5/11/2007 Newsletter

Contents:

  • MPD Gets Increased OT Money to Harass Blacks Downtown
  • Pauline Thomas: Local Police Abuse Worse than Most Believe

MPD Gets Increased OT Money to Harass Blacks Downtown

From staff reports
Last update: May 11, 2007 – 12:14 PM
From staff reports

Minneapolis police will get an extra $750,000 to cover overtime costs so they can patrol downtown and other targeted areas of the city in the busy summer months.

The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously Friday to provide the extra money. The proposal originally called for $500,000 for downtown patrols, but the council added $250,000 to address "hot spots" in other parts of the city.

The money will come from the city's contingency fund.

"Targeted police overtime would allow us to provide a similar level of high police presence and visibility that we did last summer," according to the city's staff report on the request. "This presence would be throughout the day and evening at problematic locations including bus stops, Block E and other areas of heavy pedestrian traffic and entertainment venues."As summer approaches, we must strengthen our police patrols to make sure downtown and areas around bus stops are safe," Mayor R.T. Rybak said in a city news release. "Because of our aggressive crime-fighting efforts, crime is falling and we want to maintain that trend into the summer months. We can do that by adding officers and increasing collaboration with Metro Transit Police and the County."This is important not just for downtown, but the city as a whole," said City Council President Barbara Johnson. "Making sure our neighborhoods are safe is our top priority, and this extra money will ensure that people are seeing more cops on the streets this summer."

© 2007 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.


LOCAL POLICE ABUSE WORSE THAN MOST BELIEVE

By: Pauline Thomas
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder
http://www.spokesman-recorder.com/News/Article/Article.asp?NewsID=30285&sID=16&Search=YES
Originally posted 8/7/2003

There's an old saying that a fish doesn't know he is swimming in water. It's the only thing he has ever known and he is so used to it that he doesn't realize anymore that the water surrounds him every moment of his life.

Similarly, Blacks who have grown up in Minneapolis may realize that the way Minneapolis police act is often wrong, but without anything to compare it to, perhaps they don't realize just how bad it is.

This past weekend, some people I know from another state visited Minneapolis. They went downtown on Saturday night and later reported to me their shock and anger when they observed Minneapolis police macing Blacks all up and down the street. Not macing a fine mist over the crowd, but macing Blacks right in their eyes. Some were reportedly carrying pistols in both hands and walking up and down the streets. Now, these police know that it is against Minneapolis police policy to mace anyone in their eyes. But they still do it. Daily. And they do it often to people of color.

The out-of-town Blacks asked me, "What's going on in Minneapolis? What kind of a city is this?" Why did it seem that Blacks were the only group being targeted by the police? Now, these are Black people who live in another major city in this country. They have grown up in the Black Experience in urban America. But they could not believe the brazenness with which Minneapolis police were openly macing Blacks who had nothing to do with any incident. People who were only trying to get food from a restaurant were being maced.

This should trouble us, that even other major cities do not have the level of police misconduct that we suffer from here. It appears that the thuggish conduct by Minneapolis police that former police chief Tony Bouza spoke about years ago is back again. The problem is that the Minneapolis police are too often out of control. Because the managers in the police department are not willing to actually supervise and discipline them, they have become even more out of control.

You can't send an army of 900 people out into the streets with guns and mace and not supervise them. The U.S. Army doesn't even do that during a war. If you don't supervise, soon these people will start doing whatever they want, whenever they want. And that's what we've got going on here.

Do you know that in other cities, police have to write reports about everything they do on their shifts? That's how other police departments catch the bad actors, find out problems with their policies and determine the need for further training. But in Minneapolis, officers can show up and mace hundreds of Blacks, and never have to report it to anyone! Never do a report, never even get questioned by their supervisors, never be held accountable.

Why should the taxpayers foot an expensive tax bill for police when we can't even tell from their records where they are going or what they are doing? Why are we so accepting in Minneapolis that we allow this army of armed people to drive around town, getting into any kind of skirmish that they want, without even having to report what they have done? Secretaries are required to keep better track of their time than that. Just like the fish swimming in water, we in Minneapolis seem to have accepted, on some level, that police can act like this. We need to get some perspective by listening to Blacks from other cities where, even though they have police brutality, they do not have the level of brutality that we suffer here.

Because police are not given any consequences for their misconduct, the problem grows worse. (Often their conduct is covered up by prosecutors who are willing to send innocent brutality victims to jail for "cover up" crimes, or police are actually rewarded for their brutality by being promoted within the department.) As the problem escalates, we need to escalate our outrage and our activity around the misconduct. What keeps us, the entire community, from expressing our outrage over police misconduct? I have asked many people these questions, and here are some responses:

*We in Minneapolis want to still think of ourselves as living in a small town. We don't want to face the reality that we have become a major urban area with big-city problems.

*Business leaders and politicians are afraid to face the reality of their police force, because they are afraid that if we openly start talking about how bad it is, we will scare away business (conventions, sports events, tourists, etc.). So money is being valued higher than those who are victimized by the police.

*Many people in this area have no idea how bad the problem is. They assume that the isolated news stories about it are just that "isolated incidents." They have no idea that every day Blacks and other people of color are brazenly, openly beaten by police for no reason. That this kind of sadist conduct by police has reached epidemic proportions in the MPD.

I know, and have always stated, that it is not all police. But no longer can we marginalize the problem and act like there are just a "few bad apples." The "bad apples" in the MPD have driven out many of the decent officers, who have resigned and moved to other departments, or simply retired from policing. The culture, and intimidation of police officers has resulted in bad apples being the norm in the MPD, not the exception.

*Many people in this area are in denial. They hear about the abuses, but it makes them feel uncomfortable, so they reject the information. They never really let it in. They think, well, it doesn't really affect me, so why should I get involved?

So the Minneapolis fish keep swimming in Minneapolis water, quite unaware at most times that the water has started to stink. The simple answer is that unless we--all of us (people of color who do not realize that they are treated even worse here than in other larger cities, and others who simply do not know or refuse to learn about the problems)--take charge of this situation, we will continue to silently give police permission to break the laws that they are supposed to be enforcing.


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