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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Ferguson-Garner:Points To Key Of Law Enforcement Minority Hiring

Category: Barack Obama
Posted: 12/04/14 12:36, Edited: 12/04/14 12:37

by Dave Mindeman

I have been out of commission for the last few weeks. Had some medical issues to attend to. Things are fine and fortunately, our insurance (via Obamacare) made the financial impact reasonably light.

But let's get to the main topic of the day.

Race issues and police relations with the community.

Ferguson- Eric Garner, the conversation is polarized and dangerous....yet necessary.

There is a hopeless void of trust between city police departments and the urban core community. It is toxic. It must be fixed. And these recent grand jury cases have underscored this lack of trust...and the hopelessness that permeates the black minority in this country.

I understand the need for a higher standard of prosecution in the case of police officers. They need latitude to do their jobs. But it is painfully obvious that this latitude is not even handed. Black community members do not get the same respect, the same assumptions, given to white members of the same communities.

This is a core problem in race relations and solutions need to be found.

The roots run deep. Decades of mistrust are involved. The bad actions of a few in law enforcement have deepened that mistrust. That is something that cannot be fixed by any kind of magic bullet or empty rhetoric.

To me, there is only one change that can make a difference now. One change that doesn't require years of base building and slow, painful work in core communities.

I'm talking about minority hiring.

Ferguson has been a powder keg waiting to explode for years. The population shift from majority white to a 2/3's black majority has been rapid and blatantly obvious. The political and law enforcement power base did not adapt or change in any way.

That was foolish. Couple that with a stubborn refusal to change the police culture of targeting blacks for municipal fines and you have the makings of what transpired after the catalyst of a tragic shooting of a young black man.

The altercation between Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown is not a simple, one side is wrong, type narrative. They never are. But you take a tragedy and compound it with negligent mistakes by the police department and long brewing tensions between the community and the authorities .... and you get anger, frustration, and the need for action (and unfortunately some violent action).

In the case of Eric Garner, you have long standing problems with the NYPD and a political system that seeks to minimize officer wrongdoing for fear of admitting that their authority has been a failure in implementation that can't meet a basic standard of respect.

The problems are deep but one solution begs to be addressed.

The number of black officers in Ferguson is in the single digits. The number of black police officers in New York is about 18%.

In Ferguson, the military riot gear and battle type weapons with white officers in that gear sent a not so subtle message that power and control was more important than discussion and compromise.

In New York, the Eric Garner video shows him being taken down by 5 officers - none of them black and one who appeared to be an Asian-American. How much different would that incident have been if Eric Garner had had a black officer to talk to?

Urban police departments with troubled community relations need to be aggressive in minority hiring. Some place are trying, but not with the urgency that is needed.

Minneapolis has its own issues.

Of the department's 807 sworn officers, 74 are black (9 percent), and 33 are Hispanic (4 percent). Of the 460 new cadets and recruits, 61 are black (13 percent) and 13 are Hispanic (2.8 percent). This in a city where the black population is estimated to be 18.6 percent, and the Hispanic population is 10.5 percent.

And as Molly Priesmeyer points out in the linked Minnpost article, 94% of Minneapolis officers do not live in the city. It begs the question of what constitutes "community policing", if the police personnel do not invest themselves in that community?

Of course, the concept of a good police officer does not depend on residency or color of your skin. But how the community you serve perceives you matters - and if we are to even attempt to fix these problems in a timely manner, then public perception is the key component. And that perception depends on trained black officers dealing with police relationships for a black populated community.

The key questions of the last few weeks revolve around a failure of police accountability for their actions. And the reality is....that even if both of the officers in regards to Ferguson and Eric Garner were indicted and given a very public trial, it would still not solve the underlying problem....the lack of trust in those hired to protect and serve.

A public airing of police failures may give some temporary satisfaction to the minority community, but after the show is over, we are still left with two divergent sides with an even weaker bridge between them.

Minority hiring in our urban police departments is more than just a feel good goal, it is critical to the future of our cities.
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Ebola - The Political Issue

Category: Barack Obama
Posted: 10/27/14 09:45

by Dave Mindeman

This is probably a good way to define the Age of Obama.

The Minnesota Poll took up the topic of ebola and, surprise, surprise, they found a partisan response....

While 97 percent of Democrats who responded said they had "a lot" or at least "some" confidence in the government's ability to contain an outbreak in the United States, only 60 percent of independent voters and 56 percent of Republicans expressed such faith. And 14 percent of Republicans said they had "no confidence at all" in the government's Ebola response. Zero Democrats made that claim.

In this day and age, diseases are responded to based on your political affiliation. Republicans have become insistent on making sure President Obama gets no credit for anything that might be considered positive. They trash Obamacare even though there is clear evidence on nearly all fronts that it is accomplishing exactly what it set out to do. Even tragic events like the murders of our embassy personnel in Benghazi has taken an epic political tone.

But on ebola? The problems that developed in Dallas could have happened anywhere in the country. It is tempting to make a political point about Texas, but the truth is, no city would have been fully prepared to be confronted with an ebola case right on their doorstep. We can argue indefinitely about what kind of prevention we should have been doing in this regard, but political blame is kind of absurd. Both parties had responsibilities and concerns to deal with here, but the idea that we could handle this perfectly when directly confronted with no warning is a bit much to ask.

What should matter is our reponse after the fact. And frankly, that response has not been good - and a good portion of that problem stems from ridiculous partisan politics.

The administration gets criticized for a lack of action in regards to ebola. They get sued for acting too much in regards to immigration.

It is getting harder and harder to correlate the reactions to President Obama without thinking - would the reaction be different if he was a white President?

If you look at facts alone, President Obama has accomplished a lot during his tenure. Our economy has almost fully recovered from the worst recession since the depression. We finally have a health care fix. Actions have been taken on the environment. Inequality has been brought to the forefront - in both LGBT and Women's issues. We have made progress in the fight with Al Qaeda. Bank regulations have improved the housing market and loan stability. The stock market soars and unemployment has been reduced to pre-recession levels. The car industry was saved from destruction.

But President Obama is unpopular. A relentless campaign to discredit him has gone on since he started his presidency. Republicans in Congress have taken a path of obstruction, rather than participate in dealing with the country's problems. On the economic front, their debt ceiling antics has actually increased the difficulty of Obama's economic policies...almost destroying the economy in one irresponsible action. Death threats and White House breaches of security are up. Blaming the President for everything is the new parlor game.

And yet, despite the political drag of a do nothing Congress and an obstructive Senate minority, Obama continues to move the US into prosperity.

Could we be doing better on responding to ebola? Sure. But to score political points and disseminate misinformation intentionally is not only a disservice to the American people, but creating an unnecessary danger to them.

Is the Age of Obama defined as the time of a black President? or should it be defined as the time of just a good President?

That will be the decision of people who come after us - because what we are doing now is just politics at its worst.
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Bottom Line - The President Has Kept Us Out Of War

Category: Barack Obama
Posted: 06/07/14 20:00

by Dave Mindeman

At the D-Day ceremonies there were a number of World War II veterans on hand. They are a dwindling number....we lose them at the rate of about 400 per day. They have seen war up close and personal and they know why it sometimes needs to be done and what it costs.

After Obama gave his speech, he was confronted by one of those veterans. Nobody could hear what he was saying, but one reporter kept track of him and sought him out.....

....one of them--pale and bent beneath his baseball cap as if it weighed him down--stepped forward and took Obama's hand, and would not let him go until he had said his piece.

Was the infirm old soldier, perhaps, taking Obama to task for the scandals in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs? Was he telling the president that American policy needed more spine? An old survivor has a kind of license to say whatever he wants, even to the president of the United States. Obama smiled warmly. But then, in front of the crowd and the world's television cameras, he would. None of us in the crowd could hear.

Yes, that old soldier had an opportunity to take Obama to task for all of the scandals, the "bad" decisions, the "weakness" he has shown. But what exactly did he say?......

When the ceremony was over, I made my way through the arrays of marble crosses to the stage and to the man in the blue hat who had taken Obama's hand.

His name, it turns out, is Irving Smolens, and he was only 19 when he took part in the Normandy landing. Afterward he spent much of his life as a buyer of women's and children's clothing in Massachusetts, leading a quiet, peaceful life with his family.

"What did you say to Obama?" I asked him.

"I thanked him for keeping us out of war," said Smolens.

Yes....for all the GOP public criticism of Obama's foreign policy....for all of the perceived "weakness" that the GOP continues to fault him for....for all of the stands he has made and the pull backs he has done....for all of that, there really is just one thing to say.

Thank you, President Obama, for keeping us out of war.
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