Mayor Rybak: Weak, duplicitous

Talk about the pot calling the kettle. Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak actually told Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson during the chief’s recent job review, Talk about the pot calling the kettle. Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak actually told Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson during the chief’s recent job review, “The city is in very strong need of very strong, very visible leadership. You should be seen as being in charge and there should be a very clear plan.” Presumably, he said it with a straight face and didn’t even blink when telling Olson that “policy-makers need to be guided by you as much as possible.”

This is the head municipal figure in charge who, in recent weeks, tried to palm off a makeshift solution to the catastrophic affordable housing dilemma with a cosmetic panacea only to get busted by an astute advocate who challenged Rybak on his faulty number-crunching. If that isn’t an example of weak leadership at best and duplicitous granstanding at worst — in a time of strong need — Einstein couldn’t tell you what is.

This politician’s most visible response to the nationally-acknowledged need for effective review of Minneapolis police conduct was not to demand an accountable performance from Civilian Review Authority executive director Patricia Hughes, or replace her with someone who won’t protect abusive cops via rubber-stamped exoneration). But instead he dismantled the agency and submerged its responsibility beneath the quagmire that is wholesale bureaucracy: he shoveled Civilian Review over to the Department of Civil Rights. The perceptible intent was place it in the hands of Vanne Owen Hayes and her deputy, Linda White, so that folk will say, “Look, he has two Black women in charge of an office Black people have long protested as being complicit in police abuse against Blacks.” Their hands pretty much bound by political machinery, the best Hayes and White can foreseeably hope to accomplish is that their credibility as responsible, community-minded African Americans will not be flushed down the drain. They’ve both been put between the proverbial rock and a hard place while his honor wipes his hands clean of being accountable for a troublesome situation.

For good measure, since the issue is supposed to be so much about strength in leadership, check out the flip-flop he’s done regarding the prospect of federal mediation being called in to hopefully improve relations between Minneapolis African Americans and Minneapolis police officers. At first he was opposed to the idea, preferring local mediation that would leave the feds out of it. Once the city council voted federal mediation down, though, all of sudden he made noise to the effect that federal mediation is fine with him.

This individual has no business talking about “very visible leadership” as long as he remains conspicuously invisible on the front against racial profiling of minorities by Minneapolis police. Just like his Johnny-come-lately support of federal mediation, his failure to confront police racism demonstrates that he is not about to get up in the face of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis —which was instrumental in putting him in power— and even ask, much less demand, that bad cops rectify their behavior towards the end of equitably protecting and serving all citizens.

Yet, Mayor Rybak urges Chief Olson to become a bold leader. It does not take ingenious reasoning to deduce that what Rybak really wants, since his attempt to fire the chief blew up in his face, is for Olson to respond to his prodding by making some kind of rash move that will put Olson’s neck in a noose by which Rybak can finally hang him — without having to buy out the rest of Olson’s exorbitant contract.

No one, by the way, should bend over backward in sympathy for Olson who responded to the mayor by pledging: “We will do better.” This, after all, is the chief of police who excluded the minority media from this summer’s conference on the reinstatement of the anti-gang task force HEALS; it took hi

October 7, 2002
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