August 19, 2005

Should I, or shouldn't I?

Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I should!

Nick Coleman: Memo to McManus: The streets are where it's at
Nick Coleman, Star Tribune
August 19, 2005

Minneapolis Police Chief Bill McManus let his hair down the other day and gave a piece of his mind to the Police Community Relations Council. I guess the council members are always bugging him with complaints about the way things are going while the chief has to stay mum -- the strong and surly type -- and take it.

Okay, as Coleman lead paragraphs go, not bad. Decent set up. As a reader, you're thinking this column is going to be about McManus. And if you're thinking that, you, the reader, are wrong.

No more. McManus says he actually plans to speak up at future meetings. Silence, he said, "was getting us nowhere."


Ah, yes, the great literary device known as a strategically-placed "Duh."

Silence never gets you anywhere.

Unless you're Nick Coleman, in which case a little silence would do you a world of wonder.

Which is why it is always important to talk about relations between the cops and communities of color. And why it is always a good thing for cops and the community to meet, even if steam comes out of McManus' ears. No one said he had an easy job.

Communities of color? Could he possibly have conjured a more politically correct phrase? Then again, this is Coleman we're talking about, a man who gets the vapors when he hears the term "Fighting Sioux."

Anyway, I hope you've said your appropriate good-byes to McManus, the guy featured in the headline and the opening paragraphs, the guy you foolishly thought this column was going to be about. Because, as per the dictates of Coleman's adult ADD, we will see no more mention of him through the rest of the column. Like a toddler who spies a shiny dime across the room, Coleman's attention is about to drift elsewhere.

But to really see how things are going, it might be more helpful to monitor the streets than the chief's blood pressure. On too many streets in Minneapolis, it doesn't matter much how the police chief thinks he has been treated.

Time for some patented and acclaimed Nick Coleman "man on the street" interviewing!

"I'm going to say it like it is: The police don't do their job," a 22-year-old named Montrell Gardner said in the parking lot of a Plymouth Avenue shopping center that used to be famous for two things: Lucille's Kitchen and drug dealers.

Only the dealers are left. Lucille's is closed.

*rim shot*

"We have 25 hustlers standing on this corner every day, but the police just roll through without doing anything," Gardner was saying. "The hustlers got no respect for the police. The police ain't scaring nobody. And that's a bad thing."

Gosh, maybe the police should just start harrassing people standing on the corner? Maybe they should just start doing random pat downs and searches? Maybe they should start a program of extreme racial profiling at the expense of the most basic of human rights? Is that what Gardner and Coleman are advocating here?

As an aside, wouldn't 25 hustlers standing on a corner seem kind of, I don't know. . . conspicuous? Doesn't that number seem rather exaggerated? Nick has a tendency to take everyone at their word. Except politicians. They're all fat cat liars. But, your standard-issue 22-year-old on the street? A bastion of truth and honesty!!

Yes, it is. Especially considering the fact that we were talking within spitting distance of the Fourth Precinct police station, a blank-walled cop fort that squats on Plymouth but feels as far away as the moon.

Yeah, because we all know that police precincts are supposed to have officers peering out their windows from behind the shades, ready to pounce the moment they think they see a suspicious handshake transpire across the street. Under Nick's "logic," if you're standing near a hospital, you shouldn't get sick, either. Or if your house is near a fire department, your house should never catch fire. Nick's a common sense kind of guy like that.

"All they do is drive through and try to look good every once in a while," said an aspiring rapper named Antwon Wright who these days prefers to go by the name of Young Plukey (the original Plukey was a notorious drug dealer). "If this was a white neighborhood, the cops would go crazy. I mean, how can we be next to the station and yet you can come up here and get everything you need? It's a damn shame."

An aspiring rapper! Named after a notorious drug dealer! It's the Nick Coleman interview he's always dreamed of! And he managed to find this dream interview in the middle of the day, practically out of nowhere. What are the odds of that? Why, those odds are so astronomical, they would almost seem to border on the impossible. Here's a fun exercise for you. Do a Google search on "Young Plukey." Pretty aspiring.

"I agree with you," said a security guard named Rico McKinnies, nodding his head at the police fort. "It is a damn shame."

Lousy police fort. *shaking fist*

McKinnies, an off-duty cop, also serves as director of operations for the security firm that watches the shopping center. "Cops sitting in a car don't do anything for the community," he said.

They'd be much better off walking around, or on horseback, or performing a barn-raising.

Like a lot of guys on the street corner, Young Plukey has a checkered past.

Oh, a checkered past. Like, a marijuana possession charge? Perhaps a DWI? Maybe a domestic abuse arrest? You know. . . checkered.

He spent nine years in prison for shooting a guy during a drug deal. He shot the guy six times, up at 36th and Emerson. The victim nearly died but was revived in the operating room and survived as a paraplegic.

Great googily moogily.

"Because I was 16, they had mercy on me," Young Plukey says.

Too bad those six bullets didn't show all that much mercy, but whatever.

These days, he calls himself a "coke rebuker" and delivers a rap message of recovery and restoration in churches.

Good. A solid message. A positive message. Good for Young Plukey. Granted, if he really wanted to get that positive message across, he might have chosen a rapper name who wasn't, you know, a notorious drug dealer. But. . . baby steps.

And now for the Nick Coleman "WHA?" award.

His best rap is called "Son of Perdition," and it preaches a message of turning to the Bible and the Qur'an, or what have you.

The Bible and the Qur'an, OR WHAT HAVE YOU?! He wrote that? And left it in? OR WHAT HAVE YOU? What? You don't have a Bible or Qur'an handy? You have The DaVinci code? That'll work. What have you.

"I'm trying to convert savage living into spiritual living," he says.

What an inspirational ex-con. It's absolutely phenomenally lucky that Coleman was able to find such an inspirational story just walking around outside. Why, some would say it's such an inspirational story that maybe Coleman could have, you know, MADE "YOUNG PLUKEY" THE SOLE FOCUS OF HIS COLUMN. Maybe he could have sat down with his family, and perhaps visited with the poor paraplegic. I mean, this could have been an awesome human interest story. Any reporter with any nose for a story at all would have realized the sheer gold that practically dropped from the sky. Strangely, Nick didn't. I won't dabble in too much conjecture as to why he didn't, but I will say that it strikes me as downright odd, if not suspicious. He'd settle for a mope-infested tirade against what he perceives to be police inaction when he has a human interest story from the gods right there in front of him. His choice, I guess.

I had driven over to that Plymouth Avenue shopping center next to the police station because I was hoping to visit with Barbara Howard, a brave, crime-fighting hairdresser who had survived several run-ins with the drug dealers and whom McManus vowed last year to help with extra police protection.

In other words, Nick has ADD, but we already knew that. And, by the way. . . "crime-fighting hairdresser?" Could that be any more funny?

I wrote a column about Howard then, but I couldn't find her Thursday. Her shop is gone. Under a sign that still says "Barbara's Salon of Beauty" is a clothing store run by Lorraine Smaller, a retired teacher who ran an alternative school until it was shut down when the school district ran into money problems. A lot of the drug dealers, she knows by name.

More Coleman ADD. Come on, man, FOCUS! Or is it just that he can't survive without writing down every mopey thing he observes. Barbara's salon is gone. *sniffle* The sign is still there. *mope* Retired alternative school teacher. *pout* School shut down because of money problems. *woe* It's like Eeyore as a journalist.

"We get everyone from hoochie mamas to church ladies in here, including gang-bangers and drug dealers," Smaller said. "Where else are they going to go? There are no jobs, and the swimming pools are closed, and most of them don't have air conditioning."

No jobs. Oh, the lack of jobs! Why are there no jobs?! JOBS!

At that point, a young man opened the door to Smaller's shop and waved. "Hello, Miss Lorraine," he said. "I got a job!"


As he left, Smaller said, "That's one of the dealers. Everyone calls me Miss Lorraine or shows me some respect like that. I like it. On hot days, they come in and say they're just 'looking,' but they're just cooling off. I tell them to change their ways, but I'm not out there dealing with them.

"That's the police's job."

So, the police's job is to get people to change their ways? I didn't know that was in their job description.

Last week, someone threw a brick through Miss Lorraine's shop door and stole $3,000 worth of clothing. The police, she says, were very polite.

"They get over here lickety-split, and they have been very nice to me. But they're not visible enough, that's for sure. If they were, the drug traffic wouldn't be what it is.

"It doesn't take rocket scientists to figure that out."

So, let's see. The cops did their job, and they apparently did it quite well. Yet, they're not visible enough, even though earlier in the column we learn that they're apparently driving around quite a bit, even if they're not conducting random searches on everyone they deem suspicious. One wonders how much more visibility they need, or what additional actions the people would like to see.

And, man, to any Twin Cities journalists reading this, go find that "Young Plukey" guy and find out more. Coleman passed up a gem right there. That is, you know, if Young Plukey isn't, in fact, Plain Layne.

Posted by Ryan at August 19, 2005 11:52 AM | TrackBack

Thank you. I needed that.

Posted by: Rick at August 19, 2005 12:24 PM

These pretty much write themselves, don't they?

Posted by: Keith at August 19, 2005 04:27 PM

You've kinda got me hooked on reading this doofus, or at least your dissections of him, and this latest opener--is it just me, or is a little Dowdish?

"I'm going to get your attention by naming names and stating specifics; then, once I have it, I'm going to wander wild and free. Oh, the places we'll go! Anywhere, anywhere at all--provided it's nowwhere near our starting point."

The "or what have you" is what makes it a classic, though. If he wrote a column of nothing but line after line of "RESEARCH IS YUCKY" his sentiments couldn't be plainer.

Posted by: ilyka at August 19, 2005 09:12 PM

You know we all love you right? Classic.

Posted by: Donna at August 20, 2005 12:56 AM

I'm surprised he didn't describe dude as 'plucky.'

As in, plucky Young Plukey.

It does have a ring to it, doesn't it?

Posted by: Rob@L&R at August 20, 2005 01:15 PM

Ryan, have you ever set foot in the neighborhood in question? Do you know any people living in this neighborhood? Does anyone else on this thread?

The reason for Coleman's column, as I read it, was to point out that the opinions encountered by the police chief at neighborhood meetings are based on the actual experiences of people living there, and so he should listen to them. These opinions are widely shared and credible.

Your point, as I read it, is that the columnist is gullible, and the people in the neighborhood at these meetings (and in this article) are either wrong or lying.

I won't subject your post to the same inane drear of a "Fisking," but at least let me stick up for Lorraine Smaller, the woman who ran the Hands On Alternative School in South Minneapolis, one of many successful school programs cut by the city to accomodate shrinking budgets. This was the kind of "last chance" school where a lot of kids with problems in regular school went to turn their lives around, go on to higher education, and get off the track that leads many kids to the corner selling drugs.

(Calling this background irrelevant, and mocking it, is kind of baffling to me. Read the Spokesman article about the place if you think "woe" isn't justified: )

So that's Smaller. And when she says, "That's the police's job," anyone who can read will see she's referring to her previous phrase, "I'm not out there dealing with them," not to the phrase "I tell them to change their ways." In other words, no, Smaller is not saying that it's the police's job to change the ways of drug dealers. She's saying it's the police's job to deal with them. Which it is.

Her take on the job situation (and on the availability of air conditioning and public pools) seems credible to me, but I'd be glad to consider evidence to the contrary (if you offered some). The dealers in plain sight of cops is utterly believable--I hear about this all the time. I've also seen cops cracking down, but one observation does not negate the other. One kid wanting to share the good news of getting a job with Smaller, for instance, does not automatically mean there are plenty of jobs along Plymouth Avenue.

I'd encourage you to talk to Smaller yourself. I'll take glorified "man on the street" reporting over facile dismissal any day, and twice on Tuesdays.

Posted by: Pete Scholtes at August 23, 2005 06:00 PM

Yes, I lived at 31st & Longfellow in South Minneapolis. Only 20 blocks from 36th & Emerson.

I also lived in Robbinsdale, about 20 blocks from Lucille's Kitchen in North Minneapolis.

Does that count as having "set foot" in the neighborhood?

Posted by: Rob@L&R at August 24, 2005 09:20 PM

Your point, as I read it, is that the columnist is gullible, and the people in the neighborhood at these meetings (and in this article) are either wrong or lying.

Then my point, as you read it, is wrong. Coleman's lazy, sets pre-determined agendas for his columns ("Cops suck, and I know stuff), and goes off on entirely irrelevant tangents. If you've ever read a Coleman column, this stuff seeps off him like pus. And, again, why is Coleman so routinely able to take the "guy on the street" as a legitimate and trustworthy source, but any time a politician or conservative opens their mouth, it's always met with derisive scorn?

but at least let me stick up for Lorraine Smaller, the woman who ran the Hands On Alternative School in South Minneapolis, one of many successful school programs cut by the city to accomodate shrinking budgets.

And entirely irrelevant to Coleman's point, such as it was. So, she's a retired school teacher. Fine. Great. That's all the background we really need, unless Coleman wants to base his column on her teaching experience, which he doesn't.

As a quick aside, you are aware that air conditioning is not a right, right? Ditto pools. And, even if they were, what the hell would they have to do with ANYTHING? Hell, Rochester closed down one of its most popular pools a couple years ago. Should we expect an explosion of drug dealers as a result? "It's so hot, I want to smoke pot and crack!"

One kid wanting to share the good news of getting a job with Smaller, for instance, does not automatically mean there are plenty of jobs along Plymouth Avenue.

And, *gasp*, it also seems to indicate that maybe, just maybe, Coleman is exaggerating, yet again.

The dealers in plain sight of cops is utterly believable--I hear about this all the time. I've also seen cops cracking down, but one observation does not negate the other.

Perhaps not entirely, but it certainly flies in the face of someone saying All they do is drive through and try to look good every once in a while

Posted by: Ryan at August 24, 2005 10:10 PM

Living 20 blocks away from Lucille's doesn't count as setting foot in the neighborhood; setting foot in the neighborhood does. If you have done that, great. I'm only saying, conjecture from a distance is no substitute from going to the neighborhood and actually talking to people.

Nowhere in the column does anyone say, for instance, "Cops suck," or anything like that. You'd probably hear something like that a lot on the north side, but you'd also hear the opposite. If Coleman's agenda in this column was to show that a lot of people share the opinion that police have basically given up on certain areas, well, his agenda succeeded. I don't know whether he's right, but I suspect he is, and I know that there are certain neighborhoods, here and in other cities, where it sure seems like cops have thrown up their hands. It's not necessarily the police on the street's fault: There are limited resources, and the drug war demands limitless ones. (Not sure where you stand on that, but maybe de-criminalization would be a step in the right direction.) In the meantime, the police chief shouldn't be shocked when people get angry.

The closed-school background on Smaller, and the stuff she mentions about pools and jobs and air conditioning, is relevant because it paints a picture of the world where she works and talks to drug dealers. It also suggests that poverty in Minneapolis has persisted alongside the slashing of city programs that tend to help poor kids. There's a pattern here of municipal indifference, in other words, even if Coleman doesn't spell it out for you. What do these programs have to do with anything? They have a lot to do with encouraging kids to go someplace besides that corner.

Do we have a "right" to everything the city provides for us? (Nobody included air conditioning in that category, by the way.) Of course not. Do these things have an effect? Of course they do.

I wouldn't argue in terms of "rights," or ever say that anyone is forced into being a criminal. Drugs are fun, and people are lazy. Everyone has to take responsibility for himself. (I don't see Coleman disagreeing with any of that.) I would say that, for me, having a good job to go to every day, having air conditioning at home, and having people around me to help, all have been pretty important in helping me stay focused, keep a cool head, and make good choices. Spending tax money on a few teachers' and lifeguards' wages to help kids do the same seems like common sense.

Posted by: Pete Scholtes at August 25, 2005 01:47 AM

Nice try moving the goalpost there.

I said 20 blocks. In Minneapolis, that's about a mile. Same neighborhood. So, yes, I not only set foot in the neighborhood, I parked my ass in it.

In fact, my first night in the 'hood, there was gunfire outside my window. Back then this was disputed territory between the Bloods and the Naturals.

I told my landlord about the gunfire. His response? He asked me if it was single-shot or automatic fire.

Posted by: Rob@L&R at August 25, 2005 06:48 AM

I would say that, for me, having a good job to go to every day, having air conditioning at home, and having people around me to help, all have been pretty important in helping me stay focused, keep a cool head, and make good choices. Spending tax money on a few teachers' and lifeguards' wages to help kids do the same seems like common sense.

Glad to hear that air conditioning plays such a central role in your life, Pete.

And I'm sure you're aware, Pete, that many schools, inner-city or otherwise, are hotbeds for drug dealers. In other words, they're far from the ideal escape from the world of drugs that you'd like to believe them to be. Ditto pools, for crying out loud.

Perhaps you're content to see another $100 per paycheck deleted to fund a few lifeguards in bureacratically-funded sinkholes. I, on the other hand, am not.

Posted by: Ryan at August 25, 2005 09:39 AM

Hey, Rob, no hard feelings. In my neighborhood, 20 blocks away is a different neighborhood. Completely different. But if you're saying you've hung around Lucille's, that's cool, I posed it as a question and got an answer. My assumptions were wrong.

Ryan, again with the sarcasm and dismisals. Did you read the link I added above? Maybe that reporter was lying and/or incompetant, too.

Posted by: Pete Scholtes at August 25, 2005 03:16 PM

Argh! Pete, I did read it, and it's STILL irrelevant to Coleman's column. Coleman was portraying cops as do-nothing wonks, and then he segued into his garbage about a closed alternative school. It's an IRRELEVANT aside. It's like me saying "Pete's blog is an eclectic mix of content that is engaging to the reader and. . . hey, LOOK, a shiny penny!"

As for the sarcasm and dismissals; apparently you haven't read my blog much. Sarcasm and dismissals are what I do here. Sorry if that's just too much for you.

Posted by: Ryan at August 25, 2005 03:52 PM

Okay, so you read it. Then you know that this particular school was not a "hotbed for drug dealers." It was just the opposite. Coleman didn't demonstrate, or even try to make explicit, the connection between this school closing and the prevalence of drug dealers. But again, they're different parts of an emerging whole. I don't know the statistics, but I've known teachers all my life. It's practically a truism among those who deal with kids that if you close schools like this and cut after-school programs, pools, etc., more kids will get into trouble or worse. You might see no connection between this kind of civic indifference, and the alleged police indifference. I think the point of Coleman's column was: A lot of people do see a connection. And again, the chief shouldn't be shocked by their anger.

I don't want to beat a dead horse. I just wanted to argue with you because, like I said, there's no substitute for actually talking to people. So I talked to you.

Posted by: Pete Scholtes at August 25, 2005 05:04 PM

I've been around teachers all my life, too. Both of my parents are teachers, in fact, and one thing they routinely pointed out, and continue to point out today, is that there are invariably good and bad students, and what makes a student good or bad has little to do with extracurricular activities, after school programs or whatever else you could list, and almost everything to do with how those students are raised at home. Schools aren't in place to raise children, they're there to educate them, leaving the raising to the parents.

Posted by: Ryan at August 25, 2005 05:46 PM

That school was educating them until it was closed.

Almost all of its graduates were probably considered "bad students" at one time or another.

I imagine your parents are right about them, too: Home life has everything to do with it. But what does "raising" mean, anyway? I was guided and taught and loved by my parents, but also by the other adult figures in my life who gave a shit and helped out. Teachers, coaches, bosses, tutors, babysitters, neighbors, friends, whatever. I had four parents (two step-parents), and I still needed all those other people. Kids who aren't being "raised" at all at home will tend to seek out other people to "raise" them. (You notice how that kid brought the news of getting a job to Ms. Lorraine, the way somebody else might go to his parents.) I've talked to a lot of former gang members, and they all say the same thing: "We were each other's fathers and sons."

Pretending that nothing outside the home or the classroom affects a student's performance is just naive. A lot of my friends in Madison went to an alternative school simply to stop feeling like shit about themselves, and wouldn't you know it, they became better students in the new environment. Extracurricular activities and after-school programs are one of the things that keeps some students interested in school at all. They're one more place where you can do well, be "raised," and feel like you belong. When I hear about band and orchestra programs being cut, on the justification that they aren't one of the three "R"s, I feel sick. Delete that $100 from my paycheck.

Posted by: Pete Scholtes at August 25, 2005 07:17 PM

Okay, so that $100 gets one school back up and running. Guess we better get another one up. Another $100. You know, come to think of it, let's get those pools back in running order. -$100. Hey, a few more government funded shelters for the poor, maybe some additional schools just for the heck of, with some more welfare checks thrown in for good measure. -$600. Oh, what the hell, I'm feeling too guilty about my good fortune in life, let's spread the wealth around some more through socialized healthcare. -$800. Oh, good, now we're in a Communist society, so that's nice. And, huh, look at that. . . there's STILL poverty, and drugs, and gang violence, and people exploiting the system, and on and on and on. How did that happen? Oh, right, human nature.

Posted by: Ryan at August 25, 2005 07:43 PM

Wow, my pay check is higher than yours? That ain't right. And I don't mean that in a socialist way.

Posted by: Pete Scholtes at August 25, 2005 08:19 PM


Sometimes I'm convinced Assistant Crack Whores make more than me.

Posted by: Ryan at August 25, 2005 08:53 PM

Maybe it's time for a career change?

I think you would make a wonderful Assistant Crack Whore.

lots of potential upward mobility.

Posted by: Rob@L&R at August 26, 2005 09:41 AM
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