Sentencing disparities end between crack and powder cocaine, but it shouldn’t have taken so long

An essential element of the Rule of Law is that people committing similar crimes will receive similar punishments.

So it’s good news that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday announced new guidance to end the sentencing disparities between powder and crack cocaine, which have had unfair impacts on Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).

Still, can we pause just for a minute and ask “How the hell did it take 36 years to change this racist practice?

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The backstory on why Minneapolis is hell bent to expand its Public Works yard in East Phillips in violation of its racial equity commitments

Residents disrupt the Minneapolis City Council Thursday for moving ahead with a plan they say will harm East Phillips residents’ health.

Minneapolis city leaders say their controversial plan to expand the Public Works yard in East Phillips has been in the works for years, an effort to upgrade aging facilities and improve efficiencies.

Much less discussed is how the Public Works project is part of an interlocking set of city plans to build a new fire station and sell city land for private development.

The city’s plan also violates its commitments to reduce racial disparities, an issue city leaders have failed to address.

The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) strongly opposes the city’s plan, saying it would increase local air pollution and harm residents’ health.

While the city has downplayed resident health concerns, federal health agencies recently released a map ranking East Phillips in the highest tier of its Environmental Justice Index, which identifies “communities most at risk for facing the health impacts of environmental hazards.”

Here is a more complete picture of why the city is breaking its racial equity commitments. It begs the question: Just when does the city plan to start living up to those commitments?

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Mayor Frey expresses ‘outrage’ at MPD human rights violations … why is he surprised?

A nearly two-year investigation has found probable cause that the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) have engaged in a pattern or practice of discriminatory, race-based policing, violating the Minnesota Human Rights Act, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (DHR) said Wednesday.

The report’s major findings said:

  • “MPD officers, supervisors, and field training officers receive deficient training, which emphasizes a paramilitary approach to policing that results in officers unnecessarily escalating encounters or using inappropriate levels of force.”
  • “Accountability systems are insufficient and ineffective at holding officers accountable for misconduct. … Instances of police misconduct are not properly investigated, not timely addressed, and officers are not held consistently accountable.”
  • “Former and current City and MPD leaders have not collectively acted with the urgency, coordination, and intentionality necessary to address racial disparities in policing to improve public safety and increase community trust.”

Addressing those issues alone is insufficient, the report said. “Without fundamental organizational culture changes, reforming MPD’s policies, procedures, and trainings will be meaningless.”

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Racial Disparities in Metro Transit Enforcement; Small Town, Bigger Trend; This Day in History: U.S. Apologizes to Native Americans (sort of)

A Dec. 17 Minnesota Public Radio story says Metro Transits’ own internal analysis of its law enforcement data “shows a range of racial disparities in how the agency enforces transit and other laws.”

The information came from an internal analysis by Metro Transit. According to the MPR story:

• Native American adults were 55 percent more likely to be cited than whites, rather than merely warned.

• Native American adults were almost twice as likely to be arrested than whites.

The analysis also found that for one of the most basic violations, a first-time accusation of not paying a full fare, blacks were 26 percent more likely to get a criminal charge than whites and Native Americans were more than twice as likely to get a criminal charge, in the form of a citation.

Small Town, Bigger Trend: Belfast Nixes Columbus Day

OK, I have to admit to blinking twice when I got a brief email with a link saying that Belfast axed Columbus Day. “Wow,” I thought, “I didn’t even know Ireland recognized Columbus Day, this is really something!” Then I read the story.  Turns out it was from the Bangor Daily News. It said the city council of Belfast, Maine, “voted this week at a regular meeting to do away with the name Columbus Day and to replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day, making the midcoast city the first municipality in the state to rename the holiday.”

So Belfast joins other cities around the country renaming Columbus Day. The trend continues. Click on the link above for details.

This Day in History: A Lame Apology

On this day in history, December 19, 2009, President Obama signed the 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill, containing what might be the lamest apology in recorded history. Buried on page of Section 8113 of the bill is the “Apology to Native Peoples of the United States.”

There was no media release, no public acknowledgement. Nothing. It is fairly brief, so we will copy the whole thing here.

Sec. 8113

(a) Acknowledgment and apology

The United States, acting through Congress—

(1) recognizes the special legal and political relationship Indian tribes have with the United States and the solemn covenant with the land we share;
(2) commends and honors Native Peoples for the thousands of years that they have stewarded and protected this land;
(3) recognizes that there have been years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies, and the breaking of covenants by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes;
(4) apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States;
(5) expresses its regret for the ramifications of former wrongs and its commitment to build on the positive relationships of the past and present to move toward a brighter future where all the people of this land live reconciled as brothers and sisters, and harmoniously steward and protect this land together;
(6) urges the President to acknowledge the wrongs of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land; and
(7) commends the State governments that have begun reconciliation efforts with recognized Indian tribes located in their boundaries and encourages all State governments similarly to work toward reconciling relationships with Indian tribes within their boundaries.

(b) Disclaimer

Nothing in this section—

(1) authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or
(2) serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.

So what do you think? Here is a piece from Indian Country Today in December 2011 commenting on this apology, titled: A Tree Fell in the Forest: The U.S. Apologized to Native Americans and No One Heard a Sound.