Things are bad, but defunding the police isn’t the answer | Opinion

November 12, 2021 7:14 am

A Minneapolis police officer unrolls caution tape at a crime scene on June 16, 2020 in Minneapolis. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images.

Being Black, when a cop so much as looks my way, that’s reason to be uneasy. An automatic suspect for whatever.

I got stopped one afternoon, walking on Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, minding my business, and was stuck in a squad car.

Turns out, somebody Black in a white T-shirt and black jeans — how many folk had to have fit that description in the area? — exposed himself to a server in the Palomino restaurant just up the block.

While I’m sitting in the claustrophobic back seat, no place to put my legs, this cop — looked Latino to me — swaggers past the window, blithely remarking, “It’s probably him.”

They took me to the restaurant, and thank God we don’t all look alike to the white woman who came out of Palomino, and said, “That’s not him.” As luck had it, that cop, Officer Garcia, in weeks later, locked me up after all, for no good reason except he felt like it. Tell me again how more cops of color are gonna solve the problem of policing.

Indeed, the Minneapolis Police Department, protecting and serving, gets suspiciously selective in urban Minneapolis. I’ve commented in three publications over more than two decades on the force’s refusal to do anything about the open-air, 24/7 crack and prostitution market at Chicago and Franklin avenues. Not failure, refusal. It has been wiped out nearby, at Elliot Park to the south and Ancient Traders Market to the east, in prosperous areas. Why not here?

Still, these problems pale, it goes without saying, compared to violently unsafe streets where I find more to fear from other Black folk than from police.

This despite the fact that George Floyd’s death made the 11th fatality in 10 years at the hands of a police department to which Black lives evidently don’t matter. Because, just as evidently, they matter even less to gun-wielding members of our own community.

This year alone, 9-year-old Trinity Ottoson-Smith, playing with friends, and Ladavionne Garrett Jr., 10, riding with his parents, were critically wounded. Both in north Minneapolis, long infamous for Wild West-style shootings in broad daylight. And where Aniya Allen, 6, was shot and killed. All three deaths were within three weeks of each other between late April and mid-May. Summing up, five children were gunned down in two months.

It has proven too much for Aniya’s grandfather, career activist K. G. Wilson. Boots on the ground, Wilson spent 20 years keeping kids out of gangs and guns off the streets. He told the Daily Mail shootings is why he’s against the initiative to defund, calling it an act of insanity.

“(It’s) the craziest thing I’ve ever heard,” he said. “If I was a criminal, I’d support it. I would love it.”

Wilson announced in August that he plans to put Minneapolis in his rear view. He didn’t say where he’s moving to, just that he’s leaving.

Like there are bad elements in generally peaceful north Minneapolis, south Minneapolis has its problems.

In August at 12th Avenue and East Lake Street, a counterpart to Chicago and Franklin avenues, Carl Putmon Jr. was shot dead on the sidewalk.

Powderhorn Park resident D.B. said, “I live a block away, rode by on the bus when it happened. Saw the police cars … yellow tape, all of that. Carjackings, breaking into people’s homes. Crime keeps getting worse in my neighborhood.”

She added, “I hope they don’t take away funding. I’ve seen a lot of bad (officers). I’ve also dealt with some (who are) good but get a bad rep.”

It bears noting that last month, the Third Precinct swept 12th Street with a broom, including a half-dozen arrests, returning the neighborhood to residents.

If it’s not yet a complete return to Murderapolis, so dubbed in 1995, the death rate is again national news. Homicides doubled in Minneapolis in 2020 from 2019 with violent crime surging across the state and country.

And we’re supposed to undermine or eliminate what protection there is from criminals to whom neither Black nor any other lives matter?

Retrain the force already in place, adjusting the attitudes of those who think they’re storm troopers in occupied territory.

Police can and must be retrained, but it has to come from the top down. MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo showed his unwillingness to confront the root problem when he demoted Art Knight for coming right out and stating the unvarnished truth about the MPD sustaining institutionalized racism.

Bottom line, for good and bad, disable the Minneapolis Police Department and, when you need a cop, who you gonna call, Ghostbusters?

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