Not guilty 18 times. Really?

Frank CagleFrank Talk

I don’t get it.

When an incident occurs like George Floyd being killed by a police officer, we usually discover there were warning signs. Officer Derek Chauvin, who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck until he suffocated, has 18 prior complaints against him during his career with the Minneapolis Police Department.

Frank Cagle

Why was he still employed? Was he found innocent 18 times? What was the result of his still being on the force? A total of 170 stores looted and destroyed. A police station burned down. A $30 million low income housing development destroyed. And that’s just in Minneapolis. Around the nation four people are dead. In New York, 33 officers injured. Police cars around the country torched. The National Guard out in force in Nashville over the weekend after the Metro Courthouse was set on fire.

There is no justification for rioting and looting. But there is no justification for a city not policing its police. Rioting and looting are unleashed when a city turns officers with guns and badges loose on the street without discipline. You open the door to tragic consequences.

A night club owner who employed Chauvin as a security guard said he enjoyed spraying black customers with Mace. One of the other cops involved was sued for excessive force. He had six complaints.

Set aside for the moment justice and doing what’s right, saving Derek Chauvin’s job came at the cost of 170 businesses burned and civil unrest around the country. As a practical matter why do mayors and city councils ignore the warning signs? Afraid of the police union? Afraid of the “blue flu?” A question for Minneapolis police. When you were out there in the middle of the night facing rocks and bottles and Molotov cocktails did you credit Derek Chauvin for being in that situation? Was saving his job 18 times worth you risking your life?

Floyd had to die before the mayor fired the four officers involved. When will mayors, from Chicago to Staten Island to Ferguson, Mo., to Minneapolis learn that sooner or later you will suffer the consequences for ignoring racism within your police department?

Exercise in futility? The legislature is back in session and the House seems intent on passing a load of bills. The Senate not so much. The Senate wants to just deal with the budget. What happens to the bills the House passes? They just die. Legislatures are elected for two years. Bills passed by either house the first year can hang around and be passed by the other house the following year. But this is the second year of this session. When the legislature adjourns sine die this month everything starts over again next year with a new legislature – which, with all the incumbents, will look a lot like the old legislature.

Happy birthday? A regular reader writes to remind us that today would have been the 100th birthday of the late Gov. Frank Clement. Boy, time flies. Seems like only yesterday Clement, Albert Gore Sr., Estes Kefauver, Buford Ellington, John J. Hooker, Howard Baker and Bill Brock were the major players in state politics. Somehow the current crop of office holders pales by comparison.

It’s not trivial: Family working from home and sheltering in place are often bored. My daughter in California cranks up Zoom and Sunday night is becoming game night from California to Strawberry Plains to Northern Virginia. Trivial Pursuit, interspersed with conversation, giggling and reminiscences and yelling at the troll calling out answers from our living room. It’s strengthening our bond as a family and I highly recommend it.

Another conversation: A spill. Shaved Parmesan cheese all over the kitchen floor. I have the dustpan and a small brush trying to bend over. My four-year-old granddaughter said, “Granddaddy, let me do that.” She took the implements, knelt down and started to sweep up the mess.

“Old people can get down on the floor but they can’t get up,” she said.

“Do you know any old people?”

“You and grandmama.”

“Oh, yeah? You think I’m old?”

“I remember when you used to walk with a cane, back when I was nine.”

Frank Cagle is a veteran newspaper editor and columnist.


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