Editorial: Time for Mpls leaders to talk race


Add the Star Tribune editorial board to the list of journalists who find no redeeming quality in Jay Kolls’ sloppy expose of Mayor Betsy Hodges door-knocking campaign in which she was alleged to have flashed gang signs.

Sadly dismissing the journalistic malfeasance — “mistakes happen” — of a station that is licensed and required to serve in the public interest, today’s editorial issues a call for people to start talking about the issue that’s been pushed aside in the week-old controversy — the relations between Minneapolis police and Minneapolis citizens.

In an open letter to the community in October, Hodges wrote that a small number of bad officers “abuse the trust” of the public, and she outlined steps she and Harteau were taking to improve the department.

The letter prompted a defensive Star Tribune commentary from Delmonico, who wrote: “When you speak of the ‘culture of the department’ that is ‘on a downward spiral and must be changed,’ you paint all officers with the same brush, since all of us are members of ‘that culture.’ ”

In reality, Hodges has repeatedly emphasized that the large majority of officers serve Minneapolis with skill and courage. Her efforts are intended to prevent the types of misconduct cases that “paint all officers with the same brush.”

The KSTP controversy gives Hodges and Harteau a perfect opportunity to highlight their reform efforts and gain broader community support.

The editorial also forgives both Hodges and police chief Harteau for saying almost nothing about the controversy since it broke last week, but suggests it’s a good time to start.

  • Gary F

    That includes the Mpls public schools too. They just announced they were going to “review” all suspension cases for students of color.

    • DavidG

      That was part of a settlement with the Feds.

  • Robert Moffitt

    While the Mayor and Chief’s silence on “pointergate” may annoy some who are eager to talk about race, from a PR standpoint it serves them well. The KSTP-TV story was so ridiculous, no further comment is necessary.

    • “it serves THEM well.”

      The PR industry in four words.

      Of course further commentary is necessary. Is the police force racist? Does the police department you control, chief, believe in redemption, even IF the guy had been a gang banger, which he wasn’t?

      Also, who’s in charge of your department? Why does it see a gang banger first and a person second?

      I can think of plenty of comments that are necessary because we’ve only scratched the beginning of the questions.

      But, yeah, it served THEM well. We have to get past the Jay Kolls aspect to the story, however. He’s just a tool that was used by a rather sinister force.

      • Matt Brillhart

        “We have to get past the Jay Kolls aspect to the story”. AMEN.

        This is about bad actors in the PD. KSTP did what they’re gonna do, and they’re not apologizing. Let them deal with the fallout in viewers and sponsors. They’ve made their bed…

  • jon

    Saw the head line, assumed since the mid-term election had past we were starting to form exploratory committees for a run at president…
    I kind of glad to read that we are talking about the OTHER kind of race.

  • Cat

    The conversation needs to move beyond the silly story itself (gang signs, really?) and into attitudes among the police officers that apparently led them to anonymously goad the tools at KSTP to run the story, and the union leader to go on camera and make a fool of himself. We as citizens of Minneapolis deserve to know how why the police officers who hid behind Delmonico and the retired cop took it upon themselves to try to publicly discredit a guy who is trying to turn his life around. Is it all attitude relative to young black men, or did they have something personally against Gordon and they chose a cowardly, anonymous method of striking out at him? Or was he incidental to a cowardly, anonymous method of striking out against the mayor? In any case, we don’t really know our city’s police officers, and it’s scary.

    • One of these days I’m going to get around to writing the post about how this story has its roots in the day Dave Dobrotka made peace with gangs in Minneapolis.

      Not to mention the roots of why Duy Ngo got lit up by his own department.

      It’s all connected. THAT’S the story.

      • BJ

        What’s wrong with today?

      • MikeB

        There appears to be more here that can fit in a NewsCut post. It’s sounding like a Michael Connelly-type story

        • Go ahead and explain.

          • MikeB

            The internal goings on between the MPD, the police union, and City Hall covering several years and administrations. You mentioned Dobrotka and Ngo, while vaguely recalling the details there seems to be a lot of back story there. If there is a common thread from #pointergate to those days, a very good observation when I read your comment, I’d be very interested in reading that story.

          • I think the story — which is the relations between police and “gangs” — goes back to United for Peace, back in the heavy gang days in the early 90s in which more progressive in the elements of the police department began to work with gangs. That caused a significant struggle within the department which was one by the side believed that gang members have to be eliminated , when gang bangers walked into the Pizza Shack and shot Jerry Haaf to death around ’92 (I think offhand).

            I think what took root is the assumption that if you’re a young black man in N. Mpls, you’re a gang member.

            The Duy Ngo shooting (and I think I had the last long interview with him before he killed himself) showed that, indeed, there were bad apples in the police department and there was significant pushback when Rybak and Sharon Lubinski stepped forward in decency to try to make things right.

            http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2007/12/the_fight_for_duy_ngos_life/

            That entrenched element that turned out Duy Ngo, is still calling the shots within the police department, and it doesn’t let politicians or brass stand in its way; it outlives them all of them..

          • MikeB

            Reading that again. Yikes. That entrenched insularity flashes through with blinking lights, sirens, and a foghorn.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    We also deserve to get a full look at whatever this fued is between the mayor and the MPD. It’s obviously serious and it matters to the city.

  • It was announced this morning that Hodges will make her first comments on the story on Friday on Daily Circuit.

    • KTN

      Are you going to be their too. You have had the most in depth coverage of this, and it seems like you would be a valuable addition to the discussion.