Just as I was planning a trip to Minneapolis, the city is embroiled in civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd by four police officers (far more upsetting to me than Covid-19, actually).
Facebook friends who are Democrats blame the murder of Mr. Floyd on Republicans and Donald Trump, which seems odd given that Minneapolis voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in 2016 (results) and, like other unionized government workers, it seems reasonable to expect that most Minneapolis police officers would vote for Democrats.
Facebook friends who are passionate about Black Lives Matter blame the murder on white supremacy, but how many of the four police officers were actually white? And haven’t there been plenty of murders by police officers and police brutality incidents in which no white people were involved on either side?
At least two of the officers involved had a record of similar conduct, but it would have been almost impossible to fire them due to their union membership. Even in this case, where surveillance video would seem sufficient for all four officers to be arrested and put in jail to await trial for murder, Wikipedia says
The local police union expressed support of the officers involved, saying: “The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis will provide full support to the involved officers.” They also urged the public to remain calm, saying: “Now is not the time to rush to judgement and immediately condemn our officers.
[For citizens who are not police officers, the standard for being arrested and jailed in Minneapolis is apparently fairly low. An older law professor was in jail for three weeks after a false rape accusation, for example. As in a lot of family court domestic violence matters, it was a frustrated desire for cash that seems to have led to the contretemps.]
I was an expert witness on a case in which an electric utility worker for city-owned company had a multi-year track record of mistakes. He kept getting reassigned to positions where the managers thought he wouldn’t be able to do any more damage. While trying to change the password on some “protective relays”, he neglected to “open the trips” that would disconnect them from the transformer breakers while they were being reconfigured. He inadvertently wiped the relays’ configurations, rather than simply changing the passwords. Remarkably, most did not trip, but one did. The result was the multi-hour shutdown of an oil refinery (probably also shut down right now due to coronavirus fears!), leading to $9 million in damage and lost production. He is still a union member and an electric utility employee…
Maybe it is okay for unions to render workers invulnerable in jobs where the worst they can do is inflict major power outages on citizens, businesses, and industrial facilities. But why does the American public tolerate this for police departments? Presumably these four guys would have behaved differently throughout their careers if they knew that firing and losing a multi-$million pension was a realistic possibility. Why aren’t protesters demanding that the police be stripped of their union protections against termination? The average American is an employee at will. Why would that be unfair for police officers?
(Separately, who wants to meet in Eden Prairie or downtown Minneapolis, some time between Sunday evening through Tuesday morning?)
- A 2017 killing by the same police department: “On July 15, 2017, Justine Ruszczyk, also known as Justine Damond, a 40-year-old Australian-American woman, was fatally shot by Mohamed Noor, a Somali-American Minneapolis Police Department officer, after she had called 9-1-1 to report the possible assault of a woman in an alley behind her house. … Occurring weeks after a high-profile manslaughter trial acquittal in the 2016 police shooting of Philando Castile, also in the Twin Cities metro area, the shooting exacerbated existing tensions and attracted national and international press. … Noor had been lauded in the past by Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges and the local Somali community as one of the first Somali-American police officers in the area. … In two years as a police officer, Noor had three formal complaints against him, two of which, as of September 2017, were pending resolution. In a separate case from May 2017, he was being sued for allegedly assaulting a woman while on duty.”
- Update: “Police Unions And Civilian Deaths” (NPR, June 3)… “After police officers gained access to collective bargaining rights, there was a substantial increase in the killings of civilians — overwhelmingly, nonwhite civilians.”