Tensions between black community, police resurface after shooting

22 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Minneapolis protesters vow to stay outside police station.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The latest in the investigation into the fatal shooting of a black man by Minneapolis police that has sparked days of demonstrations (all times local): Protesters are huddling around fires in freezing temperatures during a demonstration a week after a black man was fatally shot in a scuffle with Minneapolis police. An encampment of protesters outside a Minneapolis police station vowed on Saturday to maintain their vigil over the death of an African American man who was shot by police, saying they would not move until video recordings of the encounter were released and authorities changed how they interact with communities they serve. Tents, fire pits and stools have been set up outside the Fourth Precinct in the heart of a predominantly black section of the city and just blocks from where Jamar Clark was shot early Sunday after police responded to an assault complaint.

The circumstances around Clark’s death are murky and in deep dispute, with police union leaders saying the unarmed 24-year-old was reaching for the officer’s gun. One speaker, Kyle Edwards of AFSCME Local 3800, representing University of Minnesota clerical workers, said working-class people are becoming aware that “we’re all in this together.” “We believe the witnesses,” Reeves said. Some North Side residents see Clark’s shooting — the two officers involved were white — as the latest example of the community’s strained relationship with a police force that, historically, has rarely reflected the city’s racial and ethnic makeup.

Authorities have said it wouldn’t be appropriate to release the video because doing so could taint an investigation by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Speakers called generally for unity and justice and praised neighborhood residents for maintaining peace. “I’d like to acknowledge our block brothers” for passing out hand warmers, stoking bonfires and keeping things calm, Pastor Brian C Herron Sr said. Minneapolis police department officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze were involved in the shooting, but it is not clear who fired the fatal shot. Mark Dayton and influential legislators to include community and economic development measures specifically for the black community in a possible special legislative session. Protesters want authorities to release video footage of the deadly confrontation, and say they do not believe police statements that Clark reached for an officer’s gun.

No, no, we’ve just learned to be tolerant of each other.” Clark’s death occurred in the midst of a national debate sparked by deadly encounters between police and young black men in Baltimore, South Carolina and Ferguson, Mo. Police have said Clark, whose criminal record included a conviction for first-degree robbery, was shot in an altercation with officers after he interfered with a paramedic assisting his girlfriend, the victim of an assault. Earlier on Friday, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton met with Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges, NAACP leaders, the commissioner of the department of public safety and other officials to discuss measures such as community policing.

Despite the federal investigation, protesters have expressed skepticism and demanded more information, including the release of videos of the incident. For some longtime North Siders, Clark’s death stirred memories of the police shootings of Tycel Nelson and Terrance Franklin, whose deaths also set off protests and heightened calls for a culture change at the police department. “There’s nothing unfortunately different about this, other than the name of the victim, and the name of the perpetrator,” said Ron Edwards, a longtime civil rights activist. One department-sponsored study found nearly two-thirds of those arrested by police over the past six years were blacks, who make up less than 20 percent of the city’s population. An American Civil Liberties Union study suggested blacks were significantly more likely than whites to be arrested for low-level crimes like marijuana possession (11.5 times more likely) and disorderly conduct (9 times). Shvonne Johnson, a college professor and lifelong North Side resident, said she joined a community group and frequently protested for police accountability after repeatedly seeing black motorists pulled over for seemingly minor traffic offenses.

Of the 29 people killed by Minneapolis officers in incidents involving use of force since 2000, 18 were black, according to a Star Tribune analysis of news and police reports, and death certificate data. Not all of those victims were unarmed, and department policy says Minneapolis officers are authorized to use deadly force when a suspect “creates a substantial risk of causing death or great bodily harm.” The city has paid out more than $6 million in alleged cases of police misconduct since 2012. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis police union, said he didn’t dispute the statistics, but asked the public not to rush to judgment in the Clark case. “What do you do to change it?

I don’t know,” Kroll said. “All I can say is our cops are not out there hunting people, that’s for damn sure.” Some community activists say hiring more black officers would go a long way to restoring community confidence in law enforcement. As of October, 22 percent of Minneapolis’ approximately 800 officers were ethnic minorities, according to department statistics, up from 18 percent in 2011. Harteau said she has taken a hard stance on problem officers, firing six in her tenure, including two who were caught using racial slurs in Green Bay, Wis. Ray Dunn, 54, a lifelong North Sider, traced the shift to more aggressive policing back to the 1980s and the rise of crack cocaine, which ravaged urban neighborhoods in Minneapolis and parts of the country. “It’s pervasive and you’ve gotta be blind not to know that,” Dunn said, before ducking into the Camden Mart at the corner of N.

Hodges, who has been outspoken in the past about her intention to root out problem officers, said last year that she wants the department to mirror St. Paul’s “high touch” approach to community policing, “getting officers out of their cars and talking to people, building those relationships, building trust.” It’s tough, Harteau and Kroll said, because in many cases, officers are running from call to call and don’t have time to build connections with the community.

Harteau said the recent discord over Clark’s death is “a temporary setback” in community relations “and is an opportunity for us to move forward, with reinvigorated partnerships and new partnerships.”

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