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Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests were forcefully removed from their 18 day encampment outside the Fourth Precinct in Minneapolis – and then took their protest to City Hall. In between they reiterated their demands – Release the tapes, appoint a special prosecutor with no grand jury to investigate the death of Jamar Clark, and institute a safety plan to protect Minneapolis residents from continued police violence.

It’s far from over and the problems did not start with the shooting of Clark by the Minneapolis police. This is a systemic problem and while it wasn’t the protesters’ choice this belongs squarely in City Hall at this point. It’s not about one incident with one police officer but a system, a city, that are not functioning anything like they must.

I know I'll be OK based on this color. That's white privilege for ya.

I know I’ll be OK based on this color. That’s white privilege for ya.

It’s hard to write about this as a middle-aged pale male in St Paul, but the endemic racism in Minneapolis has never been far from my mind. Every single time I see the city limits sign I hold out my hand and say aloud, “I should be OK, I’m white.”

This isn’t just a joke from the other side of the river. Minneapolis police have a history of race-charged incidents.

Yet that is far from the only thing weighing on the death of Jamar Clark. Anytime police use excessive force, as clearly appears to be the case here, there is a systemic failure at the core. Either the wrong cop was hired, they were not given enough training, they were over-worked to the point where training couldn’t guide their actions, or they were fueled by improperly treated PTSD.

Jamar Clark's death was not the only incident.

Jamar Clark’s death was not the only incident.

That’s far from the only indictment of the system, however. As important as it is for police to be the ones who can de-escalate any situation we have to look at how many situations escalate in the first place. If North Minneapolis has become a place where the only representative of city government anyone sees is wearing blue there is a serious problem.

We have crime problems here in the West End, too, but we don’t just hand them over to the police. “Problem properties” are reported by neighbors and the community organizer, Betty Moran of the Fort Road Federation, swings into action. A meeting is called in which everyone with a stake in solving the situation comes. That includes police, neighbors, code enforcement, fire department, animal control – everyone who can be a part of fixing the problem and removing the troublemakers. Neighbors are instructed on any evidence they should bring such as photos, etc.

West Seventh doesn’t tolerate criminals. They are removed because the residents are empowered to take action with the authorities.

Bad people leave a lot of destruction in their wake. All the resources of the city have to come to bear.

Bad people leave a lot of destruction in their wake. All the resources of the city have to come to bear.

There are no signs that this level of organization is happening in North Minneapolis, which is to say that things have to boil over and the police are sent in to handle everything at some point. That’s the recipe for cynicism, burnout, and a siege mentality. This does no one any good at all.

Police in Minneapolis and St Paul are paid about $54k a year starting, which is a terribly low amount – especially if the job is horrifically bad.

What must happen, in Minneapolis and everywhere, is that we have to insist on the very highest standards of professionalism and skill from our police – and those that cannot meet those standards must be let go. For this, they must be paid very well and given the professional and medical support necessary to remain at the top of their game.

And they must have support from all branches of city government and the people they serve.

Nekima Levy-Pounds of the Minneapolis NAACP, a principle founder of BLM Minneapolis.

Nekima Levy-Pounds of the Minneapolis NAACP, a principle founder of BLM Minneapolis.

That means empowering people that City Hall doesn’t exactly trust right now – those who have put together the organization we call Black Lives Matter. The stakes have to be raised for everyone. The ability to organize in the community is a critical skill that has to be a part of the solution.

I don’t mean to tell BLM what to do, but I can tell everyone what white people react to. It makes sense that the daily buzz of Downtown Minneapolis should be disrupted to call attention to the problems allowed to fester just a few miles away. That makes sense. But there can be more.

Beyond that, however, if BLM went door to door in South Minneapolis I’m sure they could gain a lot of white allies. Racism has been allowed to fester because many blacks were successfully isolated beyond freeway walls from the rest of the population. Breaking down those walls and working towards one city for all would only increase the possibility of real progress.

Where will this go? Ultimately the system has to change – from top to bottom and throughout City Hall. This cannot be allowed to continue. Minneapolis deserves better than the racism that has led to far too much crime, violence, and death. This is not about one cop or one incident – this is about a city for everyone.

But it starts by acknowledging the immediate and terrifying problem. Black Lives Matter!

33 thoughts on “Black Lives Matter

  1. Kudos! During my time as as admin. asst support in the law enforcement community, the agencies I enjoyed working for the most were those who took a ‘community policing’ approach to solving issues, long before it was a ‘buzz word/policy/program’ – 🙂

    It seemed that the cooperation between all those involved/affected by the issue brought about much better, efficient and sustainable solutions, than just a hue-and-cry for more budget, more manpower, etc. 🙂

    • And, also, those who choose to see themselves as part of the community they ‘police’ always seemed more likely to approach issues with, ‘okay, let’s look at how best to approach this’ – instead of seeing the entire community as ‘the enemy’ – I witnessed, once, an area that had been through a short period of bad leadership, and though it did get turned around, it was not easy – I cannot begin to imagine what the North Minneapolis community is facing – here’s hoping those under siege gain the assistance and community support of neighbors to bring about change.

      • Keep typing your thoughts as they come! We have to get through this somehow. I’m sure that more than a few of the over-worked cops have a view of their community as “the enemy” and dread going to work / going out on a call. How are they going to get over it? What does the system need to do to make this change happen?
        When we call for “justice” there’s a focus on individual actions. I’m trying to expand the focus because the solution has to involve the whole system making a fundamental change. Not being in the field it seems nearly impossible to do but someone has to know how to do this.

      • PS – you are free to delete these missives once you’ve read them – 🙂 Also – remember your ‘personality types’ and groups – you have Big Idea folks that are motivators and innovators – but suck at details and how to, Middle of the Project folks, who know what needs to happen, but are often seen as ‘nay-sayers/it can’t be done’ folks – just cuz they see the obstacles – and the details/worker bees folks – who don’t have grand ideas, or see the obtacles, but are more than happy to show up and stuff envelopes, wave signs or run the copier/answer the phone, etc. — You have early adopters, fence-sitters who wait to see how it goes and the last to jump on bandwagon folks who don’t want to risk being associated with you until they figure out if you’re gonna win or not – they each have their place and talents in the process – Best wishes – you realize I’m already envisioning you as the guy who made sure the community got educated enough to be motivated to start pulling together, sharing resources and really make change happen, right? LOL 🙂 And sometimes, you’re just the seed planter – and you have to wait until 3 years later, when folks reach the same conclusion – now that they’ve had plenty of time to think about it –

      • This is GOLD Tamrahjo, thank you for it! The only reason I’m not responding right away is that you have given us ALL a lot to think about carefully.
        Really great stuff, thank you!

      • U betcha! Anytime. Puts my particular talents and passions to some use. 🙂 feel freebto send me an email via wordpress. Happy to keep the dialogue/sharing going AND there will come a day probably several, where u r tired or discouraged … well, my other passion is reminding folks why they rock and how important what they signed up for is and also for reminding u why u signed up in the first place. 🙂 it can be simple, but often, not easy or quick

    • I would love to hear more! I avoided the term “community policing” because it seems to take on many different forms in different communities – as it should. And sadly it hasn’t worked well in some places so the term has some negative connotation.
      It’s the cooperation and empowerment that seems to make the difference. When you have a community in a place where North Minneapolis in particular and black people in Minneapolis more largely are right now it’s going to be very hard to build the trust and really empower in a way that has to happen to make it work well. I can only imagine how this will go from here – IF the commitment comes through!

      • I guess I would approach it the way I think to approach most things – education and building community support, first – this means the reaching out and/or cooperation between groups, communities or organizations that might only have this ‘one thing’ in common, as far as goals, need for change – etc. It takes leaders who are willing to say, “On this topic – we’ve chosen to combine forces” and who choose to stay focused on that objective – too often, movements for change fall apart, stumble or fail, in the long run, because of either ‘scattering their message’ to much OR being to exclusive (instead of inclusive) OR by being to ‘hard-lined’ once they gained some support – *Look to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, the Temperance movement and Prohibition for examples of each of the above – good and bad * Follows are a couple of links to pdfs that seem to me to cover the main points – BUT if you don’t build community support FIRST – IF officers don’t feel like they have community support to ‘buck’ the rules/policies/procedures/work culture in place that MAY be in place preventing them from being able to pursue community policing objectives or implement, well – it will fail – IF those in leadership within the community, the electoral positions in charge and the leadership of the department are either unwilling to listen OR not empowered to be flexible in trying a new approach – It Will Fail –

        So, given all that – and the fact that you like pretty graphs and charts, logic, reason, looking to history and trying to decipher what’s ‘really ‘ going on – AND be willing to look at variables that can effect/affect possible challenges/outcomes – AND you are not currently living in the community/work within the department – but live close by – I think you may a good educator/facilitator – to start planting the seeds of possibilities –

        Changing a system or paradigm for the better is never really about politics, race, or any of the hot- key issues – though folks hate to hear that – AND those items do bring to the fore systems in need of change – 🙂

        It’s always about saying, “We can do better, we imagine better, we desire better’ – then setting about to bring together a diverse group of folks, each with their own perspectives and experiences and saying, “Can we agree that change needs to happen and for this current objective, we will bring all our talents and knowledge to the table – but will stay on track – not ignoring variables that affect – but unwilling to get side-tracked by the host of issues that are out there to be solved – we will focus, first, on the main contributing factors and we will focus on them first – and as we gain momentum – we will address each and every one that shows up – as we can.”

        I suspect, from the little bit I’ve followed the story (by no means, a definitive statement, just a hunch) that this issue has been festering for decades – has many contributing factors and that the local leadership and department systems are simply structured badly – systems that good people can enter and without even realizing how the heck it happened, they end up being ‘bad’ or doing hurtful things (Check out Stanford Prison Experiment and the Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo) –

        Any lasting change that takes hold, is always started by individuals banding together with others, to educate, share, gain support – the ones that die and fail are the ones that failed to have a ‘project management’ approach – Identify the Goal, Identify the Risks, set the steps, be willing to adapt and solve issues that come up as you go, persevere to the end – LOL – Sounds Simple, right?

        Yup – but since humans are hard-wired with, A..a strong survival instinct that responds more quickly to Fear and B. a brain that more remembers events tied to fear than every day good, or good enough – ‘ Well, it’s tempting to go down the road of negative campaigning, education and gaining support tactics – 🙂
        And – in any change process – the first few through the wall are gonna get their nose bloody –

        So there ya go – bet you’re sorry you asked, eh? BUT all you have is history and the experiences of those of the past – because each situation has it’s own variables, etc. –

        And last bit of advice – Those who have gained power and have no interest in bringing about change, because the current system serves and suits them to a T just fine, thank you, are not bound by the same rules of warfare you are – if you wish to keep the soul of participants and your cause – BUT you can win – cuz in the end – once the roar of ‘change needed, now’ reaches a certain level – well – you’ll find there are more of you than there are of them – and no one can outlast sheer numbers – ever – sorta one of those laws of physics – –

        🙂 Here’s a few links for food for thought – which you may know already or not – but they all contain nuggets that show you the way – take what will work for your situation and leave the rest behind – 🙂

        Click to access 169113NCJRS.pdf

        Click to access 169113NCJRS.pdf

        Click to access Community%20Policing.pdf


        Best wishes – and if I lived locally and knew more – I’d be right there beside ya – well – no – I’d be reading, researching, making lists of ideas and writing for your grass-roots organization website – 🙂 LOL

  2. Having only visited Minneapolis once many years ago my impressions of the City are indeed second hand. Thank you Eric for enlightening me on the way things are right now. Sadly, this experience seems to be a common one through many Cities in this country. The nations entire Justice System needs to be re-thought. Raising police salaries, but demanding greater accountability is but one step of many that have to be taken before we Americans are able to say that our legal system is fair for all.

    • It is almost certainly worse in other places. What’s going on here is closer to my mind and I can get an understanding of it. I want to stress that from what I know we don’t have this problem in St Paul – at least not on this scale. What are we doing right? The police can learn from each other, I’m sure. I hope they’re all talking.

  3. Not everybody is going to agree that a 54K starting salary is “terribly low.” It’s my understanding that there are usually an excess of applications for police jobs, and that there are significant educational requirements. So if the MPD is hiring people readily identifiable as thugs, thumpers … something else must be wrong.

    • Fair enough. It’s only $45k nationally, which is to say about the average for all workers.
      Is $54k a lot? I ask for a tremendous amount from police so I would say it’s not nearly enough. It really depends on what you expect them to do.
      There are pretty big education requirements – a tough 2 year degree is a minimum, 4 year if you want to get anywhere. I believe we have to insist on the very best and in order to attract them I think we have to pay a lot. I do think it has to be worth it.

  4. I just have to say that I love our police! St Paul is the best! Maybe thats because I’m white but I think we have great cops & I would never hesitate to count on them.

    • I agree. Being white definitely helps our attitude so it’s best to not be too cocky, but from what I can tell we have kind, conscientious people who do their jobs very well. Community policing is built into their jobs all around.
      I do think we should pay them more just because they deserve it, too.
      But I would like to hear from non-whites about our police just to be sure.

    • Anecdotally, one can get the impression that the St. Paul cops are doing better than the Minneapolis cops. It would be good to see some stats on this–crime rates, complaint rates, community ratings, and so on. Could be that Minneapolis doesn’t have to look too far for some solutions. I do have the impression that once a certain culture or mentality takes hold of an organization it is very hard to change. The LA cops, for example, have a seemingly-deserved reputation for excessive violence going back many decades, there have been many exposes and scandals and reforms, yet it’s not clear how much has changed. I’m sensing a similar situation in Minneapolis.

      • Yes, if we can help Minneapolis get through this I really want us to. We are all in this together. It does seem that St Paul is at least better and maybe enough better that we have a lot to contribute as the solution.
        No matter what I want us to be a part of this conversation. If nothing else I think that our city is not as racially divided and certainly not as heated up over this. If that can help us all get through to a brighter place we will have contributed something important.

  5. December 23, 1776

    THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated

    Thomas Paine

  6. The sycophants in the comments section are truly pathetic. It seems that, according to FBI and DOJ statistics, whites have more to fear from black violence towards whites, than the other way around. Eric Holder’s DOJ shows that whites are nine times more likely to be murdered by blacks, thirty eight times more likely to be attacked violently by blacks, and more than 1,000 times more likely to be raped by blacks. If BLM is truly concerned with racial justice, it seems that such should be a priority of theirs to quell such obvious racism. Further, the “Get Whitey NIghts” at the Wisconsin and Illinois State Fairs, wherein innocent white families were attacked by black gangs would have resulted in DOJ investigations and calling out the National Guard had the situation been reversed.

    I grew up in Compton in the 1950’s and 1960’s and race relations have become so much more virulent and vitriolic over the last forty years, thanks to left wing academics, the MSM and Democratic politicians. I feel that the present state of race relations in the US can only lead to continued discord and possible race wars in the future.

    • Nate,

      Would you mind supplying links to those statistics you cite, because seriously I think they are nonsensical. BTW, FOX News, or the Aryan Nation, wouldn’t quite be the sources I would like you to link to back up your statements, since they aren’t authoritative.

    • This comment does not seem credible to me. I don’t like Holder but he’s not a racist. He’s an equal-opportunity prosecutor of whistleblowers and troublemakers.

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