Body cameras benefit the police

Whether or not they care to admit it, I am positive that every student, professor and community member has an opinion on body cameras for police officers. Perhaps a body camera would have been useful in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson this past summer. But while body cameras are certainly useful in situations like Brown’s, they also reward the police officers who are doing a good job. Therefore, I am glad that many police departments are moving toward using them. Having cameras available for law enforcement officers is important for several reasons. First, it enables their superiors to determine whether the officers are doing their jobs well.  Most importantly, the use of cameras will help the fight to end racial injustice. A report by the Washington Post found that in three-quarters of fatal shooting cases since 2005, the police officers were white, and two-thirds of officers’ victims were black.  Prosecutors won’t press charges against officers unless there is a substantial amount of evidence. Continue Reading

Bill proffered to unseal expunged criminal records for prospective teachers

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of Americans who have had contact with the criminal justice system has increased dramatically in recent decades.The agency estimates that about one in three adults has a criminal record. However, the records often consist of a non-violent crime, an arrest that did not lead to conviction or the convicted person was not sentenced to a term of incarceration.Judges can seal, or expunge, criminal records, including arrests, prosecutions and convictions for people who have demonstrated changed behavior after completing punishment.Expungement is especially helpful for job seekers whose offenses may show up on criminal background checks.Criminal records that remain sealed for those applying for teaching positions concerns Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton). She thinks it would put children at risk.She sponsors HF1401 that would require school districts to unseal expunged criminal records for prospective teachers.   Continue Reading

Dueling State of the City Events Reveal Rift Between Rhetoric and Reality of Inequality

These days it’s hard to tell whether Minneapolis is united about being divided. Last week, two contrasting “state of the city” events — Mayor Betsy Hodges official speech at the American Swedish Institute, and a rally the next morning organized a North-side grassroots group — illustrated the ongoing tension between the rhetoric and reality of racial inequality in Minneapolis.Hodges’ speech, an annual tradition for mayors across the country, emphasized the themes that led her to an easy victory in the 2013 election. As Gino Terrell wrote on the Daily Planet earlier this week, Hodges stressed education, income inequality, and climate change, as part of her plans for the upcoming year. But the well-received speech comes only months after Hodges’ efforts to devote city resources to addressing inequality became surprisingly contentious. During budget debates at City Hall, Hodges’ plans to address racial inequality sparked a small controversy, particularly in parts of the city that are struggling the most with foreclosures and racial inequality. While debating the budget, Council Members Yang and Warsame and other Council Members  voted to defund part of Mayor Hodges’ key proposals in favor of more “meat and potatoes” issues that impact neighborhoods like Jordan or Cedar-Riverside, home to many  of the highest proportions of people of color in the city. Continue Reading

St. Patrick’s Day disturbances create concerns

“Banish bias, but keep downtown livable,” blared the Star Tribuneeditorial of Monday, March 23, 2015, warning about unacceptable public behavior threatening urban revival while avoiding the frustrations of exclusion felt by African Americans.Since 2006, I have written over 100 columns and blog entries about the need for plans to deal with this, which have gone unheeded (they are listed in our “Solution Paper #47”). The Star Tribune is belatedly reinforcing what this column and newspaper have reported (see column of January 14, 2015: “Promises, Promises, Promises…with no follow through”). We need to signal to young African Americans that the broader community is listening to their expressions of frustration, concern and anger.The solution is not to continue touting prosperity for one segment of the population while carrying out calculated bias against another segment hindering their prosperity. Backlash will dramatically drop if paths to prosperity are open through education and jobs.The St. Patrick Day flash-mob “fun entertainment” disruption (over 300 young people enjoyed fighting with each other for over two-and-a-half hours on the streets of downtown Minneapolis) also caused injuries, including the shooting of two individuals, one in front of Target Field, the other one on West Broadway. Continue Reading

MOA outwitted after Twitter fiasco

 Black Lives Matter exposes U.S. economic hypocrisyThe Mall of America (MOA) got caught with its underwear around its ankles last week when it tried to launch a #itsmymall Twitter campaign to promote the mall and to try to overcome the black eye it gave itself after its inane, but predictable, response to the peaceful anti-police violence protest last December.MOA has been trying to prosecute, persecute and defame activists from Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, primarily because its protest took the position that the mall is public space, because it takes and receives public dollars and public subsidy. In an absolute stroke of genius, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis with its pro-Mike Brown, Eric Garner and anti-police violence protest in December, exposed the hypocrisy of private enterprise receiving public funding and public subsidy while enforcing private property rights.By hosting a protest at the mall, Black Lives Matter treated the mall as a public space, a town square, since receiving public dollars makes it, well, public. Ironically, by launching a campaign (#itsmymall), implying that the MOA is the people’s mall, it makes the point of Black Lives Matter, which is, it is a public space. So which is it, MOA, our mall or your mall?It also reveals that the MOA is experiencing financial pain as a result of the Boycott Mall of America campaign launched by Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter and all of us who joined the protest are correct: So-called private entities that take public monies (or public anything) that comes from taxpayers should not be afforded the rights of private property or private enterprise.What Black Lives Matter inadvertently exposed was the slick underbelly of U.S. economics, and that is that this system uses its citizens and their money to support the enrichment of big business. Continue Reading

We Can Make 28th Avenue Better for People

Driving 28th Avenue from 38th Street to Minnehaha Parkway in south Minneapolis is a pleasure, a little too much so. Traffic is relatively light compared to so many busy streets in the city, the speed limit is 30 MPH, the road surface was repaved last year and is nice and smooth. The only likely place you have to stop is the signal at 42nd Street, but even there you have close to 50/50 odds of a green light. There is the occasional cyclist trying to cross at the Minnehaha Creek crosswalk. Otherwise 28th Avenue is clear sailing. Continue Reading

MOA spying must be curtailed now

The Mall of America used highly inappropriate measures to spy on Black Lives Matter protesters. This included making a fake Facebook account to befriend organizers and obtain their personal information and photos, according to a report last week from the Intercept, a security news outlet started by the journalists who first published classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden.While it is understandable that the mall is pressing charges against the protesters for illegally assembling on private property, these so-called security measures allude to a disturbing culture that breaches acceptable ethical boundaries.The Facebook account, which carried the name Nikki Larson, was reportedly created in 2009 and had liked pages involved with Ferguson activists, a labor union, Occupy Minneapolis and anti-police brutality movements, the Intercept reported.The Mall of America has gone as far as creating its own counterterrorism unit called Risk Assessment and Mitigation, which used aggressive tactics in attempts to boost security.The mall is no doubt a potential target for terrorists, and security must be taken seriously. But MOA officials have proven they will go too far in this endeavor. The FBI once questioned a Pakistani-American for simply leaving his cellphone at a food court table in the mall, an incident that alludes to serious racial bias.Black Lives Matter protesters couldn’t be further from terrorists, but the mall seems to be treating them as such. The Mall of America should immediately curb its extreme measures in surveilling for rather mild protests. Continue Reading

#BlackShoppersMatter: Racially profiled at Eagan outlet mall

A viral video that shows four African-American shoppers being accused of theft at the Twin Cities Premium Outlets in Eagan has caused anger and outrage and sparked accusations of racism of mall personnel and of Eagan police. It’s not clear what led up to the point when the four shoppers at the mall were surrounded by police and mall security, but the feeling of the four is clear – they say it is an obvious case of racial profiling.The video, which was posted on March 11 to social media by one of the accused, Art Haggins – just hours after the stop happened – shows police questioning the shoppers in the mall courtyard about possible stolen items. According to Haggins, the group was accused of stealing $11 worth of makeup from the Makeup Outlet. Police said they were called by an employee in the mall who accused the group of shoplifting. The group was searched and showed receipts for all of their purchases and even at one point in the video it shows the contents of a purse scattered on the ground. Haggins said the contents scattered from his girlfriend’s purse as an officer pulled the purse away from her. In the video at least six Eagan police officers can be seen questioning the shoppers. Continue Reading

Years Later, Terrell Mayes Jr.’s Murder Still Unsolved

It’s been three years, two months, and twenty-three days since Terrell Mayes was killed by a stray bullet.  Sixty thousand dollars in award money has been added to that time, but we are still waiting for enough information that leads us to his killer.  About a week and a half ago, Terrell’s mother posted in North Talk that nothing has been happening regarding this tragedy.  I gave my word that I would write up a post.  I’m late on publishing it, but there are personal reasons why this is a difficult post to write.A little over a year ago–January 10th, 2014 to be exact–I received news that my ex-wife’s youngest son passed away unexpectedly. Continue Reading