Black leaders allege Minneapolis officers demoted because of raceby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Some Minneapolis African American community leaders say that disciplinary action against a black homicide detective is the result of a pattern of bias against black police officers. Sgt. Charlie Adams was transfered after he contradicted statements made by his commanding officer. Police officials deny that race played a role in the decision.
Minneapolis — Adams is a 22-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department. During that time he's had many duties - including a stint as former Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton's security detail. But community activists like Ron Edwards say more importantly Adams is known as an effective homicide detective.
"In fact I had the chaplain of the Minneapolis police department say to me, the day before yesterday, the one thing that was consistent with Charlie Adams was his caring, his sensitivity for the families of the victims," he said. "And obviously, that's what got him in trouble."
Edwards is talking about comments Adams made regarding the investigation into the killing of bicyclist Mark Loesch. Homicide unit commander Lt. Amelia Huffman announced that one of the suspects in the killing told investigators that the victim was looking to buy marijuana just before he was killed.
Adams spoke out and said there was no evidence that the victim had been looking for drugs. He apologized to Loesch's family for the statements made by Huffman.
Critics of the decision to transfer Adams to a less prominent section of the department, say it's a setback for police/community relations.
Spike Moss is a member of the Police Community Relations Council. The body was established to oversee the implementation of a federally mediated agreement that seeks to increase the level of trust especially between the cops and the black community.
Moss says under former police chief William McManus, progress was being made toward fulfilling the promises of mediation. But under Dolan, Moss says the community is losing ground.
"We were treated with respect. We were treated with understanding. We were treated with the understanding that people are grieving, and people are going to mad and people are going to be outrageous," he says. "Don't think we have to blow it off as police - let the community handle it. But when you don't want that understanding you must want a rebellion in the streets and one of these scenes. We had order. We trusted them and they trusted us. And it seems like he's going against everything that worked."
Moss pointed out that since Tim Dolan took over as chief in January, several high-ranking black police officers - including a deputy chief and two precinct commanders have been transferred or demoted. Dolan says those personnel choices were not motivated by race. And he says charges that race was involved are "ridiculous."
"I've only been on the job for 11 months now, so I made a couple changes as far as my administrative team goes," he said. "That's something I needed to do as a new chief. And there were a couple things that happened because of disciplinary actions that I had no control over."
Dolan is talking about the demotion of a precinct commander who was reported to have violated sexual harrassment policy. The Star Tribune had reported earlier this week that Charlie Adams had committed an act of insubordination. But the chief wouldn't go into details about that. Dolan said he's prohibited from publicly discussing some personnel issues.
Dolan also responded to charges that he's pushing back gains made during the mediation process. He pointed to city figures which say that minority recruitment in the department is at an all time high.
"And I think we're making very good process. I think we've made a lot of great strides," he said. "And we have unparalleled recruitment numbers. Not only in our agency but of any agency in the state."
Sgt. Adams could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon. But community activists say they will hold a press conference next week with an update on Adams status with the police department.
- All Things Considered, 11/30/2007, 5:22 p.m.