The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Racism Not New to Minneapolis Police Department

Jun 15, 2020

The movement that exploded after the video of the murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis cops won a partial victory when the four were criminally charged, and rightfully so. The blame for this racist act, however, deserves to go beyond these four cops. Their actions are simply the latest in a long history of racist police brutality in Minneapolis.

The circumstances that led up to George Floyd’s murder alone demonstrate the racist culture in the Minneapolis Police Department. Derek Chauvin, the cop who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, faced 17 complaints against him in 19 years on the force. He was involved in three shootings. In one case involving a domestic abuse accusation, Chauvin burst into the bathroom of a home and started hitting an unarmed man and shot him three times in the abdomen, according to the victim. In another case, a woman complained Chauvin pulled her out of her car, searched her and put her in his police car, all over a supposed 10 m.p.h. speeding ticket. Chauvin never received any discipline over any of the complaints other than two letters of reprimand.

The cop who came to the scene with Chauvin, Tou Thao, had six complaints against him and was sued by one black victim who said Thao and his partner punched, kicked and kneed him and broke three of his teeth.

Yet the Minneapolis Police Department put Chauvin in charge of training two of the other officers who took part in Floyd’s killing. One of them, J. Alexander Kueng, was only on his third shift as a full-fledged cop that day, though he was hired in December. The other, Thomas Lane, was on his fourth day.

The police department’s protection of Chauvin is hardly an isolated case. The Reuters news agency found about 3,000 complaints against Minneapolis cops in the last eight years. Reuters found nine out of ten complaints resulted in no punishment.

Often, prosecutors have refused to indict cops in police brutality cases. Amy Klobuchar, now a U.S. Senator and recent presidential candidate, built her reputation as one such prosecutor in Minneapolis, who refused to prosecute cops on multiple occasions.

Courts have also protected Minneapolis cops from brutality charges. The U.S. Supreme Court created a doctrine called “qualified immunity” that shields cops from being held personally responsible when carrying out official duties unless their actions “clearly violate federal law,” even if civil rights were violated. Reuters found 28 federal lawsuits filed in federal courts from 2006 to 2018 in which Minneapolis cops claimed qualified immunity.

Certainly none of the cops involved in George Floyd’s murder are blameless, but the blame certainly extends to those far above them.