OPINION | MPD’s ‘culture of violence’ still prevails


“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
— Bishop Desmond Tutu

About 10 days ago (August 17 and 18), TV stations, newspapers and websites across the country reported on the February 19, 2009, Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) beating of Darryl Jenkins. All linked to or referenced the brutality captured by the police car dash cam video.

Even the Star Tribune finally spoke up: “The Minneapolis Police Department has a history of trouble with brutality… The city has paid out more than $14 million in settlements and other liability payouts for police misconduct since 2000… Questionable behavior has been part of the department’s culture for years… In too many cases…problems with excessive force continue… The city must do more to see that cops don’t abuse their power and authority over citizens.” (August 19 editorial: “The troubling arrest of Derryl Jenkins”)

Since the end of the Federal Mediation Agreement on December 31, 2008, the acts of police brutality against African Americans have been off the chart, as we have long written about citizens being killed, beaten, maimed, and otherwise brutalized by police. Thankfully this incident will receive FBI review.

(See our 2/4/09 MSR column on the death by tazer of Quincey Smith by the MPD, “Homicide of Quincy Smith warrants federal inquiry.”)
Later, on February 19, at a house in the 3100 block of Queen Avenue North, an 11-year-old African American girl was hit in the face by police and suffered a wound requiring six stitches — yet one more child who will be unable to trust police again.

A week ago, another African American, Willie Bryant, was attacked by a police dog in South Minneapolis, resulting in ligament damage to his leg (36 stitches) and loss of some mobility and flexibility.

Earlier this summer Mr. Johnson, of the 4200 block of Penn Avenue North, was beaten by police, leaving him walking on crutches and now using a cane. As with Mr. Jenkins, charges against Mr. Bryant and Mr. Johnson were dropped or not made at all, and none were arrested. Just beaten.

Now, MPD Chief Tim Dolan, who boasts of knowing all, wants us to believe that he had no knowledge of the Jenkins controversy. In fact, in March 2009 when the charges were dismissed by the district court, the chief was informed by the City Attorney’s Office. As with the case of Carl Eller, the MPD tried to suppress this video evidence.

The Star Tribune also reported on MPD text messages calling the incident a “good fight,” almost as if the new members to the MPD were carrying out an initiation ceremony as seven or eight beat, kicked and tazered Mr. Jenkins. The video shows a long conversation between Officer Walker and Mr. Jenkins with the car door open. Why would Officer Walker do that?

The City paying out $14 million in settlements and other liability payouts for police misconduct since 2000 is staggering and frightening. The taxpayer is held accountable, not the police.

Ten years ago a jury, in awarding a $1 million settlement, said to the presiding federal judge that “a significant part of the weight that they gave to their verdict was that they determined that a culture of brutality and violence existed within this department.” That culture still exists.

As one who served on a federal committee that attempted for five years to have suggestions for corrective action accepted, only to have the committee’s efforts obstructed, sabotaged and circumvented, we are not surprised that a culture of brutality and violence continues to prevail in the MPD, some of it driven by the issue of race.

The Star Tribune editorial of August 19 ignored the history and offered no solutions, leaving the volcano under the crust of this city to bubble. It is just a matter of time before it erupts, and if it does we’ll talk about Pompeii in North America.

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.The MinneapolisStory.com.

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