BY ED FELIEN
Guilty, as judged by the whole world.
Everyone saw what happened. Millions watched 17-year-old Darnella Frazier’s iPhone video of Derek Chauvin squeezing the life out of George Floyd.
The world was outraged.
And local politicians acted surprised.
Mayor Frey said, “That there will be Black Minneapolis residents and Minnesotans left stunned, suspended in disbelief that the jury actually delivered this moment for George Floyd—that reality speaks volumes to the trauma our society has inflicted both quietly and overtly. Ours is a deeply imperfect city—one with its work cut out for it—but as a people we have never been so completely committed to doing that work.”
Really, Jacob Frey?
Last year, in the May editions of Southside Pride, I wrote to the mayor and City Council:
“On April 29, the Minneapolis City Council agreed to begin paying out more than a million dollars rather than challenge the civil lawsuit against Officer Lucas Peterson for the wrongful death of Terrance Franklin.
“Your refusal to hold Lucas Peterson accountable for his actions in the murder of Terrance Franklin continues to legitimize the racist murders of young black men by our Minneapolis Police Department. Lucas Peterson’s obvious lies were impossible to believe, and the city will pay out $975,000 to Franklin’s father and another $250,000 to the law firm hired by the city to cover up this disgrace and you still refuse to hold him or the other officers involved in this tragedy accountable.”
In March of 2020 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.”
Really, Lisa Bender?
But those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and in May Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd because he believed, like Lucas Peterson, that he could get away with it.
Council Member Phillipe Cunningham, the chair of the Public Safety Committee that has responsibility for holding the police accountable, joined in the chorus: “As a city we have to work together to build systems of public safety and justice that work for all of us and keep all of us safe. Everyone in our community deserves to be safe.”
Really, Phillipe Cunningham?
I have written to Cunningham, “the public support for and credibility of the MPD will not be restored until the Department seriously investigates the behavior of Officer Lucas Peterson in the murder of Terrance Franklin,” and requested an interview, and he has refused to answer me.
I contacted Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office and they told me they only investigate actions of Minnesota law enforcement officers at the request of the governor. So, I wrote to the governor and to his press secretary, Teddy Tschann:
“Seven years ago, Terrance Franklin was killed in a basement in South Minneapolis. This year the City of Minneapolis did not contest a wrongful death suit brought by Franklin’s heirs in which they claim Franklin was killed by Officers Lucas Peterson and Michael Meath while he had his arms up and was trying to surrender. I am attaching the attorney’s brief and my history of the event as it happened seven years ago.
“The Hennepin County attorney declined to prosecute the officers seven years ago. It is critical, if justice is to be served in this matter, that the governor ask the attorney general to investigate this case.”
Of course, I received no answer.
After the Chauvin verdict Walz said:
“Our communities of color cannot go on like this. Our police officers cannot go on like this. Our state simply cannot go on like this. And the only way it will change is through systemic reform.
“We must rebuild, restore, and reimagine the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve. We must tackle racial inequalities in every corner of society— from health to home ownership to education. We must come together around our common humanity.”
Really, Tim Walz?
Isn’t this just some political trick to propose a few outlandish ideas to win back some of the progressives you lost with your overreaction to the demonstrations when you called out the National Guard? You know the Republicans in the Senate are going to block any proposals you make that would represent real systemic change. Are you just doing this to have an issue you can use against them next year when the governor, the House and the Senate are up for re-election?
Jordan Kushner has written on the Minneapolis Issues Forum: “The Chauvin trial and the upcoming trials are not about changing or reforming the police—THEY ARE ABOUT PROTECTING THE STATUS QUO.”
I would add to that, all the theatrical posturing about reforming the police and changing the structure would only make lines of accountability even more remote and end up making the police even less accountable. It’s not just about protecting the status quo. It’s about making the status quo impenetrable.
There’s nothing wrong with the structures that exist right now. If only our elected officials would have the courage and the will to use them.
The City Council could hold hearings and discover the facts about what happened in the police killing of Terrance Franklin, and in the even more recent police killings of Jamar Clark and Thurman Blevins and Travis Jordan. The mayor could demand that Chief Arradondo explain whether his officers observed protocol in killing these young Black men. And the governor could request that Attorney General Keith Ellison investigate these killings to see if criminal charges should be brought against the officers involved. These actions wouldn’t require any new ordinances or legislation, they would simply require the willingness of our elected officials to discharge their proper responsibilities.
The U.S. Justice Department is launching an investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department to see if there is a culture of systemic racism. I’m sure they’ll find something, and I’m sure the mayor and City Council will act shocked and vow to change things, and I’m not confident that much will actually change.