In a blog post on her website last week, Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges addressed the uproar over this picture of her which has become widely known simply as #pointergate. The image was the subject of a November 6 story by Minneapolis’ ABC affiliate, KSTP. which repeatedly referred to the pointing gestures being made by Hodges and a Neighborhoods Organzing for Change volunteer Navell Gordon as “gang signs.”
Last weekend, we had Gordon on this show to ask if that was really what was happening in the picture. KSTP has since stood by its initial reporting, and defended the “gang sign” claims based on posts pulled from an Instagram account belonging to Mr. Gordon.
In her post, Hodges outlines the four possibilities for the outrage over the image, directed at the law enforcement sources who brought the picture to the attention of KSTP.
“The first possibility? Maybe Hodges should just stop pointing for the safety of her community. But then again, “[l]ots of people point,” Hodges wrote. “The President. Bill Clinton. Stephen Colbert. Babies. It is the earliest form of human communication. I’m not going to stop pointing.”
Or if they don’t want her to stop pointing, then maybe they just want her to stay out of the presence of people whose criminal history she doesn’t know. Or in other words, avoid her constituents. Because there is, of course, no way to know what citizens may or may not have committed a crime. And even if there were, Hodges says, “it wouldn’t prevent me from talking with that person. It certainly wouldn’t prevent me from working on a Get Out The Vote drive with that person. That’s the kind of mayor Minneapolis chose.”
The third possibility? Hodges critics simply want her to start avoiding African-American men. After all, she points out, “One frightening implication of the KSTP story and police union President Delmonico’s support of that story is their implicit assumption that I should use stereotypes to assess with whom I should or should not meet or stand or talk.” Mayor Hodges comes to what is most likely behind the uproar over the pointing picture: that her detractors in the police community would like her “to stop working to raise the standards of police culture and accountability.”
Hodges has been unapologetic in addressing issues of bad policing in Minneapolis, and in an October open letter to her constituents, she suggested that “some officers abuse the trust that is afforded to them, and take advantage of their roles to do harm rather than prevent it.” The letter calls for increased diversity on the force, an emphasis on community policing and proposed a pilot program for officer body cameras. In fact, the KSTP report came on the eve of the body-cam rollout. The calls for reform came amidst the release of a Department of Justice review of the city’s police department.