Minnesota crime low; racial profiling a political concern

Justin Costley

Though the crime rate in Minnesota compares favorably with other major metropolitan areas, racial profiling has become a hot topic for candidates in this fall’s election.
The Minnesota state Legislature is considering a mandatory statewide study on whether motorists are pulled over based on skin color.
State Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, represents the University’s East Bank and is running for re-election against Republican Kristin Meyer. He said profiling is a significant issue in the community, one the Counsel on Crime and Justice is studying right now.
“There’s some pretty startling statistics on how Minnesota is pretty out of whack in terms of its arrest statistics and stuff related to mostly young males of color,” Pogemiller said. “The amount of arrests is very disproportionate compared to other states and other communities.”
Pogemiller said law enforcement is doing a good job of weeding out the obvious forms of profiling, but more needs to be done to prevent the subtle forms.
He said these include officers, court systems and community members viewing types of persons as criminals just because they might tend to look like the typical criminal.
“I think it starts to feed on itself and starts to self-actualize,” Pogemiller said. “You treat somebody like a criminal, and oftentimes they start to move in that direction.”
Pogemiller’s opponent in the upcoming election, Kristin Meyer, said in her mind racial profiling is the most important issue in law enforcement today.
She said she has spoken with minorities about the issue and it is the divisive nature of profiling that can erode trust between the community and police officers.
“It created a lot of hostility toward the police enforcement,” Meyer said. “We want the police force to work with us in the community. Racial profiling needs to end immediately.”
State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said the state needs to take better statistics to show people that racial profiling really does occur.
“I’m not in favor of saturation — picking up people who you think might be suspicious of crimes,” she said. “(Racial profiling) needs to stop. You look at what people’s actions are, not what you think they might be.”
Her opponent for the District 59B seat, University student Ben Bowman, said the subject is complex, but isn’t necessarily always about race.
“If you just take race out of it,” he said. “I think there is a lot of student profiling going on. I think students are given a second look, no matter what they’re doing, especially when they go out to the neighborhoods.”

Justin Costley covers police and courts and welcomes comments at (612) 627-4070 x3224. He can also be reached at [email protected]