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COLUMN: A Malat Musing: Houston, We Have a Problem.

Updated: 09/28/2014 12:38 PM
Created: 08/18/2014 8:44 AM KSTP.com
By: Phil Malat

The troubling events witnessed in Ferguson, Missouri are all part and parcel of a malady that has been festering for decades in American.   

After the March 3, 1991 high profile beating of Rodney King by police officers resulting in rioting and violence in Los Angeles, we might rationally assume that problem would be resolved. Certainly police departments would step up their qualifying efforts. They would provide more thorough psychological and emotional stability testing for both their current and future peace keepers. One might also assume they would have implemented more effective training methods while establishing more rigid forms of discipline. Common sense would suggest such actions to be both rational and reasonable. So let’s see how our local law enforcement agencies have done since March of 1991.                                                           

January 29, 2008, a video shows Quadriplegic Brian Sterner being thrown out of his wheel chair by police at the Hillsborough County, Sheriff’s Office in Tampa Florida.

Oct. 13, 2012, Alfonso Limon Jr., 21, was shot to death by Oxnard, California police officers. Limon was mistakenly identified as a suspect who fled a traffic stop on foot.  Limon was walking home with his younger brother Gerardo. Police seized Limon, threw him to the ground and shot him multiple times as he lay on his stomach. Neither Limon nor his brother was armed. The Limon family was awarded $6.7 million in damages.

Feb. 18, 2013, a video shows Brandie Redell being beaten by two Davenport, Iowa cops in a holding room at a Davenport shopping mall. Redell had been detained for shoplifting.

May 26, 2013, a police car video captures a car being stopped for an alleged traffic violation. Victor Hernandez was the PASSENGER in the car.  When the driver ran away, Hernandez remained seated and silent in the car.  At that point he was given forceful commands by Roseville, Minnesota police officers. When he did not immediately respond as instructed, he was dragged out of the car, Tasered and beaten by police as he lay on the ground. Hernandez’s crime?  He didn’t speak English and had no idea what the police where commanding him to do. 

There are literally hundreds of these incidents occurring. Validation can be found right here in Minneapolis. 

Between 2006 and 2012, 439 complaints were filed charging misconduct by Minneapolis police officers.  Ninety-five (95) of these ultimately cost the city $14 million in damages.  Only eight (8) disciplinary actions resulted from these 439 complaints.    

In the wake of this most distressing reality, we now learn that the primary concern by both the Minneapolis and St. Paul Police Departments is the hiring of larger numbers of minorities as peace keepers. This befuddled thinking stems from a desire to engage in social experimentation. Both police departments are trying to determine if any positive value can result from attempting to have their departments better mirror the communities they serve. Befuddled indeed and most alarming to say the least, for this primary qualification has absolutely no bearing on determining how proficient an individual will perform their duties in a profession where thinking and behavior can result in life or death outcomes. 

Let us not be shocked or horrified by all the ugliness as it unfolds in Ferguson, Missouri - for it is nothing more than yet another ugly incident in a long line of ugly, disgusting behavior that has gone unaddressed. 

Contemporary solutions seem obvious. As a longtime grassroots organizer and activist within the civil rights movement once said; "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty." Are we really willing to allow our streets to run red with blood through our callous disregard while we experiment with trial and error programs, such as the hiring of more minorities, in the pursuit of a solution? If so, then we best prepare ourselves for the day when the second amendment to the constitution becomes our most cherished amendment. For in the final analysis it will be precisely as President John F. Kennedy cautioned; Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”  

Phil Malat is a columnist for KSTP.com


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