The Jordan Shuffle

The city plays politics with police/minority relations

Glenn is indeed a respected veteran of the department, having done her first mediation in Minnesota, after the Red Lake Reservation uprising in 1979. She has testified before Congress about the work she has done in a series of church arsons, and she has had some 30 successful mediations between police and citizens. More recently, Glenn was a conciliator after race riots in Cincinnati in April 2001. Glenn is based in a regional office in Chicago, but has done stints in Washington, DC, and New York. Her job, she says, is part of Title 10 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and her office is the only government agency that works on mandates related to race.

"I am here to mediate, not to investigate," Glenn says, explaining that investigations happen through the department's civil rights branch and that her office does not share files with the other branches of the department. Still, she concedes: "Communities often don't want any kind of federal presence, and that's understandable."

Glenn has been here three times since the Jordan riot. When she appeared publicly before the council, Glenn told council member Biernat that she saw the Jordan incident on news reports and decided to come to town, but now she admits that she was contacted by members of the community in north Minneapolis.

Minneapolis City Council members Robert Lilligren (left) and Gary Schiff offered competing motions on federal mediation
Tony Nelson
Minneapolis City Council members Robert Lilligren (left) and Gary Schiff offered competing motions on federal mediation

In fact, Glenn was contacted before that August night in Jordan. Longtime local activist Ron Edwards confirms that he called one of Glenn's superiors in the justice department days before, at the behest of a group called Communities United Against Police Brutality. After meeting with Edwards and various black leaders, two local civil rights attorneys wrote a letter that arrived at Glenn's office on August 21. By nightfall on August 23, she was touring the neighborhood.

Glenn is cagey about "a blueprint" that her office has about proceeding with mediation, but an agreement she forged with the mayor of Canton, Ohio, in June 2000 calls for a better internal affairs system for the police department, "cultural diversity training" for police officers, and the establishment of a citizen-police relations commission. (Minneapolis's own such commission, the Civilian Review Authority, is undergoing a major restructuring.)

"Our job is to implement communication," Glenn says, and quickly adds, "We do like to get written agreements."

It's also clear that Glenn wants to have control over which members of which communities come to the table. This has led to misgivings about her role from city leaders. As Barb Johnson said in the September 13 city council meeting: "What is community? And who is on that community? I'm wondering whether we want a federal mediator--or is there another way?" This elicited boos from the crowd.

"It isn't clear to me where we go from here," says the Sixth Ward's Dean Zimmermann, an outspoken critic of police behavior and a supporter of Schiff's original motion. "Barb Johnson says there are other channels to look at, but those channels don't work. People get attention when they take it to the streets. We can't wait until things get really ugly."

Some council members believe that one of the two committees looking at mediation-- public safety and health and human services--will refer the matter back to the entire council soon.

"The city wants to decide who comes to the table on behalf of 'the community,'" argues Ron Edwards. "It's bullshit. I think it's rather racist, myself. People worry about Ashcroft coming to town now, but something more is going to happen, and when it does, then Ashcroft will be here with 2,000 federal marshals."

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