Last year Nekima Levy-Pounds told me that conditions in the Twin Cities were ripe for it to be another Ferguson. I disagreed. The people in power here control their people with a smug brand of I-know-what’s-best-for-you liberalism, and the people under their boot often seem too docile to resist.

A year later, I’m proven wrong.

For a week smoke has been rising on Minneapolis’ North side, and protesters have been holding it down at the 4th precinct police station, an action spurred by the officer involved shooting of Jamar Clark. Injustices like Clark’s have happened before, but this time, because of young people and their brilliant impatience with business as usual, it is exposing the longstanding problem with policing – here and in other urban communities.

While most Americans express an almost childish appreciation for law enforcement in their communities, there is a predictable difference of opinion between races. At least 72% of whites express confidence in police officers, but only 36% of blacks agree. In fact, 70% of blacks say police departments do not treat races equally, and are not accountable for misconduct.

Researchers say experience with police officers matters, and in low-income communities where much of the experience is bad, opinion is understandably low.

While suburban residents see their police officers as servants, and middle-class city dwellers often see them as the buffer between haves and have-nots in inequitable urban centers, neighborhoods like the Northside see a face of policing that is often white, angry, and medieval.

Sadly, cries of racism in poor neighborhoods go unanswered, and few believe the extent to which police departments are staffed with honest-to-God racists.

Ghosts in the machine

There is a warning tucked neatly in a 2006 report from the Federal Bureau of investigations about “ghost skins,” a network of whites with extremist positions who don alternate personas so that they can infiltrate law enforcement, state government, and the military to further the cause of white power.

In Minneapolis it would be hard to believe such a problem could exist. It’s liberal here. Very liberal. It would be harder to push a camel through the eye of a needle than to elect a Republican in Minneapolis. Yet, the police department is mostly made up of suburban and exurban officers who come from parts of Minnesota that aren’t liberal.

The Minneapolis Police Department is famous for paying out millions of dollars to settle abuse claims (Minneapolis has paid out $14 million in settlements between 2006 and 2012), and for having racial strife internally. In 1992 black officers said they received hate mail, possibly from within their own ranks. Later, two Minneapolis City Council members, Brian Herron and Ralph Remington, reported racist harassment from Minneapolis police officers.

After years of complaints, lawsuits, and charges of racism at all levels of the department, the MPD is also known for having leadership that looks a lot like the ghost skins mentioned in the feds report.

Nobody better exemplifies that than Lt. Bob Kroll, the current president of Minneapolis’ police union. A native of St. Paul’s Eastside (a part of the neighboring twin city with its own history of racism), he has a long documented record of racial violence that includes complaints from residents going back to the 1990s.

In his own defense, he has said “I’ve been told I’m racist, and I’m violent. I’m aware of that. I’ve been 15 of my 18 in SWAT, and I’ve had more complaints than most, but I’ve had much higher contacts, and a much higher number of arrests…. I’ve been cleared almost all the time.”

One charge that he didn’t beat, one that he denied even against the testimony of multiple witnesses, is that he called Congressman Keith Ellison a terrorist.

That’s not comforting reply for people of color. But it gets worse. Kroll has been a member of the City Heat Motorcycle Club, a biker gang that an Anti-Defamation League report called “Bigots on Bikes” said “has members who have openly displayed white supremacist symbols.”

The report says:

Photographs of City Heat members taken by other club members and posted to the Internet have shown that some members of the club display a number of symbols on their clothing that have white supremacist or hateful connotations. One member sports a patch that asks “Are you here for the hanging?”—a reference to lynching. The lynching theme is corroborated by a small chain noose the individual wears next to the patch. Another City Heat member displays the most common Ku Klux Klan symbol, the so-called “Blood Drop Cross.” Several members wear “Proud to be White” patches, an item typically worn by white supremacists.

This came up in a lawsuit by black Minneapolis police officers who said Kroll “wears a motorcycle jacket with a “White Power” badge sewn onto it.”

That isn’t exactly what you might expect for any level of leadership in a “progressive” city, but Kroll is representative of what rank and file white police officers feel they need to defend their interests. As suburbanites working in an urban area, as whites policing other races, they need a leader who understands you have to crack a few eggs to make an omelet.

Apparently Kroll delivers. He has made defending cops in discipline hearings his business. If the number of sustained complaints of abuse are any indication, it’s a good time to be an abusive cop in Minneapolis. A recent Star Tribune story said no cops have been disciplined after 439 complaints through the city’s largely ineffective new police review system.

Kroll isn’t alone. Hennepin County’s sheriff, Rich Stanek, has a history not unlike Kroll’s.

A 2006 City Pages article reports on an incident that occurred between Stanek and Anthony Freeman – a black motorist – in 1989:

at the vehicle. Stanek then, according to the plaintiff, smashed the driver’s side window. He ordered Freeman out of the car, “collared” him, and delivered two blows to his back and neck before handcuffing him, while Freeman was facedown on the ground. Freeman’s complaint went on to allege that Stanek “beat and kicked” him “with his fists, feet, and other police-issued paraphernalia.” The Liberian maintained he never resisted, because he knew Stanek was a cop. Freeman—who, according to a depostion provided in the case by the late MPD officer Jerry Haaf, had not been drinking—sought $50,000; the case was settled out of court for $40,000.

That settlement was forgotten until 2004 when Stanek was up for a gig as Minnesota’s Public Safety Commissioner. The hubbub derailed his appointment. A few years later he ran for Hennepin County Sheriff, this time with odd support from some progressives, including some black leaders.

That could be an example of adapting, and adopting a persona that makes racism untraceable.

Let’s not assume all of the systemic racism in Minneapolis can be laid at the feet of folks like Kroll and Stanek, or law enforcement generally. Even as protestors risk their lives and bravely make demands of the system they are confronted with urges for calm from institutional progressives who support the mayor’s effort to be “measured.” Northside City Council member Blong Yang complained on Facebook that the protestors were unreasonable, and the city chair of the Democratic Party thanking him for standing up to the “bullies.” And, members of the black old guard with ties to the mayor’s office appear more interested in managing the behavior of the natives than supporting young people in the pursuit of structural changes, and justice.

If it weren’t for the new energy of Black Lives Matter, new leadership at the NAACP, ground troops from Neighborhood’s Organizing for Change, and the sect of organized labor that has found their diversity Jesus, there wouldn’t be any smoke, any fire, any chants, any sustained action that steps out of Minnesota’s addiction to process and meetings in order to get things done.

Because these groups are disturbing the peace the nation now knows we are the capital of white bullshit.

As black activists nationally have reminded everyone to question it if they die in police custody, we have a uniquely Minnesotan response from Tony Cornish, a state representative and Chairman of our Public Safety Prevention Committee.

He says:

If you die in this struggle, you are the one who did something wrong, not me. I was doing my job the best I could. I will regret this tragic incident ever took place, but I will not be ashamed or intimidated.

Ghost skins indeed.

Chris Stewart is the Chief Executive Officer of Education Post, a media project of the Results in Education Foundation. He is a lifelong activist and 20-year supporter of nonprofit and education-related causes. Stewart has served as the director of outreach and external affairs for Education Post, the executive director of the African American Leadership Forum (AALF), and an elected member of the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education.


  1. Black Lives Matter and others have made absolutely necessary demands for a federal investigation of Jamar Clark’s homicide in Minneapolis. A similar federal investigation should be conducted on the related attempted murders by white supremacists of peaceful people of color seeking justice for Jamar as well as for everyone who should be able to live Minneapolis without fear of lethal violence. These attempted murders are also an opportunity to educate people about the origins and perpetuation of white supremacy and draw direct connections to its manifestations in white privilege. In order to do so, we must resist diversions of our attention to often unclear, ill defined concerns about equity, disparities, workforce characteristics, and stop considering the public, philanthropic, and private policies and practices responsible for great harm to people “unintentional.” What we have in Minneapolis is an intentional racial and economic apartheid aided and abetted by the “we always mean well” mythology of “Minnesota Nice” that, in fact, fully supports existing power relations and their brutal consequences for so many people and their communities.

  2. President Obama is the one that stirred up the racial divide in America and unfortunately those running are vowing to do the same. He was the first one to chastise Police Officers, he inserted himself and Eric Holder in the cases in MA, Fl, and MO. Where were they with Ft Hood or San Bernardino.The POTUS goes on and on about Sandy Hook and the Colorado mass shootings to push his gun control agenda. Fact is a “guns prohibited” sign is a welcome mat for individuals with weapons mostly stolen or homemade to carry out their agenda. Had one person at either venue had a fire arm, there would have been casualties however the number of dead would have been far less. This was proven where an alert armed security guard noticed a gunman and shot him prior to getting further into the school. Main stream media never made mention of this case or other such cases.

    Police officers are typically NOT racist but, there are a few, very few, in every large department that wear the badge to be ‘legal’ thugs and believe they are above the law across all races.
    The North Side has issues that are difficult at best to control. BUT who do they call when a shooting or other domestic issues occur? The police and they always claim they are not fast enough. MPD paying out tons of cash of ‘victims’ is BS. This is misuse of public funds.
    Why didn’t the Somalian office that nearly beat his wife to death not get fired or reported? Why is it that the minority group at MPD can sue, claim discrimination and win to advance their careers while Caucasians, Native Americans and Hmongs with the same or better credentials are shot down on the same issues and not reported. Why isn’t the black officer that sits at the north edge of the main street bridge trolling for white females to ticket and ask for a date never questioned reported? Why was a highly decorated officer with no discipline problems over 17 years on the force terminated, while doing his job as trained sensationalized prior to an investigation? There are many other incidents that the public does not know behind the scenes. Many of them available to the public if the public cares to know but we and the media obviously do not have time to research the TRUTH. We always take what is reported by the main steam media as gospel, even though they have had to retract and apologize to many. This is due to the fact that the media ignored evidence either provided to them or ignored if it involves an officer of the law with a minority.

    There was a Caucasian officer a few years back that was terminated for using a taser on a criminal with a long history of crime that was throwing landscape blocks and doing damage to civilian cars in a police lot. What if there was a child or anyone in the vehicle? I should mention that the suspect was on parole for assault with a deadly weapon. If you looked closely at the video posted in the media the taser never made full contact with the victim who was much larger then the officer. He was told to get on the ground did not comply uttered vulgarities at the officer who then ATTEMPTED to tase him for an arrest. This officer lost his livelihood and was ordered to pay the criminal $20,000. When making a partial payment several months after arrest the criminal’s attorney, now also dealing with cancer actually apologized for not looking into the case further he said he would refuse any further monies. He also stated he didn’t think the officer would lose his position due to the coverage. For an attorney to do that shows he clearly knew the ruling was wrong and didn’t want to die with that. This is a man that trolls through cases to find clients.

    For a taser to be effective if using barbs both wires must make contact to create a circuit, no circuit no effect the the victim. This goes for the ‘dry stun’ as well the gun must have full contact with the victim if slanted there is no effect. So, the ‘suspect’ who claimed to be tortured by the officer never had full contact with the taser, the criminal closely watching the officer saw him reach in his belt and when he saw the taser going up he waited for it to hit he shoulder. Although the taser was clearly (slanted) this suspect start screaming while dropping to the ground like he was being tortured. (Criminals know the ropes and are great actors) After his arrest a Sgt. asked if he was hurt, he laughed and said “No”. Had they even listened to the after arrest interview with the criminal they would have heard that as well. However MPD would not look that closely at this video, interview. As most people on this forum and elsewhere the main stream media which sensationalizes any problem and report police brutality that never existed, as in the above case, while the taxpayers paid this criminal nearly $100,000 who within six months was back in jail in Chicago is wrong. Why? Because a video does not and never will show all details of a crime scene. A camera also cannot know what the officer(s) see, hear or think..
    An Officer has a split second to make a decision. Haven’t we all made split second decisions that turned out to be wrong looking back on a situation? And, haven’t some of them caused harm? This officer lost his job because he did as he was trained and the video “looked” bad to those not able to see, hear or read past the BS of Administrations (pick one, any one) being led by the main stream media.

    There are plenty of other very bad stories on how Officers are treated at the MPD and by the public. When administrative surveys went out to officers 99% were unhappy with the department. Those same officers are dedicated to serving the city and its citizens. More recently there is a petition circulating for the resignation of the incompetent Chief. In my opinion a petition should have circulated on Dolan as he was worse.

    The media seldom show stories where officers are working in critical conditions and either get help or defuse a situation. They don’t show officers holding elderly people at near death in an accident caused by a driver that had multiple citations for reckless driving (also claiming racial profiling). Officers being thrown into windows of houses to save crying children before the FD can get there. Picking up toddlers roaming the streets and bringing them to safe havens while stopping to get them something to eat and something to cuddle while they are in an area foreign to them. Medical situations to aid in survival until EMTs arrive. Breaking the glass of a car to pull an intoxicated minority to safety while waiting for FD and EMTs. And numerous other acts of heroism. Those numbers are staggering,yet no one keeps track and those acts are soon forgotten.

    The media uses their position to sensationalize issues they perceive to hear or see or more recently grab as they stormed the CA terrorist house contaminating potential evidence.

    Investigative reporting is no longer the norm. The zealots of the media feed off the criminals family members and attorneys making statements as – ‘he was so good’ “was just turning his life around” ‘wouldn’t hurt anyone’ etc.

    What about all the red, white, yellow people being treated in the same manner, yes often shot or dying from being tazed while on drugs? The media promote violence and love the excitement of ‘sharing’ those protests and riots as the police are ordered to stand down while innocent victims watch their homes’, livelihood and entire neighborhoods get damaged or destroyed.

    Sadly, there are no more Joseph Pulitzers’, Edward Murrows’, Walter Cronkites’, or David Brinkleys’ in the field. The newer journalists are trained under the tutelage of socialist professors where the only thing that matters is who airs or prints the story first, facts do not really matter.
    I am considered by my peers to be liberal but there is limit to my tolerance of nonsense. The Main Stream Media consistently reports misinformation and has done so for years. Body Cameras being pushed by the government simply cannot work and anyone taking pictures with a hand held device, pics or videos, should not be admissible as evidence as any picture or video in the wrong hands can be modified. The media are quick to obtain those as well.

    The only Ghosts at any department are those stirring up trouble and the main stream media that rely on gaining ratings that influence said departments. Period! Sorry this post is not politically correct. This too has past my threshold of tolerance.

    God help us all!!


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