The shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri nearly two weeks ago has sparked larger conversations about how often police use lethal force and when it is necessary. 

A report published earlier this year by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shows how often law enforcement officers used their guns in the line of duty in 2013.  The report also tallies the number of times officers were assaulted and injured last year.

  • In 2013, there were 169 shots fired by law enforcement officials in 29 incidents.
  • 9 people were shot and killed by officers.
  • 396 officers were assaulted and/or injured in 2013 – including 118 Minneapolis police officers. More than half of those incidents in Minneapolis involved injuries to the officers
  • No officers were killed in the line of duty and no police dogs were injured or killed in 2013

There has also been a lot of discussion lately about racial disparities between white and black Americans when it comes to how each group is treated by police officers.  The BCA report includes a racial breakdown of people arrested for narcotics in 2013.  By my calculation, African-Americans were four times more likely to be arrested for narcotics offenses than white Minnesotans.

Here’s my math:

According to the BCA, 14,057 whites were arrested for narcotics offenses last year. I divided that number by the total number of white Minnesotans — which according to a Census Bureau estimate of 2013 is 4,661,526 — multiplied by 10,000 = an arrest rate of 30/10,000.

4,009 African-Americans arrested/population 308,961 x 10,000 = 129/10,000.

The African-American arrest rate is 4.3 times higher

Of course, these numbers do not tell the whole story.  The racial data in the report are not broken down by age group and by the locations of the arrests.

Lynx cubs introduced to the public today. Courtesy, Minnesota Zoo

The Minnesota Zoo will introduce four new Canada lynx kittens today. The kittens were born in May, but the zoo says they’ve been nursing, growing and bonding with their mom.

Now, the two girls and two boys are old enough to start exploring their new home on the zoo’s Medtronic Minnesota Trail.

Lynx cubs introduced to the public today. Courtesy, Minnesota Zoo

The zoo describes Canada lynx:

Canada lynx have dense silvery-brown coats, ruffed faces, and tufted ears. Their extra-thick fur and large snowshoe-like paws make them well-suited to cold habitat in northern forests.

Snowshoe hare is the lynx’s primary food source. Unable to run for long distances, these skilled and patient hunters stalk and attack prey at close range.

Canada lynx are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The Minnesota Zoo’s kittens are important additions to this species.

Bob Fletcher, as Ramsey County Sheriff, led a controversial initiative against protesters during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Tim Nelson/MPR News

Former Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher will be back on the ballot this fall — but not to be the county’s top cop.

He’s running for the Vadnais Heights City Council this year. He was one of four candidates who filed yesterday for the two spots on the ballot for Nov. 4.  The council has four positions, and they run in staggered even-year elections. The top two vote-getters win seats on the at-large council.

Is this the start of the Bob Fletcher comeback tour?

“Or is it the fade into the sunset?” Fletcher joked today.

It’s his second run for office since he lost the Sheriff’s race to Matt Bostrom in 2010 — Fletcher ran in the Ramsey County board primary against incumbent Tony Bennett in 2012. That was their second head-to-head match up, after the race that gave Fletcher the sheriff’s badge back in 1994. The 2012 primary knocked Bennett out of the seat he’d had had for four terms in the northern suburbs. Fletcher failed to make it to the general election, either, and Blake Huffman took the District 1 seat.

This year’s election will have some of the same flavor: also on the ballot with Fletcher this fall is tw0-term city council incumbent Joe Murphy, Bennett’s long time legislative aide.

Fletcher says he’s taking aim at the council in part because of the city’s calamitous decision to build the $26 million Vadnais Sports Center, which the county bought  in a $9.8 million fire sale earlier this year.

“You know, I’ve spent a lot of time in Vadnais,” Fletcher said in an interview today. “I’ve lived there for several years now, participated in the recreation programs, and experienced some decisions by the city council that have been disturbing, not the least of one is the sports center.” He’s also a veteran campaigner. He served on the St. Paul City Council in 1982, ’83 and ’84, ran for mayor against Jim Scheibel in 1989 and led a losing campaign in 1991 to repeal the gay rights provision in St. Paul’s human rights ordinance.

Murphy, who is confident he can keep his seat in the face of the Fletcher challenge, has his doubts about Fletcher and contends that the Vadnais Sports Center issue has been settled with the county purchase.

“I find it hard to believe a former county sheriff would truly be interested in the Vadnais Heights City Council,” Murphy said.

They’ll face off at the ballot box on Nov. 4.

Spencer Cronk, who has led the State Department of Administration since 2011, got the nod Tuesday as Mayor Betsy Hodges’ nominee for city coordinator. The coordinator oversees the city’s finance, human resources, information technology and communications departments. Also under the coordinator are such disparate services as animal control, emergency management and lobbying. The Department of Read more