BY ED FELIEN
Council Member Phillipe Cunningham was quoted in a recent article in The New Yorker: “No one could say that we didn’t try reform. We tried every kind of reform.”
I phoned his office. No one was there. I left a message: You say you’ve tried everything? How about trying to do your job? Your job is to run this city, and that means you are responsible for the actions of city employees. We, the taxpayers, just paid out a million dollars in damages and lawyers’ fees because we couldn’t defend a city employee’s actions in a wrongful death lawsuit. Shouldn’t that city employee be investigated to insure they won’t go off and kill someone else?
Officer Lucas Peterson claims he and other members of the MPD Tactical Squad cornered Terrance Franklin in the basement of a house in South Minneapolis, and somehow Franklin managed to get control of Officer Durand’s machine gun pistol and was firing at the other officers. Peterson says he charged Franklin and shot him. Peterson’s fantasy was so improbable, the attorneys that the city had hired decided the judge and jury wouldn’t believe it, and they agreed to a settlement. A more likely scenario would be that when the two officers pulled Franklin out from under the basement stair, Durand opened fire, hitting Franklin and the two other officers.
At the time of the settlement, in March, Council President Lisa Bender said “I think our policy changes in the police department, leadership changes, have really created a scenario where this is unlikely to happen again, so I think it’s time to move forward and really continue with the changes that we’re making in the police department to make sure this never happens again.”
We warned that was whistling in the dark. We argued that unless you hold your officers accountable through a public inquiry, you will continue to reward the killing of young Black men. Stop whistling and turn the lights on.
The burning of the 3rd Precinct Station in reaction to the killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day was the political expression of the most progressive forces in South Minneapolis. They laid siege to the building for three days and nights. There were thousands of them. They were not giving up. Finally, after hearing from some council members and to save lives, the mayor surrendered the public building to the judgment of the public. And the officers who had been defending the station believed they were defending Derek Chauvin. And they thought, “What is all this military gear for, if not for a moment like this?” But Jacob Frey could read the writing on the wall. He acted quickly to fire Chauvin and the other officers, and he respected the just outrage of South Minneapolis.
But when he gave the order to abandon the building, the officers felt he was abandoning them, and that sense of abandonment gave 150 of them post-traumatic stress disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder?
The Mayo Clinic says, “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event—either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police and sheriff patrol officers are the 14th most dangerous profession. In 2016 they had 14.6 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers. Their median salary was $59,680. Refuse and recyclable materials collectors, on the other hand, have the 5th most dangerous job with 44.3 fatalities per 100,000 workers. Their median annual wage was $36,190.
Tony Bouza thinks you could cut 25% of the police budget and increase efficiency without sacrificing performance. Instead of four 10-hour shifts, go to five eight-hour shifts. Go back to one-car patrols and no more promoting your buddies. “Do we really need an arson Inspector to sit around and collect dust?”
I believe the funding and overall administration of block clubs should go from the MPD to the Minneapolis Department of Public Health, and certain lab work that is duplicated at the county or state should be eliminated.
I don’t think the present mayor or City Council appreciate the serious need for a public review of the actions of officers in the MPD that resulted in the death of Minneapolis citizens, and I don’t think they have the courage to make the substantial, but necessary, cuts to the MPD budget.
Somebody should call them up and ask them to start doing their job.