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Commentary: Minneapolis’s problem isn’t society’s problem

By Wes Mader Community Columnist Jun 10, 2020 

Shortly before his death, my dad told me that he believed America’s best years were behind us. He wasn’t talking about economics or wealth but rather about American values. I want to believe he was wrong, but events that began with the arrest and death of George Floyd leave me wondering if America’s best years are over.

Floyd’s life should not have ended as it did, and the looting and destruction that followed should not have happened. Predictably, we now experience a rush to judgment about whose fault it is by political hacks who see the events as political opportunity, by intelligentsia who want to blame society and by millennials who believe it’s the older generation’s fault.

With a news media skilled at tailoring the presentation of facts to align with their preferred narratives, we get a drama that further divides rather than heals our nation. What seems to get missed is that anyone who inflicts physical abuse on another human being or who burns down someone else’s business is guilty of a serious crime that they alone are responsible for and for which they alone should be held accountable.

We need to remind ourselves of some basic facts. For better or for worse, God gave men and women a brain to make decisions and a conscience for a guide. He also gave them free will to choose wrong over right, which is why there has been evil in the world since its beginning — and will always be.

Undoubtedly, life’s experiences, including the environment we’re raised in create biases in all of us, but for most that doesn’t mean choosing prejudicial or criminal behavior instead of doing what’s right.

Recent events again confirmed there are racial problems within the Minneapolis Police Department. The time is long overdue to identify who’s actually responsible for accommodating bad officers instead of blaming society for Minneapolis’s problem.

Let me be blunt. If there are bad officers on the police force, the chief of police is responsible for removing them, hopefully with the support of the mayor, council and police union. That’s where the buck is supposed to stop. Unfortunately, mayors and council members, who are a protected species until their next bid for reelection, continue to shuffle blame to someone else.

Sadly, those rushing  to judgment use a wide brush to paint all of America as systemically racist, including most if not all of America’s major businesses and institutions, with police forces nationwide as the preferred target.

Credit an accommodating news media with making the term “police brutality” as commonplace in our language as the term Superbowl Sunday. This is a disrespectful insult to thousands of men and women who serve as police officers throughout our nation, often with courage and dignity that exceeds what most of us are capable of.

The drumbeat of “police brutality” and disrespect for law enforcement is most certainly driving credible young men and women away from considering law enforcement as a career. Those on the Minneapolis City Council who are proposing disbanding their police department apparently have neither the experience nor wisdom to understand what Minneapolis would become without police, or possibly they believe anarchy is better than democracy. If this nonsense doesn’t stop, we may all get to learn what it’s like to live in a lawless society.

During my six years on the Prior Lake City Council, I had occasions to interact with Prior Lake Police officers. Without qualification, those I knew were a credit to our city.

When I had a medical emergency 15 to 20 years ago and my wife called 911, a Prior Lake officer was first on the scene. If we ever experience a threat to our well-being in the future, I hope the first face I see is a Prior Lake officer. That’s the way it is in most small cities around the country. The fact that big cities (often gagging on politics) can’t get their act together in terms of managing police departments is no reason to blame society.

When personal bias turns into racism directed at black Americans, Native Americans, Jews, Muslims or any other identifiable group, it’s ugly and wrong and should not be tolerated. Let’s not be coaxed into believing that the problem will be corrected with quickie reform plans being offered for political attention by state and national politicians.

The problem in Minneapolis needs to be addressed and fixed in Minneapolis. Big cities need to start electing mayors and councils who can fix problems instead of politicizing them.

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Wes Mader is a former Prior Lake mayor. Following retirement after serving as president of Bowmar Aerospace and Defense in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Wes and his wife Char retired in Prior Lake.