On Monday night, four off-duty Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers were moonlighting as security personnel for the Lynx WNBA game at Target Center.
The officers wore their Minneapolis Police Department uniforms while working the security job (as permitted by the department).
And in an act of stunning petulance, all four walked off the security job because Lynx players wore t-shirts like the one Lynx forward Maya Moore is wearing in the photo on the left.
On the back of these shirts are the names of Philando Castile, killed by police in Minnesota last week, and Alton Sterling, killed by police in Louisiana. And beneath the names is a Dallas Police department emblem — remembering the five officers killed by a sniper in Texas.
Not Just Shirts
The MPD officers were reportedly also offended by a pre-game news conference Lynx players held. It included seemingly universal comments such as Rebekkah Brunson saying the shirts were meant to “honor and mourn the loss of precious American citizens and to plead change for all of us.” And Maya Moore saying, “We are highlighting a longtime problem of racial profiling.”
The Minneapolis police officers should not have been surprised. Last Saturday, the Lynx wore the exact same shirts and made similar statements before a game against the Dallas Wings. Several of the Wings teammates expressed gratitude for the show of support. In that instance, Moore declared, “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… Tonight we will be wearing shirts to honor and mourn the losses of precious American citizens and to plead for change in all of us.”
The Police Union Joins In
Commenting on the officers who walked out, MPD union head Lt Bob Kroll said, “I commend them for it” and “if [the players] are going to keep their stance, all officers may refuse to work there.” Then, in an act even more petulant than the walk-off, Kroll said, “They only have four officers working the event because the Lynx have such a pathetic draw.”
The Lynx have won three of the last five WNBA championships, and average about 8,000 fans per game. That’s roughly half the size of a typical NBA crowd, and far larger than a rock concert at nearby venue First Avenue. (A rather well-known rock club, where Prince filmed scenes for Purple Rain.)
Minneapolis Police Have a History
You may recall the story from 2014, when Minneapolis Police Department union members duped a local TV station into claiming Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges was flashing a “gang symbol.” The slander was almost certainly a response to Hodges’s attempts at reforming the department.
A Longtime Problem
And such attempts are nothing new. During most of the 1980s, Anthony Bouza was head of the MPD and deeply unpopular with the force because of his reform measures. Later, Bouza described those reforms in Police Unbound: Corruption, Abuse, and Heroism By The Boys In Blue. Bouza wrote that “temptations to abuse are everywhere, and practically irresistible.” He found some officers so dirty and so unfireable, he would pay them to sit at an empty desk rather than poison new recruits with their attitudes. Bouza said officers refer to such attitudes as thinking of themselves as “meat eaters”: tough guys; ones who don’t ever back down from a confrontation.
— LaChina Robinson (@LaChinaRobinson) July 9, 2016
MPD: To Protect and Serve… Themselves
Most hated of Bouza’s reforms was a reduction in two-person shifts. Officers claimed this reduction would make them unsafe, and pointed to an inevitable officer death as proof. (Police work is dangerous, although not so dangerous as fishing, farming, logging, driving, and many other occupations.) The real cause for officers’ hatred of this policy was the very reason Bouza initiated it. A two-officer crew has virtually unlimited power. In rare cases where an officer’s actions are investigated by prosecutors, witness statements from another officer will always be given more weight than testimony from suspects or bystanders.
Bouza took on the MPD job after previous experience as police commander in The Bronx. But that didn’t seem to matter to the “meat eaters” at the MPD.
Shame on the Minneapolis Police
In any case, shame on the petulant MPD officers who walked off their jobs in a huff because of the principled statements made by Minnesota Lynx athletes. But don’t expect the MPD to make desperately needed changes anytime soon.