OPINION | Fourth Precinct at forefront of MPD terrorism


The Fourth Precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), on the North Side and made up of a conglomeration of different communities of color, has been a political albatross to the City for many years. It holds White inspectors to a lower standard of performance than Black inspectors. 

Incidentally, current MPD Chief Dolan served as a commander at the Fourth a decade ago.

Given the out-of-control violence and absolute mayhem by gang bangers and by police on citizens that has been ongoing in the Fourth Precinct under Inspector Martin, we ask how Mike Martin continues as the inspector in charge of the precinct compared to why Black inspectors Dan Battum and Lee Edwards were dismissed.

The mayhem of the past month has included the death of a 17-year-old African American teenager; the shooting of two African Americans on a city bus 18 hours later; the shooting of another African American on Broadway; the unprecedented ambush and attack on a memorial gathering at 35th and Humbolt North; and the continued gunfire that has erupted not only in the Fourth Precinct but across the city, with another man shot at 23rd and Blaisdell (in the Fifth Precinct) and an African American beaten up so badly by the police of the Fourth Precinct that charges against him were dismissed.

Despite Inspector Mike Martin coming into his position as a recognized national expert on gangs, it is clear that the department and its leadership didn’t see this current wave coming. They haven’t a clue who the perpetrators are, and yet we hear not a peep or suggestion from either the chief or the mayor that they are concerned about the performance of the Fourth Precinct.

It’s difficult for any community that is disrespected, disenfranchised, and continuously abused by law enforcement to have any enthusiasm for and trust in law enforcement. The inability or unwillingness of Inspector Mike Martin to control rogues under his command speaks volumes about how much City officials really care.

I say “rogue,” for how else are we to explain that over half of the lawsuits and millions of dollars paid out these past 14 months came out of the Fourth Precinct? A specific example is the beating given Ira Alexander Stafford, African American, 52 years old, on the evening of August 14, 2009.

Stafford was stopped at Bryant and Lowry Avenue North by Squad 425. Three other squad cars (with their lights and sirens off) came. With eight officers present, the beating and tasering commenced, after which false explanations of “probable cause” were filed. And yet Inspector Martin stays.

The camera of Squad 425 filmed the beating. His wounds needed time to heal before he could appear in court, where all charges were dismissed. Mr. Stafford is filing a lawsuit in the federal courts.

WCCO gave a sanitized version of the video on March 3, 2010 (muting the screaming and the Willie Nelson “Country Boy” soundtrack accompanying the beating, and cutting the second beating that occurred in the back seat of the squad car.) We showed a longer cut of the details, graphics and sound on our MTN TV program, Black Focus, last Sunday.

Are you as troubled as I am that during the summer of 2009 a lot of African Americans suffered the same brutality that befell Mr. Stafford (many charged with the catchall for Blacks: “obstructing legal process”)? The MPD took out its anger about the exposure of misconduct and brutality of their gang strike force and other special MPD units, as, during July and August, African Americans were fair game to have their civil and human rights violated and their heads split open.

The Fourth Precinct has been in the forefront of this terror. Attempts to file complaints were suppressed by the MPD and its Internal Affairs Department, all under the leadership of Chief Tim Dolan.

It’s only when politicians seek higher office that they express concern for communities of color. Otherwise, these same politicians turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the egregious acts violating civil and human rights.

It is despair, unemployment, the lack of education, and an uncaring police department that turn communities into garrison states, resulting in our African American community, like our most recently fallen, lovely, 17-year-old African American female, becoming the targets and the victims.

I understand why the community lacks trust in the police. The continuing disenfranchisement of the African American and other communities of color is unacceptable.
Stay tuned.

Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of key civil rights organizations, including the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com; hear his readings and read his solution papers and “web log” at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com.