Commentary

Letter to the Editor: Fundamental change to undo racism in police, city departments

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Now is the time for all of us to contact your mayor and your city council members with specific and concrete proposals to change the racist nature of the police and city government.

I would happily support any specific and concrete proposals for fundamental change. Here are some of my concrete suggestions. I would greatly appreciate comments and criticism.

There are three things that must be done immediately to stop this war on young Black men. First, all police departments must have serious diversity training. Police officers must come to understand that people of color are part of the community they are sworn to protect.

Second, police departments must stop training officers according to the academically bankrupt theories of police work by William Lewinski, professor at Mankato University. His theories have been sufficiently debunked by the New York Times and the Department of Justice. He conditions officers to shoot first (especially if the suspect fits a racial and cultural profile different from white and middle class and is, therefore, threatening).

Third, police investigators must stop treating their buddies in blue different from other homicide suspects. If a civilian shoots and kills someone they are immediately questioned. They are certainly entitled to a lawyer, but they are kept in police custody until they have given a statement.

Police involved in a homicide are allowed 48 hours to get their stories straight. They get to talk to their buddies and figure out the best story to tell. These collaborations lead to fantastical stories that are completely unbelievable, as in the Terrance Franklin homicide.

There is a fourth thing that could be done immediately, if the mayor and city council had the will to do it. If there is a violation of anyone’s civil rights in the city of Minneapolis, the Civil Rights Commission has the power to investigate, subpoena witnesses and award damages. Whether a city department or a private business, everyone in Minneapolis is subject to the Minneapolis civil rights ordinance. No one is above the law, except the Minneapolis Police. The Police Federation lobbied a weak city council to get them exempted from the ordinance. They believe they are above the law. If there is to be equity, if there is to be justice, then, this must change.

The Donald Trump candidacy has inflamed and strengthened racist elements in our police departments and justified the right wing militias that would love to “restore order” and “make America great (white) again.”

Those of us who believe in a pluralistic society must demand serious social rehabilitation of our police.
Ed Felien, former Minneapolis city council member, editor and publisher for Southside News.

August 18, 2016
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