Behind Closed Doors

Stephen Porter may have been humiliated and abused by cops. Or he may be the best thing that's happened to the MPD in a long time.

Rybak, on the other hand, got bashed from all sides. Just a week earlier, he had refused to meet with the community leaders who came to his office to talk about what they called a "state of emergency" regarding race relations in the city. At the forum, he was repeatedly torched for ignoring the black community. Jerry McAfee launched into a screed against Rybak, and then added insult to injury by walking out en masse with his congregation from nearby New Salem Baptist Church before the mayor could respond. Randy Staten railed that Rybak was the worst mayor in terms of race relations that he had seen in his 39 years of working with city leadership.

However bleak the mayor's position may be, the biggest winners and losers ultimately will be the MPD and its many longtime critics. The Porter case has finally brought to the foreground years of trouble and controversy surrounding the conduct of Minneapolis police. And--fairly or not--its disposition will ring as a verdict in the public mind. If federal investigators conclude that there are grounds for criminal charges against police in the episode, there is a chance that the department could be placed under federal control and reorganized under the auspices of the Justice Department. Already, a federal mediator is working with the MPD and minority communities to change policing practices. And full-blown federal takeovers have occurred in other cities with a long history of police abuses, including Detroit and Cincinnati.

Conversely, if Porter's claims prove to be even partially trumped-up, it will be a long time before anyone in a position of power is obliged to take MPD misconduct allegations seriously again.

 

Additional reporting by Paul Demko and Steve Perry.

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