Political costs of black lives not actually mattering

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The real cost, the important cost, of black lives not mattering to the white establishment, the police, and others, is of course uncalled for injury and death of, mainly, young black men, but also anyone of color regardless of gender or age. But here I simply want to point out a different thing, which will circle back. These are my opinions as an observer of politics in Minnesota, and focus on the Twin Cities. I am not issuing an endorsement or a criticism of any individual in office, formerly in office, or running for office. Just pointing out some key realities and giving my perspective, which is in my view at least partly correct, but likely subject to revision.

Here is the typical scenario. Something happens that brings together a group of Minneapolis or other Twin Cities metro area police officers, and a person of color, probably a male of a certain age.

There is a certain chance the man has in fact done something to attract legitimate attention of the police, but maybe he hasn’t. Either way, he now has the attention of the police. This is scary for many police officers who happen to have a racist streak, because black people of all sorts are scary to many white people. Add to that the fear that naturally comes along with being a police officer, etc. etc., and you end up with the cops shooting the black person. It is even scarier for the person of color because he or she is now confronting a real chance of violence, injury, or death.

This is not good set of circumstances for a rational and productive conversation.

There are usually two other elements. One is the idea that the black person has a gun, or that it looks like the black person has a gun, or in some cases, the black person is “acting in a way consistent with having a gun,” a formulation recently seen in the media that would totally make me laugh if it wasn’t so utterly un-funny.

The other element is a video, either taken by a passer by, or a dash cam or cop cam video.

And, in the cases of these meet ups that we usually hear about, the cops end up shooting the citizen. Usually killing the citizen.

Now we come to the political elements.

First, acknowledge that a black person shooting at the cops with a gun is liable to get shot to death. But, a black person with a gun in his or her possession is likely not violating any laws. Minnesota is a conceal and carry state, and as a country, we are gun happy and love guns and everybody could have a gun, nearly. So putting the gun in the hands of a black person does not justify their death on the street. Keep that in mind.

When we have a police shooting in the news, there will be all sorts of information, often contradictory (and thus not that reliable) about what happened. Pretty quickly, the prospect of a video of some kind comes into play. Investigators justifiably want to keep the video under wraps for a period of time in order to not influence witnesses. Community members, the family of the slain, and others, justifiably want the video released. But, the people who have the video, such as the State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension or a County Prosecutor or similar, get to choose when to release it.

I strongly suspect that the cops and prosecutors hang on to the video longer than the absolutely need to. A little bit of that extra time may be in an abundance of caution. But I suspect that most of that extra time is some sort of power play, and is inappropriate.

The mayor of the city in which this happens is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The mayor likely wants to please the citizens by releasing the video sooner than the cops do. But the prosecutors make the point that if it is released too soon, and this ruins the case, then the mayor would be responsible. And so on. So, the mayor tries to put the issue off, making the claim that we simply have to do what the police do, and not interfere with the investigation.

You know the drill. We see it every week or so somewhere in the US. The Twin Cities Metro has this happen every few months, it seems. It is happening right now, as I write this.

Which brings us to three elected individuals, what is happening to them, and what I opine about it.

Mike Freeman is the Hennepin County Attorney, and thus, responsible for making many of these decisions about what to do. He just now decided to not prosecute the police after a recent police killing. There was a video, there was a gun, the community is angry,etc. There is a good case to be made (though I’m not saying this is what happened) that at the moment the cops emptied their guns into this particular black man, they were justified, because maybe he had this gun pointing them. But there is also a good case, it appears, to be made that the entire incident was botches by the cops, and that the police essentially goaded this man, who was clearly having some problems of his own, into this confrontation.

Mike Freeman has been County Attorney for a long time. (Full disclosure, I’ve known him as a politician, and was a member of a group he represented in private practice.) I am not entirely sure what happened at this year’s County nominating convention, but Freeman did not get the endorsement of the Democratic Party, as one might normally expect. Another guy got that endorsement (though Freeman is still running in the primary). I strongly suspect this pushing off of the established candidate was because of a general feeling among the population that we’ve had enough. I don’t know if giving the endorsement to the other guy was definitely that, or if it was the right reaction. But I suspect the idea that black lives need to matter more was behind this fairly stunning political shift.

Betsy Hodges was the Mayor of Minneapolis. She lasted one term, then got replaced with a new guy. A major contributing reason for this was almost certainly because of a string of events in the city where black lives were being shown to not matter, and with Hodges not jumping in on the side of the community. She said good tings, but when push came to shove, she did not march into the police chief’s office, grab the video off her desk, and give it to the press.

Now, with this latest shooting, we see the new mayor, Jacob Frey, under the political gun. I don’t have an opinion on Frey. But I do see him doing some of the things Hodges did. He is, I suspect, being cowed by the police establishment. He is not coming down hard on the side of the community. He will not last as mayor if this happens one or two more times this term. And yes, it is unfortunately likely that the opportunity for Mayor Frey to tell the Minneapolis cops to shove it will arise two or three times in the upcoming term. I hope he does. But I expect him to not.

Hodges did stand up to the police union, but she did not stand up to the prosecutors. She should have risked the case being damaged, if necessary, to get at least one of the videos related to a shooting while she was mayor out to the public. If the public, the community under threat here, is actually making a mistake by demanding early release of videos, then so be it. Let’s find out if releasing a video two days after the event really does mess up the case. Personally, I doubt it would. But even if it does, we know broadly that the problem here is deep, wide, and systemic. What happens to a cop in a given shooting, with respect to the criminal justice system, is actually not as important as forcing overall, deep, systemic change in how the system works.

Hodges, down. Freeman, threatened. Frey … figure it out.

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39 thoughts on “Political costs of black lives not actually mattering

  1. Releasing video a few days after a shooting will not happen.

    The reason is witnesses.

    You have to obtain eye witness testimony before it is tainted by the video.

    Now once the witnesses are interviewed the video could be released – but it may take awhile before they all come forward.

    1. Yes, that is the usual excuse. The practice of the BCS and Minneapolis Police have been to wait weeks or months. All the witnesses get interviewed in about 48 hours.

      If you do read my post, though, you’ll see the other argument I make for releasing the videos in two (or three) days.

    2. How does releasing a video later change anything?

      It seems like people are upset the cops weren’t prosecuted, not the timing of a video release.

  2. Does Minneapolis still have a Civilian Review Board, independent of the Police or Council? For cops hated those guys if I remember right, because they were held responsible. Perhaps a board like that could review body cam tapes. I would also make sure that board members represent the community.

    1. It was shut down in 2012.

      There is now the Police Conduct Review Panel, which is smaller, but similarly appointed by council and mayor, but with the helpful addition of a similar number appointed by the Chief.

      They are not allowed to look at a case until after any investigation is done, by statute. So there is no way they an actually do anything helpful.

  3. “…black lives were being shown to not matter”
    What’s this ” black ” bullshit?
    Black haired people?
    USAs obsession with skin tone is out of control and has been for it’s entire history.
    Again and again and again I see something called ” race ” in American writing and maybe even on some government forms.
    It’s intrinsically anti science and anti commonsense.
    I don’t know what Damonds hair colour was and I don’t care. She was a life.

    1. “First, acknowledge that a black person shooting at the cops with a gun is liable to get shot to death. But, a black person with a gun in his or her possession is likely not violating any laws. ”
      Why Greg do you focus on this ” black ” thing as some sort of defining quality?
      It’s weird as fuck.

    2. Black is the subject here because that seems to be the defining factor in police shootings (and even police abuse short of shootings) of suspects. The “Black Lives Matter” movement simply means (in my words) that attitudes of police and the general public need to change so that those far too many Americans view as “black” are seen as a life the same as everyone else is.

      A problem is that the right jumped on this and immediately labeled the Black Live Matter movement as a violent extremist group, the same as they labeled people who protested against nazis, white supremacists, and others as violent extremists.

    3. Li D, I appreciate that you don’t live in the US and know nothing at all about it, but that also makes it hard to answer your questions.

      Sometimes the difficulty is not an addressing a question, but in formulating a question.

    4. Dean, I would suggest the defining factor is badly trained police and gobsmackingly shocking legislation that makes good policing much harder than it has to be.
      If the law says pretty much anyone can carry a hidden gun, ( imagine people getting around the street in armed gangs being completely legal ??? ), that law is not condusive to easy, effective, quality policing.
      It’s condusive to incident.
      Couldn’t believe the cops who didn’t give an ill person first aid in New York I think it was. So ill they called an ambulance, but didn’t give first aid in the interim. Who the fuck trained these people? Who audited the training?
      There’s a something systematicly rooted going on. In policing and legislation.

    5. I will repeat the question. It’s formulated pretty good I reckon Greg.

      “Why Greg do you focus on this ” black ” thing as some sort of defining quality?”

      If it requires introspection, so be it.

      I know we are both on the same page in
      matters of genetics and anatomy.

      And yet I don’t write about things in the same way you do.
      It’s very jarring to read some of your stuff.

    6. I would suggest the defining factor is badly trained police and gobsmackingly shocking legislation that makes good policing much harder than it has to be.

      I don’t know about legislation and policing, so someone who does can chime in on that.

      But since the 1960s the right wing and racists from other leanings have pushed the “blacks = crime” crap endlessly (the republicans because it got them votes after the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts were passed, others because that’s one of the things racists do), and that has filtered into many (not all) members of police forces around the country.

      And yes, almost anyone can carry a gun here, and the sad intersection of the years of demonizing people who aren’t white with members of that group carrying a gun will all to often lead to a tragic end. Couple that with “stand your ground” laws which have resulted in increases in homicides and you get events like the one with Trayvon Martin where some low-life assaulted him then shot him in “self defense”, and things get worse.

      It shouldn’t be, but racism is still strong here (and viewed as ok by more people every day as they see a classic racist, Trump, as president). The ambulance story is only the most recent (it was in Florida).

    7. Dean, the one I was thinking of was about a bloke named Garner. I just looked it up and it was in New York.
      Unfortunately I’m not surprised if there has been similar cases since then. Never heard about a Florida thing.

    8. If race is anti-science, then how are forensic scientists able to determine race from a skeleton?

    9. If Billy R endorses something I have said there’s a fair chance he/she has substantially misinterpreted it.

    10. Mike N, I’m gonna refer your query to Greg or anyone more coherent than I to explain. Could someone explain it to Mike N please. Maybe using such terms as social constructs or some such if it’s useful. Thanks.

  4. How fucked is it to conduct a white collar crime raid? It’s utterly reasonable to assume many of them suits around the boardroom are armed, are likely criminal ( thus the raid ),
    And potentially have much at stake ( millions of bucks in criminal proceeds maybe ).
    Talk about a massive logistics and dangerous exercise to get some documents. Unreal.
    The conceal gun thing is pure nuts.

  5. Imagine. A car hits a pushbike. Couple independent witnesses. Ambulance and cops come.
    Cops observe car driver. ” oh shit she looks like she has a gun ”
    Cops observe cyclist ” oh shit she looks like she has a gun too! ”
    Cops observe both witnesses ” oh shit. One of them looks like they have a gun too! ”
    How the fuck can a cop do their job in such an environment???
    Goes from being a simple traffic accident and light injury to being a potential absolute shit show if communication isn’t crystal clear to all parties.
    Too fucking bad if one of them parties is deaf for example. Or dosnt speak the same language. Or is inebriated. All completely legal mind you.
    In a micro sense its cretinous gun fondling fucks undermining local civilization.
    In a macro sense its cretinous nuke fondling fucks undermining world civilization.

    1. It was the Minnisota Damon case that got a lot of Australian media. Just fucked up. I don’t reckon it would have happened if Minnesotans had their shit together and guns were very very rare and not to be reasonably anticipated by police and so instead of being edgy, they could be in control.
      I blame Minnisota lawmakers for Damon’s death.
      It then follows that Minnesota voters are culpable. Gun fondling brain dead fucks.

    2. Well Mike N, I reckon your society is
      sort of got a foundation of being fucked in the head due to nuke loving.
      Until yous get past It, there won’t, there can’t, be a tolerant, thoughtful , ethical society.

  6. “I blame Minnisota lawmakers for Damon’s death.”

    Oh, of course, and not the fast tracked Hard Somalian,
    assigned to a low crime area of the city.

    Blame the LEO and then the Chef of Police and diversification.

  7. My advice to non-whites…if you are caught in this situation, be prepared, carry a small bottle of fake blood, pour it on your shirt and lay down with eyes staring, chances are the racist cops will just look and say ‘someone got here 1st!!’ This gives everyone a chance to cool off before finding out you aint dead… no guarantee this will work as cops are very easily pissed off!

  8. Does it strike anybody else as ironic that many of the people who want to use guns to solve societal problems are often racist, and they decry the supposed inferior nature of other races. And yet, their embrace of neurotoxin spewing dehumanizers (guns) strikes me as being a particularly stupid and inferior behavior.

  9. The classification of individuals into racial groups based on traits such as skin color, is often a cruel and lazy convention that is used to abuse people. People in the majority or or more politically powerful groups often, even typically don’t see this, and they continue invalidating and severely hurting other people throughout their lives. Even when they mean well. But often, they don’t mean well.

    1. Steve P.
      I want to say something as clearly as possible.
      First. I think you and Jane Elliot ( and Greg Laden too ) are on the same page.
      Secondly, this comforting idea gets, not shattered, but thrown into disarray, when I see words, terminology, semantic thingies, such as ” other races ” being used.
      When I’m reading a viewpoint, I sorta invisibly nod my head in a concurring manner as I go.
      So it’s nod, nod, nod, nod whaaaat????
      Where did that come from? It’s at such odds to everything else. Have I misunderstood? Is it a cultural misunderstanding? Is the commenter saying it only as an example of how others think, but not themselves, and maybe italics or something would make that clearer?

  10. “Black is the subject here because that seems to be the defining factor in police shootings (and even police abuse short of shootings) of suspects. The “Black Lives Matter” movement simply means (in my words) that attitudes of police and the general public need to change so that those far too many Americans view as “black” are seen as a life the same as everyone else is.

    A problem is that the right jumped on this and immediately labeled the Black Live Matter movement as a violent extremist group, the same as they labeled people who protested against nazis, white supremacists, and others as violent extremists.”

    I will not call, Boris K9, dean a liar: I will not call Boris K9 dean a disinformation
    specialist: I will not call, Boris K9 dean, ignorant but a Harry Potterist.

    https://policy.m4bl.org/platform/

    The plank is larger than both main parties! Also, they have a list of
    six demands.

    Can anyone think of another nation, wherein, minorities receive betterment.?

    Why are Afro-Blacks fleeing from their own continent.? How many nations
    in Africa are prosperous.? Will someone call these questions racist.?

    Oh, yes, a LEO is 18 times more likely to be shot by an AA,
    than the other way around.

    The Michael Brown event, was a WMD hate and lie campaign to foment civil
    unrest. This anti-freedom and anti-American NP, is nothing more than a cabal
    to destroy our nation.

    Fifth Columnist and haters of capitalism.

    What do we want, more Zimbabweans – when do we want them – NOW !!!

    1. Yes billyR, it’s a shame that a group actually puts thought and detail, with facts, into their opinions. Thinking things through and fighting against inequality and discrimination are both slaps in the face of what the United States stands for.

      At least they are for worthless shit-filled skin-sacks of shit on the right like you — and they are doubly evil when they are defending people who aren’t white, right?

  11. “At least they are for worthless shit-filled skin-sacks of shit on the right like you”

    K9 dean, your hate and spite is beginning to undermine your limit
    ability to think or reason.

    We have professional editors available, to make logic out of your
    writings.

  12. “If Billy R endorses something I have said there’s a fair chance he/she has substantially misinterpreted it.”

    “Little D, excellent reply! I full endorse your post.”

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