Dangerous Minneapolis Riots do not Calm Down

Minneapolis has witnessed serious unrest over the past few days, sparked by the police killing of a black man named George Floyd, who was accused of using a counterfeit 20 dollar bill. The official report of his death mysteriously omitted the fact that a white officer, Derek Chauvin, had kneeled on his neck for nine minutes while Floyd complained that he couldn't breathe and begged to be let up — which became clear in a video that later emerged. Three other officers stood by and did nothing while Floyd gradually strangled. (Floyd had no pulse when he was put in an ambulance and was pronounced dead at a local hospital; all four of the officers have been fired, and it was announced Friday that Chauvin had finally been arrested.)

The community exploded in rage. Several large protests took place around the city, demanding prosecution of Chauvin and police reform, some of which turned destructive. Several buildings, including the Minneapolis police's 3rd Precinct headquarters, were burned to the ground. (One should note that so far this has been small potatoes by historical riot standards.) Many conservatives, naturally, denounced the riots. On Twitter, President Trump demanded that looters be summarily executed. Democrats too were disturbed by the violence. 

Nobody wants to see American cities on fire just for its own sake. But it's important to understand where this unrest comes from: namely, a profound collapse in the legitimacy of the Minneapolis criminal justice system. 

Investigation of the Floyd killing found all the sadly typical hallmarks of a rotten American police department. It turns out that Chauvin and the other cops involved had been cited on numerous previous occasions for excessive force for which they were not seriously disciplined. Chauvin alone had 17 prior complaints, including one instance where he shot an unarmed man. (Chauvin claimed the man was reaching for an officer's gun, which the man denies.) 

There is also the typical negligence the rest of the criminal justice system has shown towards police misconduct, coupled to merciless brutality directed at non-police offenders. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who was the chief prosecutor for Hennepin County (in which Minneapolis is located) from 1999-2007, did not press charges in over two dozen cases of police killing someone. "At the same time, she aggressively prosecuted smaller offenses such as vandalism and routinely sought longer-than-recommended sentences, including for minors," reports The Washington Post. Finally, when it comes to carrying out its most important duties, the Minneapolis police department itself is patently incompetent. As of late November 2019, they had solved just 56 percent of that year's homicides — down from 79 percent in 2006. In the 3rd precinct, which includes one of the city's biggest black neighborhoods, they had solved only a third. 

In short, Minneapolis cops are more akin to a surly occupying militia than they are to a functional community police force. Indeed, about 90 percent of Minneapolis police reside outside the city. Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that they tend to behave like imperial gendarmes. And when the police have well earned the utter contempt of the citizenry, disorder tends to follow. /