U.S. Justice Dept. to investigate Minneapolis police practices, culture

The U.S. Justice Department today announced a sweeping probe of the Minneapolis Police Department, investigating its practices, culture, and use of force to see if there is a pattern of unconstitutional or unlawful policing.

Sounds impressive, but we’ve heard this reform story before, nationally and locally. Problems persist.

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Guilty, yes, but it’s only the start

A crowd gathered at George Floyd Square after the verdict.

Hennepin County jurors today found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd, along with two lesser counts.

It was the first time in state history that a white police officer was held accountable for killing a Black man, according the Minnesota ACLU.

In their closing arguments, prosecutors stressed to the jury that Chauvin’s trial was a pro-police prosecution, not an anti-police prosecution. They knew that some jurors had a favorable opinion of police and didn’t want to lose any a vote by suggesting this was an indictment of the police in general.

Yet this moment calls for an overhaul of our system of public safety. The push will come from many organizations and from across the city, including those people currently occupying George Floyd Square.

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Along with police violence, white culture should be on trial, too

White bodies have demanded obedience, submission, and respect from black bodies since this nation was founded, even before.

Things have improved, slowly, but white supremacy is still alive, even thriving. In policing, it can show up as intimidation, excessive force, and death for Black bodies.

It is easy for those of us who are white (including this author) to “other” the police, as if we haven’t benefited from their policing and other forms oppression that have led to gross racial inequalities in our communities. We are part of that same social conditioning into white supremacy.

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This is more than an accident

Screen capture from a video of the vigil for Daunte Wright.

Hundreds of people attended a vigil in Brooklyn Center Monday night near the site where a police officer shot and killed Daunte Wright. (Crowd video here.) It ended by 7 p.m., the start of a curfew imposed by Gov. Tim Walz.

Many residents ignored the curfew and clashed with police during the evening.

In a media conference today, Brooklyn Center officials spoke to the “tragic” events and the community’s grief, but failed to speak to the community’s justifiable anger.

Brooklyn Park Police Chief Tim Gannon called the shooting “an accident.” The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension would do the investigation, he said.

Regardless of who’s doing the investigating, Gannon needs to acknowledge this is more than an accident. The officer’s actions were, at a minimum, reckless and negligent.

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Vigil tonight for unarmed black man shot and killed by Brooklyn Center police during traffic stop

The family of Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old unarmed black man who was shot and killed by police in Brooklyn Center last night, has called for a peaceful celebration of life tonight at 6:00 p.m. at 63rd Avenue North and Kathrene Drive, the site of the shooting.  LED candles have been requested. (Previous version said 7 p.m. but because of potential curfew it was moved up an hour.)

At a news conference today, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said the officer “apparently meant to fire a Taser but instead made an ‘accidental discharge’ from her gun,” the Washington Post reported.

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Another case of white supremacy policing, Maryland repeals ‘Police Bill of Rights,’ and a look at ‘excited delirium’

Screen grab for body-worn video camera

As the Derek Chauvin trial begins its third week, as Maryland’s legislature passes a law to address police abuses, the latest example of excessive force by police against a person of color has emerged in a lawsuit filed against cops in Windsor, Va.

On Dec. 5, police officers pulled over U.S. Army officer Caron Nazario, drawing their guns and shouting at him to get out of his car, ABC News reported.

Nazario, who is black and Latino, tells them he’s afraid to get out of his car.

The officer responds angrily: “You should be.”

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We are all witnesses

Screen grab of witnesses to George Floyd’s murder from police bodycam video posted by CNN.

I have been deeply moved listening to the Derek Chauvin trial, hearing eye witnesses describe their experiences of watching George Floyd’s murder and trying desperately to intervene. Perhaps you could feel yourself transported to the intersection, too.

I watch in awe as the people on the sidewalk, young and old, express their outrage, doing everything they could to plead, cajole, and shame the officers to save Floyd’s life.

Then I hear them in court, distraught that they didn’t do more. It’s heartbreaking, especially given the incredible courage they showed.

And somewhere in that reflection, it strikes me that I am a witness everyday. There’s racism all around me. And like those who stood on the sidewalk, I have the opportunity to act.

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Minneapolis police use of “less lethal” force criticized for head shots, cop complaints rarely end with discipline, and more

In this blog:

  • Study: Minneapolis police use of “less-lethal” force during George Floyd protests caused serious injuries
  • The Bad Cops: How Minneapolis protects its worst police officers until it’s too late
  • Minneapolis police misconduct payouts rising
  • Minneapolis Charter amendment updates
  • How will the Minneapolis City Council’s racial justice promises affect important neighborhood redevelopment decisions?
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