The Minneapolis Police Department’s motto is “To Protect with Courage, To Serve with Compassion.”
Except when it comes to Saturday night’s Minnesota Lynx game at the city’s Target Center, it seems.
Four Minneapolis police officers, working the game as independently contracted security personnel, walked off the job before this past weekend’s game against the Dallas Wings in response to members of the Lynx wearing T-shirts in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and calling for change in the wake of recent police shootings that left two black men dead, according to the Star Tribune.
“If we take this time to see that this is a human issue and speak out together, we can greatly decrease fear and create change,” Lynx guard, 2014 WNBA MVP and three-time league champ Maya Moore told reporters at a press conference players called prior to the game. “Tonight we will be wearing shirts to honor and mourn the losses of precious American citizens and to plea for change in all of us.”
Moore and her Lynx teammates sported black T-shirts with the words, “CHANGE STARTS WITH US … JUSTICE & ACCOUNTABILITY,” stacked on the front. On the back, the shirts featured the names Philando Castile and Alton Sterling — the two men fatally shot last week by police in Falcon Heights, Minn., and Baton Rouge, La., respectively — along with the phrase “BLACK LIVES MATTER” underneath.
Additionally, the shirts featured a Dallas Police Department emblem in honor of the five officers killed by a rogue sniper during a rally protesting the shooting deaths of Castile and Sterling. Lynx players also denounced the “senseless ambush” of the five fallen officers, according to the Star Tribune, and praised Dallas police for their efforts against the unnecessary use of deadly force in recent years.
So, it seems four Minneapolis police officers walking off a security detail for 7,613 fans in attendance at Saturday’s game was ill-advised at best and downright deplorable at worst. These officers are paid to protect and serve, albeit independently in this scenario, and one would think that should take precedence over political beliefs that clash with what was a rather reasoned take by the Lynx.
In a statement, the Lynx justifiably would not ask the officers to compromise their own beliefs, especially since they were privately contracted and the team employs other security personnel.
At the same time, the actions of the four police officers involved do not exclude them from criticism.
Making matters worse, Minneapolis Police Federation Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the city’s police union, stood firmly by the decision to leave their security post, even calling for others to do the same.
“I commend them for it,” Kroll told the Star Tribune. Adding that the four officers who walked off the job have refused to work future Lynx games and many of their colleagues have joined that lack of effort, Kroll said, “If [the players] are going to keep their stance, all officers may refuse to work there.”
In other words, the Minneapolis police union is asking WNBA players to change their stance against racial profiling if the city would like officers protecting citizens in the stands at Target Center.
This is not good. Not good at all.
According to the Star Tribune, Kroll cited “false narratives” with regard to the public’s response to police shootings of black men in recent years and warned Lynx players, “Rushing to judgment before the facts are in is unwarranted and reckless.” But shouldn’t Kroll be held to the same standard?
Let’s not forget a man was gunned down in front of his fiancée and her 4-year-old daughter by an officer at a neighboring police department, regardless of motive, and calling for change to whatever protocol ultimately left the man dead is hardly a rush to judgment, unwarranted or reckless.
Before you consider whether Castile could have also acted differently in the situation that led to his death, ask yourself if this kicker from Kroll to the Star Tribune comes from a union president who is sensitive to this issue or has no interest in opening a dialogue on black lives mattering: “They only have four officers working the event,” said Kroll, “because the Lynx have such a pathetic draw.”
There’s no doubt the Minneapolis Police Department protects with courage and serves with compassion the vast majority of the time, as most law enforcement units do in the country, but in this particular instance, it sure seems like some of them are running and hiding from the issue at hand.
To her credit, MPD chief Janeé Harteau seemed to agree with that sentiment in a prepared statement, addressing the notion that the officers should not be held to the same standard on security details.
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