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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Jamar Clark Case: Beyond The Definitions

Category: Society
Posted: 06/01/16 23:58

by Dave Mindeman

The Justice Department issued a ruling today in regards to the Jamar Clark case. They declined to charge.

This announcement was made by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota, which said that a comprehensive investigation into Clark's death was unable to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that an officer involved sought to violate his civil rights.

That type of ruling was expected here and is probably correct in regards to violating civil rights. It is hard to prove that the officers "intentionally" sought to deprive Jamar Clark of his civil rights.

But there still seems to be an underlying problem here.

When we talk about officer involved shootings, all of the discretion is given to the police officers. In regards to deprivation of civil rights the standard is high:

"It is not enough to show that the officer made a mistake, acted negligently, acted by accident or mistake or even exercised bad judgment."

Alright, if that is the definition, then the US Attorney made the right announcement.

But maybe we need to take a look at how we approach these cases at the local level. If an officer acts negligently or exercises bad judgment, maybe that doesn't rise to the level of a civil rights violation, but it is an action that should be viewed with alarm.

A police officer has a tough job. Yes, we all agree on that. But a reckless cop is a dangerous cop. A policeman that acts in a negligent manner should have consequences. A policeman who uses bad judgment should be accountable.

When an unarmed person gets killed by a police officer within seconds of the officer arriving on the scene, something is terribly wrong. You can dismiss willful intention and you can question murder charges, but you cannot simply exonerate what happened as if it was nothing.

A person died. And that person died because of police judgment and action.

Preserve and protect. That is the motto isn't it? No matter how tough the job, there should still be accountability. Yes, the police have the absolute right to defend themselves and taking on suspects with weapons has an entirely different meaning.

But too many unarmed people are ending up dead from officer shootings and that just should not be.

This cannot end here. There should be more review and more public input. A full examination of police procedure is warranted.

I am glad that the investigation was thorough and I think we can be confident that under the established guidelines, a proper decision was made.

But maybe, just maybe, those established guidelines are incorrect.
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A Republican Future Coming To A Mall Near You

Category: Society
Posted: 05/02/16 20:42

by Dave Mindeman

A story of the future in the Republican United States....

I was doing some shopping at the Mall with my wife. When we got to the food court, I said:

Me: Hey, honey, I need to hit the bathroom, I'll be right back.

Her: OK, I'll check out what's available. Meet you in the back.

So, I head down the corridor and get to the bathroom entrances. For some reason, there is a security officer standing outside. As I approach the Men's Entrance, he holds up his hand.

Officer: Sir, can I see your ID.

Me: What?

Officer: Your ID, I need to see your ID.

Me: Why would you need to do that?

Officer: I have to make sure you are gender compliant.

Me: Gender compliant? What the heck is that about?

Officer: New regulations that took effect today. Only gender compliant males can use the Men's bathroom and only gender compliant females can use the Women's bathroom.

Me: Come on. Isn't it obvious that I am a male. I have facial hair and I dress horribly.

Officer: That is not a gender compliant criteria. Show me some ID.

Me: Oh for Pete's sake.

I pull out my driver's license and hand it to the officer.

Officer: Sorry, this ID is not gender compliant.

Me: What the hell are you talking about? It has my picture and under Sex, it say M for male.

Officer: That is no longer definitive. Do you have your birth certificate on your person?

Me: What? Are you nuts? NO! I do not have my birth certificate.

Officer: I am not appreciative of that attitude sir. I am afraid I cannot let you use this bathroom. Sorry.

Me: Oh come on. I have to pee pretty bad. I assume you do have urinals in there? Come on. I promise not to loiter around and do weird things.

Officer: Sorry, I have my orders.

Me: There must be something we can do.

Officer: Well sir, maybe we can straighten this out if you will come with me to the Gender Compliance Office Area....or GenCom, as we call it.

Me: You are serious aren't you?

Officer: Never more, sir.

Me: OK, but let's make this quick.

Officer: Step through this door and we will get started. What gender do you consider yourself?

Me: I am a male. My wife says I'm a male. And my doctor has me on record as a male. I am a male.

Officer: Do you have a pen*s?

Me: What?

Officer: Do you have a pen*s?

Me: Last I checked, yes. It's a pretty damn good one, too.

Officer: No need for sarcasm. Please drop your pants.

Me: Are you kidding me? Isn't that some kind of a personal violation?

Officer: Just following protocol.

Me: I think my bladder is starting to shrivel. Ah, for Pete's sake, OK, OK.

I unbuckle my pants and let them drop to the floor.

Officer: Now your underwear.

Me: (As I look at the glass windows, I start to see a crowd gather)
Good Lord...can't we do this somewhere a little more private.

Officer: Sorry sir - we have to do this in the open for your own protection.

I turn my back to the window and drop my underwear.

Officer: OK - looks like a pen*s. Little nervous are you?

Me: Don't get funny. Are we done?

Officer: Oh no sir. I need to get my sample kit.

Me: What?

Officer: My sample kit. We have to take a sample.

Me: For God's sake, a sample of what?

Officer: I have to get a pubic hair.

Me: Get a what?

Officer: I have to get a pubic hair and do a DNA test.

Me: Oh good Lord. Are you kidding me?

Officer: Never more serious sir. It is the only way we can be 100% sure. Let me just do a quick pluck.

Me: Ooooouuuuucch!

Officer: Sorry, must have nicked a couple of the little buggers.

The officer takes his tweezer full of pubic hair and places it in a specimen bag.

Officer: OK - as soon as we get the results we can make you gender compliant.

Me: How long will that take?

Officer: Oh, about a half hour.

Me: (a bit agitated) You have got to be kidding me. (As I gingerly dance on my toes back and forth)....I still have to go really bad. How the heck am I supposed to hold it that long?

Officer: Well, there is one other alternative.

Me: Anything...what is it?

Officer: You can get a personal urinal and I'll let you use that in our broom closet.

Me: Personal urinal? Where the heck am I supposed to get that?

Officer: Well, right next door is a store that sells them - UrinalsAreUs. I think they have a modest one for about $39.99.

Me: Oh. My. God. You don't happen to have an interest in that store, do you?

Officer: Not my place to say.

I pull up my pants and run out the door and back down the corridor. My wife looks at me and down at her watch.

She: What the heck took you so long?

Me: DO. NOT. ASK.

I say this as I turn the corner and run into UrinalsAreUs.
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"Historic" Drug Compromise Guidelines Oddly Penalizes Weed

Category: Society
Posted: 04/29/16 13:00

by Dave Mindeman

A crime legislation compromise proposal is being classified as "historic" in terms of changes made to the sentencing structure of drug related offenses.

After weeks of closed-door wrangling between law enforcement, defense attorneys and lawmakers, a compromise has been reached on an effort at the Capitol to lighten criminal penalties for drug offenders statewide.

I am not sure why this had to be a "closed door" negotiation, but that is how this came to be. And there are some good things here:

1. In general "sentencing guidelines" -- the amount of prison time a convicted criminal will be presumed to get when sentenced by a judge -- for all drug crimes, will be reduced, regardless of degree.

2. Additionally, the amount of confiscated drugs required to trigger a charge has been increased for drugs like heroine, methamphetamine or cocaine. (Marijuana is a different story which will be discussed below).

3. It would define what a "trace" amount of drugs is -- a definition that has been lacking in current law and leading to a lot of law enforcement discretionary interpretation. And possession charges for trace amounts would become a gross misdemeanor, rather than a felony for a first offense.

4. Sentences for what prosecutors have called "kingpin" dealers -- those possessing or selling especially large quantities of drugs -- would become mandatory, unalterable by a judge. Also, if the accused possessed a gun, the old, harsher sentencing levels would stay in place, in addition to being mandatory. Prior law didn't differentiate much from users and dealers.

5. Mandatory penalties would be eliminated on lesser-degree drug crimes, allowing judges to be more lenient.

If utilized properly, these guidelines could reduce the incarceration rate in Minnesota prisons and give judges more latitude.

But there is one very troubling and puzzling provision....

For marijuana, on the other hand, the 100 kg required for a first-degree possession charge has been reduced to 50 kg.

In other words, marijuana was actually singled out for harsher restrictions.

This compromise was agreed to because....

Defense attorneys noted that Minnesota's marijuana thresholds are extraordinarily permissive compared to most other states, and agreed to allow them to become more strict.

I have trouble understanding why marijuana, which has medicinal legality in Minnesota, would get treated the opposite of other illegal drugs. Especially when the purpose of this compromise is to lighten the load on our prisons. Why not just leave marijuana alone? What difference does it make that our current laws are "permissive", when the tendency in the country moves towards complete legalization?

I expect that the law enforcement establishment lobbied for this. They seem to have some kind of inherent bias against marijuana and cling to decades old ideas and stereotypes about this drug.

The compromise guidelines will probably move through the legislature fairly quickly...because it has law enforcement's blessing. The marijuana aspect is troubling, but as the mood of the country changes on recreational use, maybe it won't make any difference in the long run. However, in the short term, marijuana possession will, ironically, be treated worse than your basic heroin and cocaine user.

That just feels wrong.
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