I think mediation is a very important role for us to get different sides at the table. And it has not been a perfect process, but as the process moves forward we’re going.. “I think mediation is a very important role for us to get different sides at the table. And it has not been a perfect process, but as the process moves forward we’re going to get behind it and make sure that we’ve got some things that stick,” said Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak at the Nov. 26 Insight/KMOJ Public Policy Forum. The mediation of which he spoke is a series of weekly sessions scheduled to start on Dec. 10 and last three months. The discussions aim to finally address the long-standing protest by Minneapolis African Americans of abuse at the hands of Minneapolis police.
He certainly sounded like someone who wants to get something done. However, of course, if you and I got paid each time a politician made good-sounding noise, we’d both be sitting pretty as peacocks. Look here. Even the Star Tribune, which characteristically downplays issues of concern to Black citizens acknowledged in a report by Rochelle Olson that Rybak resisted mediation at first. Rybak’s credibility on this issue is further because he has never before so much as seriously addressed the issue of tension between Black people in his city and the Minneapolis Police Department which is so infamous for its entrenched racism that even Black cops have perceptibly been discriminated against.
If his honor is conscientiously concerned about honestly looking into and definitively addressing the matter, what has taken him so long to say so? Why did it take the City Council voting in favor of federal mediation for the mayor to make the tensions between Minneapolis minority citizens and Minneapolis police a priority?
Evidence of his apathy is plain virtually by his own admission. If you go electronically to www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/mayor/ (if you’re not on-line, contact the mayor’s office) the formation is right there. On the home page is a heading called “PRIORITIES”. Pull it up and you’ll see still listed Mayor R. T. Rybak’s “90-Day Plan” in bold print. “In my first 90 days in office,” it reads, “I will focus on my four priority areas from my campaign:” Those four areas are: build vibrant, affordable neighborhoods; restore trust in City Hall; improve fiscal management and basic city service; and protect our environment.
You can click on each and get detailed wording related thereto. But there isn’t a single word anywhere about dealing with the issue of racial profiling of minorities by police or about dealing with excessive force used against minorities by police. Yet, there was glaring indication at the time that perceived police misconduct was a pressing issue in the City of Minneapolis. And there certainly was clear evidence of building tensions when he was running for office. While covering the mayoral race for Insight News, I asked Rybak back then what he planned to do about strongly perceived racial profiling. All he said in response was that all citizens have a right to expect fair treatment. That’s pitiful.
I didn’t trust Rybak when he made that weak statement. More telling, however, than his dodging the issue was the fact that as soon as he got into office, Rybak scrapped the Civilian Review Authority (CRA) as an agency and made it an appendage of the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights. I decried that action then and denounce it now as a move which showed his hand as a veritable proponent of racial profiling. It was enough that the CRA, under executive directed Linda Hughes, swept abuse of citizens by police under the rug and issued rubber-stamped exoneration. Rybak had to go further and obstruct the remotest possibility of the CRA being at all effective, miring it in the morass of bureaucracy where it now is less effective than ever.
Let’s be realistic. It’s difficult to believe Rybak, who received heavy backing by the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, is the least bit interested in biting the h