Monday, June 19, 2006

Cops, Stops, and Race (6-19-06)

Kathy Kersten's recent column on crime in Minneapolis brought out the usual suspects with the usual complaints. One complainer was Beth Hawkins in the City Pages, who suggested that Kathy should have provided context to her interview with Minneapolis police officer Jeff Jindra. In support of her position, Hawkins cites three citizen complaints against Jindra, none of which have been substantiated. She begins with the discredited complaints by Stephen Porter, who memorably limped for the cameras, and stopped limping when he thought he was not being observed. Click here for a sample of problems with Porter's fanciful allegations (scroll down).

Oddly, Beth Hawkins' added "context" actually bolsters the position of police officers who say that false claims of harassment and brutality are hurting their ability to stop crime. Hawkins also makes reference to the short length of Kersten's column, saying that it would be tough to explore these issues in a "meaningful way" in "572 words." This is apparently a reference to an earlier City Pages post about the shortened length of columns in the redesigned Star Tribune. I say that this calls for a second column on the issue.

Elsewhere, St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington pulled a switcheroo on this segment of the Almanac public television program. Chief Harrington described probable cause as the "gold standard" for cops making a stop (didn't mention silver or bronze). He then went on to say why racial profiling was bad, as though anyone was advocating it as a tool for law enforcement. To clarify the issue, cops are complaining about false accusations of racial profiling. It is not a question of to profile or not profile. The issue is whether studies of racial statistics are deterring otherwise legitimate stops by police.

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