Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Power In The Cause Of Prejudice

On April 12, I argued that Chief Tim Gannon of the Brooklyn Center, MN police department erred in concluding before investigation that the killing by Daunte Wright by a police officer was an "accidental discharge."  However, I noted also that Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliot acted reprehensibly in recommending that the police officer, later identified as Kimberly Potter, be fired.

Left unsaid, though implied by criticism of one man for a premature observation and another for premature verdict and sentencing, was praise for the town's city manager He had responded to a question at the city's news conference on Monday by first stating

My name is Kurt Boganey, B-O-G-A-N-E-Y. And in response to the question about termination, all employees working for the city of Brooklyn Center are entitled to due process with respect to discipline. This employee will receive due process. And that’s really all that I can say today.

"Due process." What a novel concept! It shouldn't be controversial but is in many quarters today. Boganey remarked additionally

we are providing reports to the city council about officer discipline, about information on staffs of black and brown people, or people of color in the city of Brooklyn Center. We are developing some task forces to assess if any of our policies or if any of our practices lead to disproportionate inequitable results. our objective for doing that analysis is to eliminate any inequity that occurs as a result of our practices and our policies. That has been communicated to the chief and to the police officers or the city of Brooklyn Center.

In the old days of the previous decade, that was commonly called "pro-active" until people realized how awful that term was. Nonetheless (or "further"), it seems to be a rather progressive approach to policing: gather information; address possible inequity; communicate with the police department and city officials.

Boganey also replied to one question "I can't make that judgement" and to another, "I can't speculate." Given that many facts were not yet determined and the officer had not yet been interviewed, those remarks were not only fair but prudent.

Of course, that meant he had to go.  Open minds make some politicians uncomfortable and can inhibit the formation and spread of bias. Monday evening we learned that Brookly Center

now has a new city manager and — at least temporarily — a new de facto leader of the police department after a city council vote that granted the mayor “command authority” over the agency.

The overhaul is likely to give Mayor Mike Elliott the power to fire the police chief and police officers, one legal expert told The Washington Post.

“At such a tough time, this will streamline things and establish a chain of command and leadership,” Elliott wrote after the motion passed by a 3-to-2 vote. Elliott, who by law serves on the council, and two other members voted in the affirmative.

The police chief "resigned" the following day. Brooklyn Center did have a chain of command and leadership, the latter unfortunately seized by a narrow-minded mayor. It now is turning over a dangerous amount of power to one official, who was discomfited by the professional leadership offered by its city manager, who valued facts over bias.  Given today's climate, that may not be surprising.  And that's the problem.


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