Meet John Elder, Public Information Officer for the Minneapolis Police Department. Author of the now infamous May 25, 2020 press release about George Floyd’s death.
“On Monday evening officers responded to a report of a forgery in progress. Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.” (Edited for brevity.)
So, I am not asking you to meet John Elder to pick on him. He seems to be a decent guy, with a long career in journalism and law enforcement. John is also a local elected official. I am asking you to meet John Elder to understand what happens when a good guy tries to do a good job in a shitty culture.
According to Minneapolis media, Elder did not visit the scene. He could not interview the officers or review body camera video. He had to rely on information provided by (as yet unidentified) police supervisors. Which he did, I am sure much to his personal and professional regret.
A system is about how things and people work together. Similarly, a culture is about how people think and act together. When you have a lousy culture as a foundation, a system – no matter how well intentioned – is doomed.
You probably didn’t notice, but last fall the role of the MPD Public Information Officer was transferred from police supervision to the City of Minneapolis instead.
Meet John Elder – Did the System Work?
Given the Chauvin verdict, many people believe that in the end, the system worked. I disagree for two reasons. First, but for bystander video on the internet, this whole story probably would have died with George Floyd and the MPD press release. Second, if not for public pressure and a gutsy Minnesota Attorney General, etc. In short, people in a broader culture took over and made the system work.
My time spent watching the Chauvin trial was well spent. My first experience at “attending” a full trial. Prosecutors did a good job. But you may be surprised to learn that there were as many lawyers working behind the scenes to ensure lack of grounds for successful appeal. Time will tell.