BLM gets an ally from the woman who prosecuted protesters

The former Bloomington city attorney, who had refused to back down from prosecuting members of Black Lives Matter for their occupation of the Mall of America in December 2014, is now pushing back against some critics of the group’s positions.

Sandra Johnson, of Minnetonka, retired from her post in May after insisting that it would have been unethical to not to prosecute the protesters, although she said at the time that lawmakers should listen to what they have to say.

“The energy you have put into this aggressive prosecution needs to be redirected to a communitywide effort toward open dialogue between our justice system and those who do not receive equal and fair treatment and protection from our current system,” a letter from faith leaders in the metro urged her at the time.

And now she has, with an op-ed today in the Star Tribune, reacting two recent essays, one of which referred to “the Black Elephant in the Room.”

“Is it logical that a city police officer treat a young man dressed and acting out like a gangster exactly the same as he would treat a young white man dressed like a ‘prepster’?” Richard Greene, a Bloomington resident, had written. He’s a former police detective.

In her op-ed today, Johnson criticizes the writers for pointing to alleged causes of recent police shootings, but not pointing to a solution.

“I would urge Greelis, Simon and other caring individuals to move beyond rationalizations, justifications, accusations or simple admiration of the problem,” she wrote.

I spent most of my career as a front-line prosecutor; now I volunteer at a food shelf. The psychology of the disenfranchised has, as its core, distrust — developed quite simply as a survival instinct. Many families — despite hard work, intelligence and dedicated effort — simply cannot escape the cycle of poverty. People become mired in hopelessness, certain in their belief that the rest of society does not give a damn about them.

It starts when the child enters school and finds it to be a nonlevel playing field, where the children of the “haves” will most always surpass them due to their unique access to the tools for success — adequate food, shelter, clothing, school supplies and parents with time to assist their children in school work. Children in poverty see the system as rigged against them and they can appreciate the injustice. By their teenage years many have given up on dreams; others have grown hostile toward a system that appears to enslave them to a lifetime of poverty.

Johnson says as a prosecutor, and now as a volunteer, she knows why there’s so little trust between police and communities of color, assuming that the goal of the justice system “was their further prosecution.”

At this time, when many of us are truly motivated to take a hard look at our communities of poverty, we need to make some major adjustments to the playing field, starting with the children born into poverty. We need to earn the trust of minority communities, not simply by words but by political action.

That, she writes, will take money. It’s the point at which the conversation she calls for usually stops.

Related: Records: Officer may have interacted with Castile in 2011 (Associated Press)

  • John

    Ah yes. . . money. Investing in long term projects for the greater good. I wish we would spend on this kind of stuff, but . . .

    We don’t do that any more. Maybe we never did – I’m not sure, but it seems like we must have – quality infrastructure mattered (look at the schools built at the turn of the 20th century – they have their issues: lead paint, asbestos, etc. – but they were built to last forever. I have driven by several schools built recently, and they look like they’re built to stay standing for 30 years.)

    Someone in my family was griping about this, and was blaming politicians (as usual). He/she pointed out that the political class thinks only approximately one election cycle into the future – just far enough out to keep their job. Probably the only good point of the rant.

    There doesn’t seem to be much vision any more. I mean, there must be, but those that have vision are either unable to close the sale, or there’s just no appetite among those who control funding to put up the money now – everything is short term. (There’s willingness to put up money – the monolithic cruise ship sitting off of I-94 is a good example of that, just not for things that aren’t flashy or pay back immediately).

    • Jay T. Berken

      “There doesn’t seem to be much vision any more. I mean, there must be, but those that have vision are either unable to close the sale, or there’s just no appetite among those who control funding to put up the money now – everything is short term.”

      In my experience and industry (electric and water utility), it is the later. There are good ideas and new needs that are being pushed on the industry, but because of its nature and fear of failure (in the community news mostly) the leadership is not there to invest in the future of the utility business. Yes it is a lot of investment and yes technology changes so it is at times a moving target. My personal point of view is that some systems are becoming more complex and increasing reliance on reliability plus the turning of the tide with baby boomers retiring, they are taking that knowledge out of utility of how things work. That can be a scary transaction. I have noticed that not only the boomers watched their pennies, but they tended to keep processes close to the chest which when gone, the processes have to be revamped. It’s a can of worms.

  • rallysocks

    ““Is it logical that a city police officer treat a young man dressed and acting out like a gangster exactly the same as he would treat a young white man dressed like a ‘prepster’?” Richard Greene, a Bloomington resident, had written. He’s a former police detective.”

    Dang right they should! A life time of watching Lifetime movies have taught me that it’s ALWAYS the preppie ones…