Instead of Abolishing the Police in Minneapolis Just Stop Collaborating with Police Violence.

A coterie of former mayors and political operatives on the local scene here in Minnesota are now engaged in their obligatory essaying and policy pontificating about how the Minneapolis police force got to crisis-land. The answer is simple. They, the political leadership, drove them here.

Their unwillingness to address police misconduct combined with eagerness to run on “tough on crime” agendas while Black and Latino communities were ravaged by drugs; their reluctance to fully commit to the idea that drugs were as much a public health issue as a criminal justice issue; and, their fear of holding police accountable through reliable and vigorous prosecutions, all were behind the “political wheel.”

Now, Minneapolis and its police department — despite the leadership of an experienced and compassionate Chief, who is a veteran and a minority, finds its ability to change commandeered by a politically powerful police union. This union, the Minneapolis Police Federation and its leadership — past and present — have so successfully reverse- engineered the MPD disciplinary process that it is nearly nonexistent.

It took the videotaped and later widely televised death of George Floyd to embolden the Mayor of Minneapolis to fire the four officers involved. In the past, officer-related death investigations lingered on for months before local officials took little or no action. And prosecutions happened almost never.

The idea that the police rank-and-file are unaware of this de facto “disciplinary/accusatorial immunity” is risible. Not only do police not expect to be disciplined, but they feel assurance that their criminal prosecution will be as rare as a five-leaf clover.

Who can blame them if after decades of Skinnerian conditioning by political and prosecutorial authorities, the police learn they have nothing to fear from wrongdoing — or that if caught red-handed that they will be rehired or in some cases rewarded. Certainly, they don’t plan to face the prospect of jail — that is for “defendants.”

And for the uninitiated, “defendants” are Black, Brown and Red people — and every so often, a few poor white folks.

More than once my clients who were plaintiffs in civil rights suits miraculously were transformed into defendant-parties because of their perceived class or skin color.

So, as the past and present politicians engage in their own recollections and regrets of things they know they might have done and ask why the police are in dire need of “reimagining,” “redefining,” and “reinvesting,” better get that mirror out.

The police are the police because you let them be. You collaborated to bring them here — not because you were on the street corner — or because you rode in the squad — or carried the taser — but simply because you never told them to stop.

-Albert Turner Goins