Friday, July 8, 2016

An Amazing Admission

I honestly don't think I've ever heard a state governor say something of this magnitude regarding police killings of black people, as Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton openly admitted that he didn't believe Philando Castile would have been shot and killed if he were white.

Dayton said Castile would be alive if he hadn't been black, adding that the shooting demonstrated a troubling pattern of racism among some Minnesota law enforcement officers.

"Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver were white?" he asked. "I don't think it would have."

Dayton said he has spoken with Minnesota's senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, and the area's House representatives and would be demanding a Justice Department investigation.

"I can't say how shocked I am and deeply, deeply offended that this would happen to somebody in Minnesota," Dayton said grimly. "No one should be shot in Minnesota for a taillight being out of function. No one should be killed in Minnesota while seated in their car."

The Justice Department is already investigating the Louisiana shooting, and it said Thursday that it was assessing the Minnesota incident.

The St. Anthony Police Department, which covers Falcon Heights, a community of 5,300 people, hasn't detailed what led up to the shooting or said how many times Castile was shot. The officer hasn't been identified, but police described him as a five-year veteran and said he has been placed on paid administrative leave, as is standard in shooting investigations.

I already had a pretty solid opinion of Mark Dayton and Minnesota Dems in general, having lived in the state for a couple years back in my dot com days, but to hear this candid opinion out of the mouth of a sitting governor is staggering.

And here's the thing: I believe Dayton when he says he's going to follow this up with action and reform in the state.

President Obama also weighed in on this week's killings in remarks from the NATO summit in Warsaw.

"These are not isolated incidents," Obama said. "They are symptomatic of a broader set of racial inequalities that exist in our criminal justice system."

Obama said he couldn't comment on the specifics of the shootings, but he made an impassioned plea for all Americans to recognize that "a big chunk of our citizenry feels that because of the color of their skin that they are not being treated the same."

Obama disputed the notion that the explosive issue of police violence was solely a racial matter, calling it "an American issue that we should all care about" and adding: "All fair-minded people should be concerned."

And he specifically urged that Americans not equate protests with opposition to law enforcement.

"There is no contradiction between us supporting law enforcement ... and also saying that there are problems across our criminal justice system," he said.

"There are biases — some conscious, some unconscious — that have to be rooted out. That's not an attack on law enforcement. That's reflective of the values the vast majority of law enforcement brings to the job."

Maybe I'm stupidly naive for believing that something will get done on the police reform front, as police departments across the country have largely been ignoring President Obama and Department of Justice reform guidelines (one notable exception: here in Cincy) but I have to believe at some point things will get better.

I'm hoping this time it does.

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