting. Now, the governor has announced that the Minnesota Department of Human Rights will look back 10 years to evaluate the conduct of the Minneapolis Police.
And we need the state legislature to overturn the law that prohibits Minneapolis from having a residency requirement for Minneapolis police officers. One way to have community policing is to have our police living in our community.
Jim Davnie, state representative for the Corcoran, Standish-Ericsson, Seward and Longfellow neighborhoods, sent out a note to all neighborhood forums on how the legislature was working on solutions for the problems with the police. I asked him:
Will you support repeal of the law that prohibits the City of Minneapolis from requiring city residency for all city employees?
He wrote back to the forums, “Of course.”
Then, a bit later, probably after some city union reps started talking to him, he wrote back to the forums:
“Sorry, I was moving a bit too fast last night and didn’t read your question correctly. I don’t particularly care where the nice person who sells me my annual dog license, helps run our water treatment plant, or reviews my construction project for permitting lives. I do care what the relationship is between my community and the people who police it. I think we need to focus again on trying to repeal the preemption on residency requirements for police.
“Best to email me directly so that this forum remains informative but doesn’t risk becoming an off-putting place for political debate.
“Representative Jim Davnie”
“Thank you very much for responding so quickly and so favorably. As I’m sure you know, your council member, Cam Gordon, has proposed residency for police as part of his immediate and transitional program from where we are to where we need to be.
“I am very concerned that limiting the residency to just police officers would be proved to be discriminatory against a class of employees, and the law would be ruled unconstitutional by the Minnesota Supreme Court. I think the residency requirement would have to apply to all NEW hires by the city in order to be fair and effective. But, perhaps I don’t understand the legal ramifications. Please explain.
“And I assure you and members of this forum that I will be polite, but a discussion of your perspective in this crisis should be public it seems to me. That’s the price of leadership in a representative democracy.”
City elections next year will be a referendum on how well the mayor and City Council responded to the challenge of meaningful change demanded by the protests. Will they take it seriously, or will they give us a lot of warm words and no action? We need everyone involved in the protests to stand up and demand action and accountability from our mayor and council members. The police are accountable to them, and they are accountable to us. If they refuse to hold the police accountable, then we will have to hold them accountable next November.
We could have paid community organizers and paid block club captains who look out for people on the block. We could hire private security firms to patrol businesses at night and report any serious problems to what my Uncle John used to call “The Gun Squad.” As long as there are weapons in common use, we will need access to weapons to defend ourselves from crazies. The Gun Squad should be called only in severe emergencies and they must be trained extensively in de-escalation techniques.
We need to restructure our police department (like we need to restructure our society) from the bottom up. The authority to enforce the law must always reside with the people governed by that law. What we have now is top down. That’s authoritarian.
The mayor and City Council are playing into this authoritarian tendency by defunding neighborhood organizations and by threatening to eliminate neighborhoods of color by zoning that will allow unlimited gentrification of the inner city.
Imagine a Minneapolis without such a heavy presence of the police.
You would call 911 and tell the operator what the problem is—noisy neighbors; a couple fighting; an auto accident; shoplifting, etc.
Let’s put neighborhood people on the problem.
Isn’t it better to have a neighbor knock on your door and tell you you’re making too much noise and you are disturbing the peace?
If a couple are fighting, deliver a pizza: “Hello, pizza delivery,” and recommend counseling. Share information about the Harriet Tubman Shelter for Women and Families.
If it’s an auto accident, send a notary public to take statements, photograph the scene and leave a notarized statement with the people involved and file one with the DMV.
If you have evidence of a kid shoplifting, share pictures with county welfare and the schools.Find the kid, get him an education and vocational training.
Each neighborhood person should get paid $100 for each hour, or portion thereof, they are dealing with clients.
The 3-percenters are a right-wing militia. They say only 3 percent of the American people actually supported the American Revolution, so they figure 3 percent of the current population could do an armed insurrection and take over the government.
The population of Minneapolis in 2018 was 425,000. 3 percent of that is 12,762. On Monday, May 25, when people heard of George Floyd’s murder, 20,000 people marched two and a half miles from 38th and Chicago to Lake and Minnehaha to the 3rd Precinct Station. For three days they laid nonviolent siege to the police station. The mayor decided that protecting the station was not worth a human life, so he ordered the station house abandoned. The protesters burned it to the ground. It was their building. They were not from some distant planet. They were us, the best part of us. They recognized the station house as their property, built with their tax dollars, and they recognized that it had turned against them and was being used by people outside of our community to come in here and kill us. And they burned it to the ground.
They said Basta Ya! Enough!
How can that be anything but heroic?
They were also saying, let’s start over.