Minneapolis is a city that is in the grip of a sick political culture and deficient municipal leadership. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has governed Minneapolis from top to bottom for twenty-five years and brought the city to the brink of a public safety crisis. Key players seem to think it in their interest to deny the existence of a crisis, or to leave it unmentioned. Among these key players are the mayor, the police chief, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Thus, as I have argued here and elsewhere, the return of Murderapolis comes with barely a discordant note from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The newspaper speaks with the monochromatic institutional voice of leftists unhinged from reality. The newspaper is simply unable to rouse itself and report the nature of the crime wave that is imperiling downtown and victimizing the law abiding citizens of the city’s minority neighborhoods.
Let us take one example of the byproduct of a sick political culture. On Aug. 22, 2002, while executing a search warrant on a notorious drug house in north Minneapolis, Minneapolis police officers were attacked by the occupants of the house, one of whom sicced a pit bull on the officers. A riot followed when a child occupant of the house was accidentally wounded by an officer who shot the pit bull.
Black bystanders attacked the white journalists who were covering the execution of the search warrant. (See, for example, “Police shooting leads to violent protest.”) The utterly inexplicable upshot of the riot was a federal mediation process to which the police were made a party by agreement of the mayor and then Chief Robert Olson. Neither Mayor Rybak nor Chief Olson spoke a word in support of the officers.
The department now lives with the result of the mediation process, the Police Community Relations Council. The council is a pure product of denial and appeasement, a forum for Minneapolis race hustlers to ply their trade while the police dutifully play their foil.
Today’s Star Tribune article by David Chanen on the latest developments concerning the Police Community Relations Council is incomprehensible on its own terms without some sense of the council’s genesis. Chanen’s article is “Police chief lashes back at relations council.” I can’t find much lashing back here, but the race hustlers plying their trade are Ron Edwards (frequently quoted as some kind of expert by Star Tribune metro reporters) and Spike Moss, a sixties style agitator and buffoon, Al Sharpton without the charm.
Most recently, Moss was in the news in his accustomed role as beneficary of handouts from Minneapolis patrons seeking to cool Minneapolis’s otherwise unmentionable crime wave: “Anti-crime grants come to the rescue.” Moss speaks: “How do we encourage the funders to fund something as uncomfortable as this?” How indeed.
Here’s Chanen’s story:
Minneapolis Police Chief Bill McManus’s top priority when he took office in February 2004 was to improve police-community relations. But on Wednesday, a very frustrated chief told members of the very council designed to achieve the goal that the department would no longer sit silent under their attacks.
Although McManus has rarely returned the barbs directed at his department, his vehement remarks brought into the open a rift that has been developing in recent months between community leaders and officers on the Police Community Relations Council.
The group was established with the help of a federal mediator a few months before McManus became chief to oversee a lengthy agreement designed to resolve tensions and dissipate mistrust.
Many of the community leaders on the council are activists and people whom residents turn to if they have problems involving police. McManus and other top officials have asked the community leaders to come to crime scenes or discuss potential policy changes or new initiatives within the department.
The Relations Council does have influence, even prompting police to put a police dog on leave after it bit a naked man who had invaded a home.
Yet several members of the council nodded in agreement at Wednesday’s meeting when McManus said the council’s monthly meetings have become more acrimonious and less effective in their ability to complete 82 “action items” in the federal agreement.
There are some people in the Police Department who would like to see the council fail, McManus said.
Patricia Campbell Glenn, the federal mediator who worked on the city’s mediation agreement, was at the meeting. She came from Chicago at the council’s request to give the group a “checkup.” The many familiar faces from 2003 still at the table showed a commitment to making the process work, she said.
Community member Anita Urvina Selin summarized the problems they have encountered, including being informed after the fact about Police Department decisions. She did recognize that the council needed a more cohesive way to deal with issues.
“We need to define our role,” said co-chair William Means. “Is it the 82 action items or deal with emerging issues? When guys walk into a restaurant and start blasting, then the 82 issues get pushed back. This is the hardest volunteer committee I’ve ever been involved with.” [Ed.: It’s a shame what happens when guys walk into a restaurant and start blasting.]
The action items are expected to be completed by the end of the five-year mediation agreement. They range from training 14 community groups to take complaints about police to funding for officers who want to learn new languages.
Every day the council doesn’t accomplish an action item, it will give people the opportunity to say “we’ve failed,” said Deputy Chief Don Harris. The council’s community members may be feeling tension because they have a different interpretation about how involved to be with each action item, he said.
When community members prodded McManus to respond, he said he was concerned about what happens at the table during meetings. In the spirit of maintaining a cordial relationship, the police members of the council have sat quietly when negative remarks have been tossed at the department. McManus called them “gut punches” that were driving the two sides apart.
“It was getting us nowhere being silent,” he said. “We decided we will speak out more when there are disagreements.”
He said the community has ignored some successes, such as the case involving the police dog and the naked man. The dog did nothing wrong, but the department took him off the streets to keep relations positive, he said. [Ed.: Congratulations, chief!]
McManus said he almost stopped attending the meetings to show how serious his displeasure was, but co-chair the Rev. Ian Bethel convinced him otherwise. His last words at Wednesday’s meeting were, “We need to straighten this out, folks.”
In an interview after the meeting, McManus said the department has a strong relationship with the council, and that defending the Police Department in the meetings may create discord. But he wants to keep the group together, and his statements don’t indicate a turning point or underlying problems in his relationship with the community, he said.
Activist Spike Moss agreed they have to work harder on the agreement, but they can’t forget about the victims who see them as the leaders able to fix problems. It’s hard not to speak with emotion at the meetings because “we know the families of these people, go to church with them, party with them.” [Ed.: I bet you do!]
Another activist, Ron Edwards, said people should be careful about telling the community members on the council to stay on task. He referred to a city document from 2002 that outlined an agreement about diversity hiring in the Police Department. The 26 officers recently hired or brought back to the department were all white, he said. [Ed.: Where was Ron when the department laid off 26 white officers? ]
Harris agreed that almost every system in the past decade to increase diversity has failed, but he believes that is changing. The department is traveling to Detroit to recruit officers who have recently been laid off there. The rush to hire more officers last month raised questions about what role mayoral politics played in the decision in an election year.
The council also said they have determined that the Police Department committed 25 violations of the agreement. McManus didn’t know the specifics, but said nobody did so intentionally or there may have been a misinterpretation of the agreement.
Glenn suggested that the council write up a progress report and that the police, community and the mayor’s office write up mission statements about expectations. She said Minneapolis’ agreement is one of the largest she’s worked on.
“Growth is a hard process,” she said. “There is enough goodwill and intelligence in the room to fashion something that will move you forward.”
Chanen leaves a lot of threads hanging in this characteristically lame article. For more on the genesis of the Minneapolis Police Community Relations Council, see this press release and the linked memorandum of understanding.
It would have been nice of Chanen to identify McManus’s “vehement remarks,” ask Edwards to follow up on his own somewhat “vehement remarks” about the rehiring of the 26 previosly laid off officers of the wrong race, or provide the background to the lunatic sideshow that distracts the Minneapolis police from what one would like to think is its mission.