• Mike Burkons

We tried to hide a police shooting and are still misleading the public about it.


On the day after George Floyd's murder, the cop was fired and charges were filed against him four days later.


Imagine if the first time the public heard the name George Floyd, was 13 months after his murder because in the days after his death, the Minneapolis Council President, Law Director and City Prosecutor all saw the footage of his death and since almost no one knew this footage existed, decided to fight to keep it from the public, media and other elected officials, until 13 months later, when a reporter got a tip of the existence of the footage, and had to fight for almost an entire month until the City finally released this footage only a very small circle of City officials knew existed.


Then imagine that the proper process to fire the officer or begin the grand jury process only started once the City could no longer fight to keep the footage from being released more than 13 months after the incident occurred, leaving every rational person to conclude that neither of these things would have happened if the City wasn't forced to release the footage they tried to hide.


If that happened, not only would there be outrage at the video itself, but everyone who saw the footage of the incident shortly after it occurred and had a duty to speak out when the decision was made to hide it and the known serious issues from the public, media and the other Councilmembers, would be called on to resign or be fired.


This is exactly what happened with police shooting in the Beachwood Mall parking lot on 6/27/19. The day after the shooting, former Council President James Pasch, Former Law Director Diane Calta and current City Prosecutor Natalie Supler saw the footage above, immediately acknowledged that there was a serious issue and question of whether this was a justified use of deadly force, but decided to fight to keep the existence of this footage from the public, media and rest of Council and only released it more than 13 months later, after Channel 19 learned of its existence, and fought for almost an entire month, before the City finally released it. Making the intent even more obvious, the proper process to fire the officer and have charges considered against him only begin after the City was finally forced to release the footage, 13 months after the incident occurred, when it should have begun 9 months earlier, when BCI completed their independent investigation and provided the City their findings dated 10-28-19.


As much as public officials love to claim they care about these race, diversity and police issues, when there is no accountability and none of the three people who made the decision to fight to keep the existence of this footage from being known, lost their job over this, it is empty words.


When the City tried to explain that the reason they fought against the release of the footage was because it might unfairly taint future legal proceedings, Beachwood resident Machelle Knight summed up the flaw in that explanation and troubling double standard in this extremely powerful Letter to the Editor published by CJN, where she wrote, "two weeks after this incident happened, I don’t remember her, or any other city official upset that the city released almost all the footage of the incident, including the foot and car chase of this 19-year-old Black kid, even though the investigation and criminal proceedings into his conduct were far from complete."


Despite aggressive assertions to the contrary, all these things show intentional (and yes, nefarious) decisions, made by ALL OF those who initially saw the footage in the days after it happened and went along with the decision to fight to keep the footage and known serious issues from the public, media and most of the rest of Council.


When the City finally released the footage, they had no choice but to begin the process to fire the officer which eventually happened on 2-22-21, after being on full paid leave for almost 20 months since the incident. The fired officer challenged this decision, which went to arbitration where the arbitrator ruled, “although the arbitrator’s opinion is that the grievant was not justified in using deadly force in this incident, the City did not prove the grievant violated all of the policies listed in the termination letter, and also made numerous due process errors.” The arbitrator went on to write, “Given the number and seriousness of these errors, the City did not have just cause to terminate the grievant. He is to be reinstated to his position with full benefits as if he had not been terminated.”


You read that correctly. The arbitrator ruled that the City made so many serious mistakes that we have to give an officer his job back despite the arbitrator's belief that the shooting wasn’t a justified use of deadly force.


We can hold rallies in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, saying we care about these race and police issues, but how can anyone believe we mean it when there isn’t any accountability for the small circle of City officials who saw the footage in the days after the shooting and decided to allow the City to fight to hide the footage and known serious issues from the public and the City's Prosecutor, who only began the proper process to take this issue to a grand jury once the City could no longer fight against the release of the footage, still has a job.


I will end this post quoting Marc Wilson's excellent Op-Ed piece titled "Beachwood Must Take Race Issues Seriously" published by the Cleveland Jewish News after two weeks after the City finally released the footage:


If what happened in Minneapolis caused you to be outraged enough to be one of the 1,000 people to attend the rally in Beachwood, but are not willing to express this same outrage upon learning what happened here as it is more uncomfortable to do so, your silence is the roadblock to the changes I believe you were marching for that night.


Sincerely,


Mike Burkons

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