An Open Letter to Mayor Hodges
ANOTHER OPEN LETTER TO MAYOR HODGES
Dear Mayor Hodges:
Your statements in your open letter to “the communities of Minneapolis” and in your community forums are repeated and personal slaps in the face to every member of the Minneapolis Police Department. While you attempt to hide behind the tired remark that “most officers are good, the problem is just a few bad apples”, 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.” One does not need to be too clever to understand that culture to which you refer is a culture in which racism and brutality is condoned and ignored. While that may well be your perception, it is a perception that is as malicious as it is false.
Contrary to the premise underlying your misperception, bad behavior by Minneapolis police officers does not go unpunished. If anything, discipline is too often more severe than is necessary to serve the stated purpose of being corrective rather than punitive. One cannot reasonably conclude that the system is broken merely because some complainants are not satisfied with the outcome. There are many legitimate reasons why not all complaints result in discipline. Sometimes the action of the officer was necessary and appropriate but misunderstood by the complainant. Sometimes there is insufficient evidence to prove wrongdoing. Sometimes the circumstances warrant coaching or training or modification of policy rather than discipline. And, yes, sometimes complainants lie. The true test of a good disciplinary system should be whether complaints are fairly and thoroughly investigated. When sufficient evidence supports the charges, discipline should be imposed promptly after the investigation is concluded, and should be at a level that commensurate with the offense. If you were willing to look at facts rather than rely on your misguided perceptions, you would be telling the communities that we already have such a system.
You claim you want the relationship between officers and “the communities” (obviously showing that you do not consider Minneapolis to all be one community) to improve. A relationship is a two way street. For a good one to remain good and for a bad one to improve it requires desire, commitment, effort and trust by both parties – not just by one. Your stated formula for improving the relationship between the cops and the communities places 100% of the burden on police officers. This implies that police officers are 100% to blame for any relationships that may be less than perfect.
Every member of every community should rightly expect that each Minneapolis officers will treat him or her with a high level of professionalism. Believe it or not, Minneapolis police officers actually expect that of each other. We often preach that in every citizen contact we should treat all folks – whether victim, witness or suspect – the way we would want our loved ones to be treated. However, it is fair to say that while we would expect a police officer to treat our loved ones with respect, we also would expect our loved ones to treat a police officer with respect as well. That expectation of mutual trust and respect is precisely what is missing from your “relationship improvement” plan. No mention is made as to whether the community can or should expect those who punch us, spit on us, curse at us, shoot at us or falsely complain about us to improve their behavior. Nor is there an attempt to examine the complaint process based on the premise that the expected outcome should be fair and thorough investigations rather than harsh disciplinary context correct misperceptions held by yourself and some of the communities to whom your words are addressed.
Your words and actions do not support your purported goal of improving the relationship between police and communities. If you truly wanted to improve the relationship, you would challenge police officers to always act with professionalism and respect but also challenge “the communities” to re-examine their perceptions of the “police culture of tolerance for bad behavior” and to accept that the desired outcome of the complaint process should be a fair, thorough and timely vetting each complaints rather whether all complaints result in harsh discipline. Instead, you have chosen to not only adopt but perpetuate the misperceptions about your police department and to take positions that support the fallacy that officers are 100% to the blame and 100% responsible for the solution. Those actions fuel the flames – they do not extinguish them. No amount of effort by officers or expenditure of taxpayers’ money will improve the relationship between officers and communities when elected officials repeatedly undermine those efforts by engaging in political pandering to those who inherently dislike and mistrust the police.
Lt. John Delmonico
President, Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis