Wakey, Wakey, Eggs And Steaky
Too early in the morning a buddy called my phone and told me I needed to attend a hearing of the Minneapolis Public Safety Committee at 1:30 which promised to be a lurid spectacle. The Civilian Review Authority which "polices the police" is being overhauled; a hearing on the overhaul promised to attract every rabid, chomping, foaming-at-the-mouth cop hater in the city and, actually, plenty of the crazies wouldn't be from Minneapolis at all but would attend anyway, eager to spew into a hot microphone and bash our brave police with stories lacking veracity and key documentary details needed for the most rudimentary fact-checking.
Somebody needed to balance out the other side and fate had chosen me because my phone was fully charged and I recognized the number calling, so I picked up. Somewhere in the midst of this request to attend the hearing was a crazy story about....
...how I had FREAKED OUT my buddy's wife because I returned a borrowed blanket by slipping it between the inside and outside door and somehow it looked like a DEAD CAT when they pulled up in front of the house and they figured maybe "anti-police anarchists" or god knows who left it there as some kind of "message."
Like Curt Cobain I was "all apologies" but then I thought, wait a minute, my buddy TOLD ME just leave it on the door. OK, yeah, that had been a few days before and it took a while for me to follow through but, geez, this bollux was NOT MY FAULT.
"Where is the hearing again?" I asked, still not entirely awake, not entirely oriented to the current day of the week. But even at that moment I could have told you my house address, unlike one of the crazies who showed up at the hearing and got a turn at the microphone a few hours later.
"Your favorite place," my buddy answered, because he's always trying to make people play guessing games like that. He said something about the same place as the "Police Chief Dolan hearing."
Oh my word, I exclaimed, city council chambers?
A Sequel Without Equal?
The last time I was there, a sex offender was trying to get me served with his frivolous little pseudo lawsuit. I managed to dodge service, left town, and literally went to Dodge City. I actually took a photo of Dodge City in my rearview mirror so I could document the time I "got the hell out of Dodge."
"Is this going to be like THE SEQUEL TO THE DOLAN REAPPOINTMENT HEARING?" I asked, calculating whether anybody might be trying to corner me in council chambers and slap legal paper on me THIS week for "maliciously truthful blogging."
"Only one way to find out," my buddy said.
"Dude, I'm there!" I answered, and somewhere in our metropolis somebody on the other side of the issue was probably saying the same exact words. There were, of course, two key differences between me and that unknown anti-police dude.
First, I would be all alone advocating my pro-police position against a pack of crazies.
And second, despite being grossly outnumbered, my side would win by a vote of 3-1-1.
The Devil (In A Blue Dress) Is In The Details
Why the sudden overhaul was taking place became clear as the hearing went on. First of all, Minnesota passed a law restricting what is possible with civilian review of police conduct. Now Minneapolis needs to conform its process to state law, like it or not. This means drastic changes in the Civilian Review Authority. Sincere and highly educated people in the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department (Velma Korbel and Michael "Kip" Browne) had labored long and hard to produce an overhauled model balancing all interests (including those of the crazies) and following state law. How they produced a model that made NOBODY but Johnny Northside happy is a mystery, but that they did.
Browne stated a lot of feedback had been given in a short time because (alleged) police misconduct is a "pressing social issue." Browne said it would be fair to say they'd received "diverse" comments on the overhaul. This KSTP story, embedded below, documents the "frustration and anger" which has met the proposed overhaul, which Korbel calls a "redesign."
Yes, It is a "redesign" in the sense a deer's guts get "redesigned" after the deer is shot by a hunter, but if you have a problem you may take it up with your state legislator. Browne and Korbel did what they could within the legal parameters. The only individuals who are heavily and emotionally invested in this process ANYWAY are the police (who sat silently at the hearing and did not speak) and the crazies (who spoke even when it wasn't their turn) which means, ultimately, nobody will be happy but the result of carefully balancing all this collective unhappiness may (like our nation's federalist system) produce an amazing and enduring result.
For the record, most of the crazies don't believe THAT and think America is an oppressive neocolonialist plutocracy and the only thing to do is FIGHT THE POWER, to which I say, "You did a fine job at that hearing shooting yourself in the foot while FIGHTING THE POWER. You couldn't have done more to assure passage of that proposal if you had spoken in FAVOR of it. 'Fuck you, see you at the riot?' Really? What will you be wearing? A homemade balaclava, I assume?"
Here is a little musical interlude for you anti-police anarchist crazies. Enjoy. Maybe I can make up different words later about your performance at the hearing and call the result "Crazies On Parade."
It was the hope of Browne and Korbel the new model would be "balanced, transparent, and engaging," like an invisible car that you can't see but you really like. Some changes include a "residency requirement" for members of the panel to keep some out the crazies. (OK, to be fair, neither Browne nor Korbel stated the REASON for the residency requirement, though I find it fairly obvious) The time for citizens to file complaints over alleged police misconduct would increase from 180 days to 270, which is nine months. Instead of 30 days, the Chief of Police would have 45 days to respond to the board's recommendations about discipline. There would also be MANDATORY mediation for officers and complainants.
Responding to questions about the mandatory mediation, Browne said it's the "face to face" where the real progress and understanding happens.
"Getting people to the table really helps," Browne said, and pointed out that AGREEMENT to resolve the case is still voluntary.
Public Safety Committee Meets The Public, And Does ANYBODY Feel Safe?
About a dozen individuals spoke, including Mel Reeves, who tried to put forth a "history lesson" about the evolution of the CRA, making it sound like a police had done terrible things some years back and CRA was the response. By way of comparison, click here for an article discussing the same history. Of course, if you don't let your vicious pit bull charge police officers, NOBODY is likely to get winged by a bullet fragment. I'm just saying.
Here is some video of Reeves in action, saying we have "one enemy," which is CAPITALISM.
Right after Reeves, or shortly thereafter, Level Three Sex Offender Peter "Spanky Pete" Rickmyer spoke to the committee. Rickmyer, whose real name is Peter Richard Stephenson, made a point of saying he was "neighbors" with Michael "Kip" Browne.
By way of contrast, read this City Page article about a creepy, scary encounter the Browne family had with Spanky Pete Rickmyer, click here. It's obvious Rickmyer was reveling in the fact he was getting away with being in close proximity to Browne at the hearing, when Rickmyer has been told over and over, repeatedly, to stay away from Browne and his family.
(ADDENDUM FOR CLARIFICATION, NOT CORRECTION: Prior to Rickmyer's last incarceration, Rickmyer had received written direction to stay away from Browne and Browne's family. But after the most recent Rickmyer incarceration, Rickmyer was reportedly given new directions from his zookeepers and, maddeningly, written direction to stay away from Michael Browne and his family was NOT included. With the Department of Corrections looking on helplessly, Rickmyer continues to make creepy appearances and keeps "running into" Browne at various events)
Here is Rickmyer's little speech, below, which was mostly questioning the cost to taxpayers to put the proposal together and then talking about how metro transit police don't seem to have enough resources while dealing with "the worst of the worst," which would, of course, include Peter Rickmyer HIMSELF. (Click here for "bizarre bus incident" involving Rickmyer)
Speakers after Rickmyer included at least one civil rights attorney who sounded halfway reasonable but was, unfortunately, bracketed by crazies like a cattle car between locomotive and caboose; not as content as cows on their way to slaughter but just as doomed this day.
At some point, Dave Bicking spoke. This was one of the most anticipated moments in the hearing because, arguably, Bicking is the spiritual leader of the anti-police crazies who were gathered in the room, not that any of them could agree on actual LEADERS instead of mushy, touchy-feely, anti-hierarchical "consensus" models of decision making. But Bicking is their leader at moments when they can admit it to themselves through the internal psychiatric din of their anti-authoritarian daddy issues. And the particular shrill, strident, anti-police rhetoric that always seems to happen at these hearings is heavily associated with Dave Bicking's radical faction.
If civilian review process seems to be spiraling away from true civilian power, in large part this is a systemic response to the heavy involvement of "crazies" who bring all their deep, dark, painful daddy issues to the table and work hard to ruin Thanksgiving for EVERYBODY. This particular day would be no exception. Large, heavily bearded Dave Bicking vented his spleen on the committee like a mad Santa blaming lazy elves for all the world's troubles. The committee members smiled through it all like beatific statues.
It's so much easier to pass something when the crazies are opposed, but don't tell the crazies.
Like "Spanky Pete" who goes before the committee and gets an outwardly polite reception, but the council members know him and loathe him as That Creepy Sex Offender Guy Who Files Frivolous Lawsuits Or Once Did, good old Dave Bicking will always be the guy who filed an ultra-frivolous lawsuit against CRA Chair Donald Bellfield, a lawsuit so baseless it didn't draw enough breath in its short time on earth to get in front of a jury or cause an actual trial.
And before anybody says it's really not fair to compare Dave Bicking to Spanky Pete, keep in mind they both had the same attorney (Jill Clark) and both filed baseless, frivolous lawsuits which appeared intended only to harass. Now both are facing stiff penalties in the form of the other side's attorney fees. Though not quite a "separated at birth" situation, the associations between these two are uncomfortably close.
Support Our Police By, For Example, Not Chopping Off Their Balls
The mood in the room was so opposed to the redesign proposal that one speaker went so far as to point out "everybody so far" had spoken against it, so how could the committee be in favor? Jotting notes in my "decomposition book," 100 percent post-consumer waste recycled pages, I calculated how I could use 2 minutes at the microphone to "balance out" everything said by all the assorted crazies and push in favor of the proposal.
I needed a strong and symbolic central image, I thought.
Bullets. I decided to go with bullets.
Photo by John Hoff
To be continued and concluded in Part Two.