A collection of reports from the MPR special series "The Color of Justice." This Midday program investigates the racial disparity in Minnesota’s criminal justice system. Reports by MPR’s Dan Olson, Brandt Williams, and Elizabeth Stawicki include various interviews and commentary of officials, academics, and community members.
Reports are followed by a rolling round-table discussion on the meaning of “driving while black” with Williams, and interview with Tom Johnson, president of the Minneapolis based nonprofit Council on crime and Justice.
Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.
(00:00:03) And good morning. Welcome to midday and Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Gary eichten. Glad you could join us. If you are a white person living in the state of Minnesota. There is very little chance that you will end up in prison Minnesota turns out since fewer white people to present than any state in the nation and most observers say that that is a good thing but that seemingly enlightened enlightened attitude does not extend a racial minorities in Minnesota. If you're an African-American in Minnesota, for example, your chance of going to prison is 21 times greater than if you were a white person that racial disparity is the widest in the nation and goes hand-in-hand with a blizzard of similar statistics that seemed to prove there are glaring racial disparities in Minnesota's Criminal Justice System. What is less clear, of course is why that occurs and what should be done about it this week. We've been focusing on Issue here in Minnesota Public Radio and today on midday as a follow-up to yesterday's Forum on racial disparities that we broadcast on. Midday as a follow-up. We're going to pull together our color of Justice news reports that we've been broadcasting this week. We should also note before we get started today that there is a wealth of information available on our website, Minnesota Public Radio dot-org. We're especially interested in collecting your personal stories on the issue of racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Again, our website is Minnesota Public Radio dot-org. Well. Okay. One thing that's clear about this issue of racial disparities is that there is a wealth of Statistics that have been gathered on the issue, but as we noted what's less clear is what those numbers mean. We begin with an overview from Minnesota public radio's Danielson, the blizzard of Statistics numbs. The brain the point is difficult to grasp until Tom Johnson pulls a breathtaking number out from the pile on his desk. (00:01:56) We know in 1999 and in Hennepin County. You had over half of all African-American males between 18 and 30 arrested in that one year (00:02:06) Tom Johnson was Hennepin County attorney in the 1980s. He's president of the Minneapolis based nonprofit Council on crime and Justice the group putting together a new analysis of racial profiling for the Minneapolis Police Department the reaction of some who believe black men commit. Most of the crime is the Black arrest rate makes sense. Tom Johnson says the numbers don't support the presumption (00:02:28) to use who is arrested as the gauge by which we make a decision who's committing crime isn't an accurate way of making that determination nor would I say a fair (00:02:40) one others say the high Black arrest rate can be explained by racial profiling police stopping black men for no other reason than the color of their skin in the Twin Cities and elsewhere. Ray Jefferson says his wife saw the sheriff's deputy. Whip his Cruiser around and start following them (00:02:57) my wife and made the comment. Well, I think he's going to pull this over and I tried to assure that it was no reason that he would do (00:03:04) that st. Paul police officer Ray Jefferson and his family were on a fishing vacation last summer at a northern Minnesota Resort. They had finished buying groceries in a nearby town. They turned onto the highway to head back to the lake when they were pulled over the sheriff's deputy stopped them because Jefferson wasn't wearing a seat belt. (00:03:21) He then was kind of taken aback at that moment. Once I had told him that I knew that that was not a stoppable offense and in that I knew that simply because I was an officer (00:03:31) to there have been attempts to make not wearing a seatbelt a stoppable offense but lawmakers haven't approved it. Jefferson says the deputy then told him he'd pulled them over for another reason (00:03:41) and that was because I had a ribbon hanging from my rearview (00:03:45) mirror items hanging from a rearview mirror are considered a distraction to driving Minnesota law prohibits them and Scan, but almost never do stop drivers because of it. Jefferson says after checking his identification the deputy returned to the car and said he wouldn't issue a ticket this time Sergeant Ray Jefferson a 10-year veteran of the st. Paul police force, a middle-aged father of four declines to talk about the many other times. He's been stopped for no apparent reason other than the color of his skin both in the Twin Cities and outstate Minnesota. He recounts this Summer's episode with reluctance as a police officer. He knows there are often good reasons erratic driving people who matched the description of a suspect for police to stop them, but he also knows from experience. There are times when black men are pulled over because of their race (00:04:34) when I take my badge and gun and hang it in the closet when I'm when I'm off duty, I expect to be treated just like any other person in this country would expect to be treated regardless of the color of their (00:04:47) skin. The numbers show black men are treated differently. During 6 months last year Minneapolis Police Stopped black drivers at a rate more than twice their numbers in the population and Analysis of st. Paul police stops shows a similar ratio earlier studies show that once in the Hennepin County criminal justice system blacks are more likely to be charged with crimes when blacks and whites are charged and convicted of similar crimes blacks are more likely to serve time Behind Bars. The result is the ratio of black sent to Minnesota prisons compared to whites is the highest in the country. However, there is no evidence to show blacks are more crime problem than whites is racial profiling blacks stopped by police for no other reason than the color of their skin. The sole reason they are disproportionately represented in Minnesota's Criminal Justice System Minneapolis Police Lieutenant Isaac de Lugo doesn't deny racial profiling happens, but he says it doesn't cause the disparity Lieutenant de Lugo is in charge of training for Minneapolis Police in Minneapolis and many other large cities police track where calls come from and crime occurs. Often in poor neighborhoods with a large minority population police Target their resources their Lieutenant de Lugo says stopping people in those neighborhoods for relatively minor infractions. Jaywalking loitering broken taillights often stops criminals in their tracks. It is through those stops those officer contacts that we do find the guns the drugs the felony warrants from from a different state for murder that type of thing the strategy many agree is working. The crime rate is down that the jail cells in court rooms are filled with black people supplies. All the evidence many need to arrive at the conclusion black men commit most of the crime. Thus targeting a population is good police work. It turns out that that isn't so David Harris says race is a poor indicator of who commits crime. He's a University of Toledo law school Professor who was one of the country's most outspoken critics of racial profiling Harris says his and others analysis of police records in cities were blacks are stopped and searched more often than whites leads. Disquieting finding racial profiling does not lead to catching more criminals. What it does instead. Harris says is make the innocent angry and we may say to them. Well, it's not such a big deal. You should just put up with it, but the herd and the humiliation the anger does not go away when they know that their skin color is what is getting them picked out. No driver is perfect. And if we don't recall drivers the same without regard to skin color, we will have an infection that begins in our body politic and it's going to hurt a lot of the important institutions that we have the Trust In policing belief in the rule of law. It's all on the line with this issue to get a picture of how a state law perpetuates racial disparity consider the consequences for drunk driving most people charged with driving under the influence and Urban County attorney. Amy. Klobuchar says are white (00:07:45) you go to the workhouse. You may go to some treatment. You may pay some fines, but that's it. You can have 20 III DWIs and not have a felony and not going and not go to prison. Whereas if you are arrested with even a small amount of drugs, you will have a felony on your record and that creates a disparity in how we look at two different racial (00:08:07) groups. There's been progress in reducing racial disparity in Minnesota's criminal justice system. However numbers continue to show a disproportionate number of blacks or stopped arrested charged convicted and imprisoned Council on crime and Justice president. Tom Johnson laughs ruefully at the observation that white minnesotans are bored with the issue of racial profiling (00:08:29) to say that this might be something less than important or boring it blows me apart and I'm having a hard time. My Scandinavian juices are having a hard time. Now, I find this person and say you're wrong. Let me have you pulled over (00:08:47) for the next 6 nights. Do you start getting the idea that (00:08:50) this might be happening because of the color of the skin? As if you don't put a foot in the side of that squad (00:08:54) car, the numbers collected by Tom Johnson's Council on crime and Justice will be used along with those being collected by courts in each of Minnesota's counties to see how far the state has come in its treatment of people of color and to see how much work remains to be done. Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio much of the debate over racial disparities as focused on police practices, but in the end, it's Minnesota's judges who bear the responsibility for actually sending people to jail Minnesota public radio's Elizabeth's to Wiki has a report and what's happening in Minnesota's courtrooms (00:09:29) a forthcoming study by the Minneapolis based Council on crime and justice shows the gap between blacks and whites widens further within the state's court system for felonies, the disparity widens from the point of arrest to sentencing judges Court staff and prosecutors have suggested in the past that racial profiling overwhelms the courts with people Color but in the end it is the judges who have sent 21 people of color to prison for every white person. That's according to the council's updated numbers Hennepin County chief. Judge, Kevin (00:10:04) Burke. It's the biggest single failure of the justice system because I can't give you any defensible answer as to why we're continuing to have huge numbers of African-Americans Hispanics or Native Americans in the justice system and treated at least on the surface disproportionately (00:10:22) harsh Burke and other judges consider themselves sensitive to race issues, but the racial disparity has widened on their watch that's leaving some of the best legal Minds scratching their heads as to why no one judge or prosecutor peers responsible, but criminologists and other researchers theorize that barely visible inequities exist at each stage of the criminal justice process some biases in the courts might even appear race neutral standard. Are applied to all defendants regardless of their race, but may have a disproportionate impact on people of color these subtle biases add up and result in the high numbers of people of color in Minnesota's prisons Hennepin County chief public defender Leonardo Castro (00:11:09) from the point where we created a law to the point that we try to enforce that law from the arbitrary decisions that are made in the enforcement of those laws and the arbitrary decisions that are made in the charging and prosecution and defense line 14 appearing on in the indeed. I believe this clemmensen has the report from (00:11:30) probation. How about Defenders appointed? Sure. Here's one stop along the criminal justice Continuum were judges have discretion today. Judge Richard Hopper. Here's the arraignment calendar in Hennepin County. It's a lighter morning than usual only 90 cases judge Harper must decide in a couple of minutes whether to release this woman charged with prostitution while she awaits her court date. He has several options. You can keep her in jail release her outright or in the area where he has even greater discretion release her conditionally if she meets the conditions she remains free. If not, she goes back to jail at such moments judges hedge their bets on whether a person will flee or commit another crime is for least. I'm going to give you a chance to get going on this and redeem yourself a little bit. Okay. I'm going to release you number one and you've got to do two things. Well that actually three things. Okay. First of all, I'm going to place you on conditional release which means that you have to stay in topper releases. Woman provided she gets in touch with a group to help her leave prostitution. She must also stay in touch with a probation officer. Should he fail to meet those conditions? The judge will order her back to jail to await trial the Council on crime and Justice says early numbers from its study show people of color spend more time in jail before trial then whites arrested for the same crime, but it doesn't know why Hennepin County's Chief public defender. Leonardo Castro says judge's you standards that value Community Roots when they decide who gets released before trial. For example, do you own a home have a steady job or have family in the area that criteria is applied across the board to defendants of all Races but Castro says those values are based on the experiences of mostly white middle-class legislators and (00:13:26) judges if somebody is a new person to this country and maybe has just started a job. We place a standard on Person of the person who grew up in this area has had a job for 15 years who's got family in the area. I mean the standards that we place on some people are not (00:13:48) fair judges can make as many as a dozen discretionary decisions in each criminal case some may appear insignificant on the surface, but they may further compound inequities in the justice system Tom Johnson of the Council on crime and Justice says he'd like to analyze these decisions more thoroughly. But in the end it may not be possible. I haven't been able to pick up what happens again by race on to the point of sentencing. So there are lots of decisions that are getting made in between that could have racial implications that we simply haven't been able to track but chief judge. Kevin Burke says the state doesn't need more statistics to identify what's already known. He takes the racial disparities personally and even suggest Hennepin may need a new chief judge. He says public officials need To take responsibility for the inequities in Minnesota's justice system. (00:14:39) I don't believe that this state is going to make progress until the chief Justice's the Chief Judges. The mayor's the speakers of the house acknowledge that race is a key critical issue that this state needs to (00:14:54) confront until then Burke says Minnesota is like the person who's chemically dependent but won't acknowledge a (00:15:00) problem. We incarcerate more African-Americans per capita than Alabama, but the problem is we end up basically saying they're racist or we stereotype people in the south is being racist and we're not willing to accept for purposes of discussion. We have those same attitudes (00:15:18) acknowledging a problem may be doubly difficult for minnesotans who have Long View themselves as citizens of a state Progressive on the issue of race the same state that produced Hubert Humphrey Roy Wilkins and other civil rights Pioneers now, The nation in the proportion of people of color. It sends to prison. I'm Elizabeth's te Wiki Minnesota Public Radio (00:15:42) discussions of race, and the criminal justice system tend to focus on the disproportionate rates at which African Americans are arrested and jailed, but the growth of the Latino hmong and Somali populations in Minnesota has broadened the scope of the discussion skin color ethnicity language and culture often complicate interactions between law enforcement and members of immigrant and Refugee communities police and the courts are trying to adjust to the increasing diversity of Minnesota's population. But some say the changes aren't coming fast enough and it sort of public radio's Brent Williams reports over the past 10 years the Hmong Somali and Latino populations of sharply increased in Minnesota. Minnesota's Latino population alone has tripled and that's having an impact on towns like Long Prairie many Mexican immigrants have moved to Long Prairie to work in a nearby food processing plant and work in other areas. Your culture based businesses Allah a year and a half ago Todd County created the Hispanic liaison office to help improve relations between the immigrants in the townspeople Todd County Hispanic. Liaison, Gloria Eden helps Mexican immigrants negotiate life in a new country. Eden says immigrants tell her there's tension between Latinos and police officers then add a personal relationship with Jesus. It's coming to the liaison office to get a medical bill translate. He says police officers stopped Mexicans just to check their immigration status Gloria Eden interprets a finally they stopped us because we're Mexican (00:17:15) and and the Americans americanos. They don't stop us. They don't stop them. They're just they ought they're driving all over the place and they don't seem to stop (00:17:24) them Eden says in the three-month span The Long Prairie Police Department asked for the assistance of the u.s. Border patrol in 17 traffic stops involving Latinos 13 of the stops. Deportations (00:17:36) are we agents for the border patrol? Absolutely, (00:17:38) not Long Prairie Police Chief. Steve neat says his officers used the border patrol office in Grand Forks North Dakota to identify people who are not carrying ID. He says, sometimes they call him the border patrol because some of its agents speak Spanish and can interpret conversations between officers and offenders The Long Prairie Police Force has six full-time and for part-time officers neat says his officers don't Target Hispanics, but he says sometimes cultural differences lead to (00:18:04) misunderstandings. If your name is Juan Rodriguez Mendoza that maybe your correct name, but on the other hand how its interpreted and how its (00:18:16) translated to a piece of paper may be different than what than what is supposed to be that might say Juan Mendoza Rodriguez neat says his officers have been learning Spanish in order to communicate better with Hispanic residents. Latino population in Long Prairie has exploded only within the past five years. However Hmong immigrants have been in Minnesota for many years Hmong people make up the majority of the state's Asian American population and most of them live in st. Paul. The presence of Asian gangs in the city has led to a closer contact between the police and the Hmong Community (00:18:52) among (00:18:52) American partnership sponsors programs, which reach out to st. Paul's Asian gang members a group of gang members meet on a regular basis at the Hmong American partnership offices in st. Paul tonight six boys aged 15 through 17 talk with a social worker about family issues. When asked about their experiences with the police the Hmong boys say police officers, even the Asian officers single them out. If it's late three or fours in the car something I'll pull you over. You know, this young man calls himself a little bone. He's 17 and wisps of a mustache and goatee poke from his face. (00:19:29) Because this not if it's (00:19:31) white people in the car, three or four or five people in the car, you know, they don't do that. You know, if it's Asian, they're gonna pull over and in an attempt to Foster closer relations with its Asian population. The st. Paul police department has recruited about 20 Asian American officers and all st. Paul police officers are required to take an hour and a half awareness course on Hmong culture both Minneapolis. And st. Paul police departments have compiled data on the race of person stopped by police officers in both cities blacks and Latinos are pulled over at rates disproportionately higher than their populations. Asian Americans were pulled over in numbers nearly equal to their presence in the two cities. There's no break down into Hmong or Somali figures in each City. However, some Somali say they've been mistreated by law enforcement officers Somali men meet and greet each other near the door of horn publishing located just outside Downtown Minneapolis. This is the office of dr. Hassan II bakar president of the six-year-old Publishing Company. Company started publishing the Somali paper War Saint and a magazine called bridging people during the 90s when somalis began coming to Minnesota in large numbers. I bakar says for the most part police treat somalis fairly. However, he acknowledges there is tension between somalis and law enforcement (00:20:45) newcomers. They have their own cultures or religions or way of doing things culturally and all this might be like different from what's going on here and this kind of situation creates frictions, (00:21:00) some smelly say FBI agents have entered in search their homes following the terrorist attacks of September 11th police officials in Minneapolis are making efforts to build ties with the somalis the department hired a Citywide liaison two years ago Minneapolis Police Inspector share in the bin ski says officers are learning to be more culturally sensitive to members of The Immigrant and Refugee communities. It is important that officers understand there might be different things to remember so that (00:21:28) crime That you're dealing with feels like they're being (00:21:31) respected. One of the biggest challenges facing somalis hmong and Latinos is the language barrier judge Tanya Bransford serves on the Minnesota Supreme Court's Multicultural diversity and racial fairness in the courts committee, the committee oversees the implementation of recommendations made by the state Supreme Court's racial bias task force in 1993, the court reported that racial bias permeates all of Minnesota's Criminal Justice System. She says the demand for interpreters has put a financial strain on the system, but she says it's worth it. Bransford says Minnesota courts have made some progress, especially in the area of interpreters. (00:22:05) However, there's still the disparate number of people of color that are imprisoned. So there we haven't made any progress there where I think the stats are one of the worst states in the nation with regards to the disparity the number compared to the number of people of color in the community compared to those that are actually in (00:22:23) prison since January. The courts have been recording racial data on all criminal Juvenile and traffic cases which Acquire an appearance before a judge Bransford says she hopes the data collection will help the courts find the source of the disparities a disparity which sends 21 people of color to prison for every one white person. Meanwhile, she says the committee will continue to press for more changes such as a hiring of more bilingual Personnel. I'm Brent Williams, Minnesota Public Radio. If you just joined us, we're focusing this hour on racial disparities in Minnesota's Criminal Justice System pulling together the color the color of Justice reports that we've been broadcasting on Minnesota Public Radio this week just a reminder if there's lots more information on this issue available on our website, Minnesota Public Radio dot-org. We are especially interested in collecting your personal stories on this issue. So do log on and participate Minnesota Public Radio dot-org we will continue with our color of Justice reports in just a couple of minutes first a reminder that broadcast of Minnesota public radio's reports this week on the color of Justice are supported in part by the Minneapolis Foundation a center for giving Acting Resources with opportunities to benefit Minnesota also programs on Minnesota Public Radio are paid for by the annual support of listeners. Like you click and join it, Minnesota Public Radio dot-org. (00:23:40) The O'Shaughnessy is proud to present jazz dance by dani.bora chesky, November 16th through 18th unveiling to new works and the Revival of Swing concerto. The New York Times has proclaimed the jazz dance troupe a Triumph for tickets to an unforgettable evening of dance call the O'Shaughnessy at 6516906921. Minnesota Public Radio members receive a discount on tickets. That's jazz dance by Danny Birch Esky Friday through Sunday at the O'Shaughnessy (00:24:09) time now for news headlines here Stephen John. Thank you Gary President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin ended three days of summit meetings today. The two leaders had warm praise for each other but revealed no sign of a deal sought by the United States to pave the way for a national missile defense system authorities are investigating whether turbulence and the material you Material used to make the tail where a deadly combination in the crash of American Airlines flight 587 the use of composite materials in the tail and wake turbulence from another jet are considered leading factors in Monday's crash. The Pentagon says Taliban fighters and followers of Osama. Bin Laden are apparently making a stand in Northern Afghanistan in the city of kunduz u.s. Warplanes are targeting the last pocket of Taliban resistance in the region and opposition Fighters are poised to move in elsewhere in Afghanistan US air strikes on two buildings killed some senior Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders lawmakers say they've made progress on making the nation's airports and planes safer House and Senate negotiators say they've reached a tentative deal on Aviation Security legislation. They're still working on the details a Northwest Airlines spokesperson says to security managers have been suspended following a breach that shut down Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for two hours this week planes at the gate and all passenger Concourse has were evacuated Tuesday after a food service worker. We misunderstood a security personnel and went through a checkpoint after being asked to stop. She was stopped shortly afterward and nothing illegal was found Minnesota State. Senator. Becky. Lori is touring the state today to announce her bid for governor. The dfl are from Carrick made her first stop in Duluth where she spoke at a YWCA early childhood education program partly to mostly sunny and Mild across the state today with temperatures ranging from the upper 50s in the north to Upper 60s in the South. It's already 64 in Marshall in Austin 55 degrees. St. Cloud with 53 International Falls, 51 51 and in the Twin Cities, it's sunny and 56 Gary. That's the latest from The Newsroom. All right. Thank you Stephen. It's about 27 minutes before twelve and this is midday on Minnesota Public Radio. This hour were focusing on racial disparities in Minnesota's Criminal Justice System course all week. We've been broadcasting a series of reports on this subject the title of the series The Color of justice and today we package those stories together. For those of you who may have missed some of them we should also note that there's lots more information available on our website now no question most of the attention on racial profiling and racial disparities is focused on the situation in the Twin Cities, but those disparities are also evident in rural counties with large minority populations in Beltrami County in northern Minnesota about 20% of the population is American Indian about 20% but Indians make up nearly half of the people who get arrested and put in jail why this statistical disparity? Well, Main Street radios, Dan Gunderson found out that there's no easy answer to that question. It's Monday morning in Beltrami County District Court. Most of the orange suited jail inmates here for arraignment on various charges are American Indian. That's typical in this Northern Minnesota courtroom. The court keeps no race-based statistics, but spot checks over six months found more than half of those appearing in Beltrami County Court are American Indians those American Indians are Likely to be represented by public defenders like Christine (00:27:32) Kohler in my practice is a public defender representing Native American clients in Beltrami County. I believe that they are treated more harshly or more severely than a white client who can pay his lawyer (00:27:45) color is Chief public defender for the ninth Judicial District. She claims racial bias was evident in the courtroom on this day two people appeared before the same judge on drunk driving charges. The white man was released without bail, but the prosecutor asked for $1,000 bail for the American Indian man Kohler pointed out the disparity and convince the judge to change his mind and release the Indian man without bail. She says had someone not challenge the judge the Indian man would be sitting in jail awaiting a court date by the time the court date came (00:28:16) up Native American man could have lost his job could have had family implications and has lost his Liberty. Whereas the white man if that situation had played out the way. It could have yesterday would not have suffered any of those consequences. I don't see any justice in that (00:28:34) color says this is typical of what she calls a different standard for American Indians. She believes her Indian clients often receive harsher sentences than their white neighbors any statistical analysis to support or Discounters allegation is extremely difficult because the courts keep no comparative data, but Beltrami County attorney Tim favor bristles at the suggestion his office Treats American Indians differently favor a slim gray-haired man with the deliberative are has been County attorney since 1989. He says he's made clear to his staff race is not to be a factor in prosecutorial decisions favor says if there is racial bias, it's incumbent on victims to challenge the system file a motion will go to court will litigate it judge will make a decision. The judge says, you know cops just screwed up prosecutor you screwed up. I accept that but I can't just you know, someone says I'm being treated this way because of my race. I can't just say well, okay, then fine dismiss the case favor says he can only recall one race-based complaint being filed with his office. He acknowledges racial bias exists, but he says the bias is usually subtle and difficult to identify favor says he wonders if claims of bias are often more perception than reality. The perception of judicial bias is most often based on contact with law enforcement American Indians in Beltrami County complain about dream catcher stops police make a traffic stop because a dream catcher hanging from the rearview mirror blocks the drivers vision and violates state law. No one can say whether American Indians are more likely to be stopped for such violations again. No data is kept to support or disprove the allegations, but there is no dispute about the wrong number. Of Indians in the justice system. Everyone agrees American Indians are far more likely to be arrested and jailed in their white Neighbors in Beltrami County. But Beltrami County Sheriff Keith Winger says racial profiling is not the reason because it happens in places like Los Angeles or Minneapolis, then in some cases there's an assumption made that it happens in Beltrami County to I've been Sheriff three years and I have had complaints against officers. I have not had one complaint against an officer based on race. Sheriff Wagner is a soft-spoken man who grew up in Beltrami County. He says to conclude racial profiling is the reason a disproportionate number of American Indians are arrested is simplistic. Nobody wants to come right out and say well the reason is disproportion is because they're committing more crimes. That's not a very popular thing to say. And I wouldn't say that unless I brought up a lot of other things those contributing causes the sheriff says poverty alcohol and despair are contributing social problems. That won't be solved by calling his officers racist the flat denial of racial profiling by law enforcement causes Joe day to shake his head in frustration. They heads the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council. His office is in Bemidji day contends. He's witnessed racial profiling he says at a community event a sheriff's deputy admitted. He was running computer checks only on tribal license plates day says the issue is a complex mix of white racism and Indian social problems. He says American Indians feel they have been mistreated by the system for so long frustration often leads to confrontations when Indians encounter law enforcement. He says those conflicts only deepen the racial divisions in the analogy, you know is you kicked a dog so long it's going to you know, it's going to turn on a bite you and that's kind of where I see this Ship today law enforcement officials say they are reaching out to minorities. The sheriff says he participates in the Bemidji race relations committee, but he says if Indians don't challenge perceived Injustice wrongs cannot be righted Jody says that's like telling a crime victim. It's their fault. They were assaulted. He says many American Indians have simply given up on the judicial system the philosophy from the American Indian perspective is why I grew up in file a complaint. It's not going to go anywhere. Anyway, we'll get shoved underneath the rug or nothing will improve. If we do complain in a matter of fact, we do complain there might be some retribution. They says the obviously disproportionate number of American Indians in the justice system in Beltrami County should be considered a crisis instead. He says most white people are simply indifferent to the plight of Indians some local leaders are aware of the problem Beltrami County board chairman. Jim Houser says, he was shocked at the number of American Indians in the county jail. He's pushing an initiative to significantly increase County spending for chemical dependency treatment and county commissioner. Quentin Fairbanks wants a complete examination of the judicial system Fairbanks grew up on the Red Lake reservation after a stint in the Army. He was a Minnesota state trooper for many years Fairbanks is an enrolled member of the Red Lake band and works for the tribal government Fairbanks says, he doesn't believe racial profiling is widespread in the county instead. He thinks economic Injustice is more pervasive in law enforcement. They get a uniform and a badge and they That power the easiest way to use it to get a promotion (00:33:49) in these things is making a rest and (00:33:51) what is easier to make a rest of the person that economically deprived that they cannot pay to find a cannot get an attorney to fight a case. Even if it was Injustice. I'm not saying they would pick on any time trying to pick on people that were down and out sir. Bank says it's time to get beyond the issue of racial profiling and attack the poverty addiction and despair that leads so many American Indians into the justice system, but other American Indians say addressing social problems is not enough they say as long as there's racial bias American Indians in Beltrami County will continue to be arrested jailed and in court far more often than their white neighbors Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio Bemidji much of the discussion of racial disparities in the criminal justice system is based on statistics. There are reams of Statistics available virtually all of them open to various interpretations, but many African Americans say that all that data merely shows what they've suspected all along namely that police Target African-Americans because of their skin color to hear that human part of this story Minnesota public radio's Brent Williams conducted a rolling Round Table discussion on the issue of driving while black We're four black men in a rented minivan driving around Minneapolis. And st. Paul Dirac Harmon teaches English at a local community college. He has also been a freelance reporter for local black newspapers. Ednan is a Salesman for a large pharmaceutical company. His wife will be giving birth to their second daughter any day. Now the Reverend Evan Miller is a social activist in st. Paul he works with black youth and police officers on a daily basis. We're driving while black and we're talking about what that means all the men say, they've experienced racial profiling in one form or another we drive down a busy Street in North Minneapolis and Eric remembers an experience. He had here a few years (00:35:43) ago. I saw a cop come on to I'm interested and I looked in my rearview mirror. So I was a police officer. I check my speedometer immediately. I was doing 30. Okay. I'm cool. But my license is fine. I don't have any warrants. The insurance is cool. Everything's hunky-dory. I shouldn't I shouldn't have any problems. Well, they got behind me. That's that's that close tailgating following you. You know that you feel like you're some that you're scanning you you like. Oh Lord. What are you trying to find out and she pulled me over? So it was a female officer. I'm like, well what (00:36:17) Eric says he thinks this was an example of racial profiling. He says when he drives he always makes sure his blinkers headlights and taillights are working. He says he doesn't want to give police officers an excuse for pulling him over. This time the officer said he was speeding at nun says he's experienced similar situations. He says while driving in Georgia. He was once pulled over for driving too close to the curb. He moved to the Twin Cities from Illinois a few months ago. He says he's been pulled over once for speeding since he moved here. He says he doesn't think it was racially motivated. But Ed says a couple times police have followed him for brief periods at drives an $80,000 Mercedes Benz. So I asked him why anyone should care that he gets closely scrutinized by police because it doesn't matter (00:37:03) and I've worked hard to get to a point where I am now and that's why I don't deserve that kind of treatment. I work hard anyone that works hard whether they are rich poor whatever it's irrelevant. Well, no matter what you're doing it long as you're not breaking the law. You shouldn't have to be some subject subjected to that type of harassment. That's why often concerned because it's not right and when something's not right everybody she said, well, that's not right. I don't want to be pulled over for anything other than the fact that I might. Committing a crime. Well, that's a problem with the fact that you might be coming to make a crime. But why do they suspect you might be coming right because of his skin color? That's not that's not that's not a probable cause oh, he's driving. He's black. He's probably doing something wrong. Let's check them out. (00:37:45) The three men say their experiences are shared by African Americans around the country. They say White America doesn't see the side of law enforcement. They see Eric Harmon and Evan (00:37:55) Miller. When you bring this sort of thing up to White America. They think you're tripping or you're tall. No away your whining your just delusional that this is you making excuses. We are past that yeah that was back in the 60s. That doesn't go on anymore after 65. Everything's hunky-dory. (00:38:14) Devin says there's a large perception gap between black and white Americans that goes beyond the subject of racial profiling. He says black and white Americans have generally responded differently to the terrorist attacks of September (00:38:25) 11th, the whole issue of 9/11. I'm you know, and this is not popular. I'm sick of it, you know, yes five thousand-plus people died. I'm sorry, but you are raising turn Millions upon billions of dollars for folks who have lost their families and things like that. What did you do for my family when we lost folks, you know during the 60s when you were sick and dogs on us and putting water on us because we want to sit at a lunch counter (00:38:52) at an Eric also say they've been unmoved by all the flag-waving that goes on these days. However, Ed says regardless of America's problems with race African-Americans should jump on the unity bandwagon. Eric says the calls for Unity are hypocritical (00:39:05) but as far as being a knight, I believe that I'm not I said, yeah, that's crazy. This country has never been United Okay. This has been I mean, you got to go back to history when it comes to the start. Well, it was United behind making sure that we were three fifths of a human being according to the Constitution talk about (00:39:26) being the minivan creeps along with the traffic on University Avenue in st. And Erica Ned's debate grows more (00:39:32) spirited. If you look at the media you look at what they're reporting on this is still seeing as a white country and a white person's problem in terms of the race a us the United States. They're talking about them. It's called word for them. It's not us. Oh, yeah, they'll sprinkle black person or spanic or agent in every once in a while. All right, that's not going to happen to us. (00:39:59) There is a saying in the black community when America catches a cold Black America catches pneumonia the guys in the van say they fear that America's war on terrorism could have the same negative impact on African-Americans as the War on Drugs Devon Miller. (00:40:13) So it's not going to be driving while black is going to be driving while black brown (00:40:18) fair-complected. I mean, you know, if you (00:40:20) hang with people of Muslim descent, you are a Target if you have friends (00:40:26) that are in the, you know from from Arab countries. You better be careful. I mean everybody's going to be in a heightened state of paranoia because now you don't know who you're going to have his friends. You don't know if your friend who have whose name is Abdul. You don't know if (00:40:40) he's connected and if he's connected you don't know who he's connected. You are brothers brothers who got, you know down in the 60s (00:40:50) African Americans use humor to cope with racism. He said humor helps the pain roll off like water rolls off a duck's behind being perceived as a thief by store security isn't funny but Ed Gotta Laugh when he described how he tries to avoid being stereotyped when you go (00:41:05) shopping when I when I go shopping now, I pulled my $80,000 car up in front. I pulled up in front and I step out G Dy step out. I want to be I want to be so clean. They might think they're brothers overspending and he's spending money. He come steal that money because you're right. I don't want people looking over their shoulder over my shoulder trying to figure out if I'm stealing something and (00:41:29) guys laugh because I can relate maybe not with the expensive car. But they say that doesn't matter they say it doesn't matter what kind of job you have or what kind of clothes you wear. They say all African-Americans are potential targets for racial profiling and they don't know when that will change. I'm Brent Williams Minnesota Public Radio. Well yesterday 40 members of communities affected by the racial disparities issue got together. It's Bethany Community Center in Minneapolis for a forum on the issue Forum sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio Civic journalism initiative, perhaps you heard that broadcast yesterday here on midday. Tom Johnson was a key participant in yesterday's form. He is a former Hennepin County attorney. He is now president of the Council on crime and Justice the organization that is collected many of the statistics available on the issue of racial disparities. You heard him a little earlier this hour and he joins us now, Morning, Miss Johnson. So let me pose the last question first to you here when will this change? I hope sooner rather than later. I think that debate that's going on about this issue. Now the public awareness that's building around the disparities that exist within the criminal justice system and and the existence of racial profiling as a piece of that disparity issue. I think that's all very positive and I think it's a precursor to change we heard the Beltrami County Sheriff raise this issue. It came up at The Forum yesterday on the one hand a seemingly simple question, but on the other hand, of course not so simple based on your statistics are More minorities arrested and incarcerated because they're committing more crimes than white people Gary. There's limited information on this and as strange as that may seem if you look at homicides, for example, it is it is clear there that African-Americans are most often the perpetrator and the victim of homicides. There. It is safe to assume that most homicides do get reported. Most of them are cleared by an arrest so we know who the offender is and there's a high conviction rate so we can have a fair amount of certainty around homicides. But once you move away from homicides, it becomes much less clear for a lot of a lot of reasons. I think when you get down to the lower level crimes and see huge disparities, it does I think strike one as being odd that you would have such a huge disparity based on an actual difference in crime with Some types of violent crime it may very well be that certain populations of color are involved in those crimes more often, but maybe at a much less lower rate than would be reflected by the difference in arrest rate. It was pointed out at the Forum yesterday that drug laws and Drug Enforcement policies tend to play a big role in creating this disparity and somewhere. I read that black people are 30 times 39 times more likely to end up in prison on a drug charge than that a white person. Is that true? I don't think the statistic is that hi. There is a disparity in Minnesota. I believe it's closer to 14 or 15 to 1 in terms of the difference in imprisonment rates for drug-related crimes. Although again minorities, particularly African-Americans are more likely to be incarcerated in the workhouse than our whites as well. So you've got it overall. Incarceration rate prison and workouts that is that is pretty exceptional. Now, there is a national research its National research not unique to Minnesota. So I have to qualify it that would show that drug. Use across racial lines is relatively comparable. So if that is true in Minnesota, and that's an assumption that we have not yet been able to establish. But if that is true, then there is there certainly needs to be a question mark over the very significant difference in arrest rates at the root of this is it a night you've developed a lot of statistics on this issue you worked as a Hennepin County Attorney at the root of this issue. Are we talking about practices in the criminal justice system primarily or the attitudes of the people in the criminal justice system to account for these differing rates of incarceration arrest stops in the rest. Well to the extent that it is the system and the people within the system that's contributing to this disparity. I think it's a combination of the two, although I tend to think that it has more to do with practices and policies and that people are applying practices and policies without really being cognizant of the effect that might have in further widening the disparity. So I think because of that if we can identify which I think we will be able to alternatives to policies or practices that are still protective of Public Safety, but don't have the in effect of widening the disparity that I think policyholders policy makers within the criminal justice system will be receptive to those kinds of changed strategies. Finally. You talked a little bit about this earlier in the hour and Dan Olsen's report, but why should people white people care about this issue frankly? It's a huge issue for white people and if we don't think so then Better do what we better do a reality check, but I think it's a huge issue of just fairness and Justice that we get on top of what's going on here. But when you look at the demographics of the state of Minnesota and how significantly they're changing if you're a white person just worried about where your social security check is going to come from when you're retired. It's going to come because we've got a viable economy that is based largely on employees coming from the communities of color and if those communities aren't available for good productive jobs because they're caught up in the criminal justice system. It isn't going to work and as that population grows, our problem is going to become more significant not less and this is the time that we have to get ahold of it. It may be our last best chance to get on top of it. Let's Johnson. Thanks for joining us. Appreciate it. You're welcome. Tom Johnson, who is the president of the Council on crime and Justice Minneapolis based organization. He's also a former Hennepin County attorney played a key role in yesterday's Forum on this issue of racial disparities much more information is available. Well on this issue in our website, Minnesota Public Radio dot-org. We're also specially interested in your sharing your personal experiences on this issue, Minnesota Public Radio, dot-org the tragic business of human trafficking. You (00:48:23) can only sell a gun or drugs once but you can keep a person enslaved and exploiting them for years and years and (00:48:29) years. I'm David brancaccio to the latest in our week-long series on the Underground economy. Plus we'll try to make sense of the day's financial and business news (00:48:37) later on Marketplace from PRI. (00:48:44) Marketplace heard each evening here on Minnesota Public Radio 5 minutes now before 12 quick reminder Justice Alan Page at the national Press Club over the noon hour.