In This Episode
- The Minnesota Department of Human Rights found that Minneapolis and the city’s police department engaged in a pattern or practice of race discrimination in violation of the state’s Human Rights Act. The two-year-long investigation began after former officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd in 2020.
- Russia released a former U.S. Marine from its custody yesterday in a prisoner swap with the U.S. The unexpected move indicates that there might be some diplomatic breakthroughs between Russia and the U.S. in the midst of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
- And in headlines: Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to five more years in prison, Southern California officials declared an emergency water shortage, and a New York appeals court rejected a congressional map drawn by state Democrats in the legislature.
- Star Tribune: “Minneapolis police engaged in pattern of illegal racial discrimination” – http://strib.mn/3LqUSR8
- Minnesota Department of Human Rights: “Investigation into the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department” – https://bit.ly/3vp4tSZ
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, April 28th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I am Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, where we are staying focused on our goal to lose as many followers as possible on Elon Musk’s Twitter.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I’m talking low tens by the end of the month. Then Mr. Musk will know that I am upset.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. By the time he takes over for real, we will be hitting negative numbers. See you all later. You don’t need to follow us there.
Gideon Resnick: Bye. On today’s show, the US and Russia exchanged prisoners. Plus, strict water restrictions are on tap for Southern California.
Priyanka Aribindi: But first, yesterday, there was big news in the effort for police reform and accountability.
[clip of Rebecca Lucero] The Minnesota Department of Human Rights finds that the city and Minneapolis Police Department engaged in a pattern or practice of race discrimination in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
Priyanka Aribindi: That was Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero. On Wednesday, her department issued a report about the Minneapolis Police Department. It was the result of a two-year investigation that began after former officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. And it was really quite a scathing report. So Gideon, walk us through what it said.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, scathing is definitely right. So this report said that over ten years, 2010 to 2020, the police department in Minneapolis has engaged in a, quote, “pattern or practice of discriminatory race-based policing.” And they lay it out specifically in these three ways” using force, search, arrest, and more on people of color, namely Black individuals, much more frequently than white individuals using, quote unquote, “covert social media to surveil Black people and organizations” and, quote, “consistent use of racist, misogynistic, and disrespectful language.”
Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. All of the above, really bad, but like sort of back up a minute: covert social media. Excuse me, what?
Gideon Resnick: It is how it sounds. Yeah.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Okay. So what did the commission point to about why this was systemic?
Gideon Resnick: A lot of reasons, but the report goes on to blame the way in which officers are trained in a, quote unquote “paramilitary approach” that results in, quote unquote, “inappropriate levels of force.” They also talk about accountability systems that do not do enough to hold officers accountable, and various MPD and city leaders who have not done enough historically to address these problems and to improve public safety.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I feel like none of these are particularly new criticisms, but this is a relatively long report. So what are some of the examples that they are citing in here?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, these details are really quite illustrative. So for one thing, the report said that from 2010 to 2020, 63% of all incidents of police use of force were against Black people. That’s despite Black people only making up 19% of the city’s population.
Priyanka Aribindi: That’s wild.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Additionally, it mentions that neck restraints, like the one that was used on George Floyd, were used more commonly against Black individuals than white individuals. And in this review decade as well, officers cited over 3,300 Black individuals for disorderly conduct or obstruction, which the report said amounted to 66% of all of the citations issued.
Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. So clearly very quantifiable things here. But I want to go back to the social media stuff you mentioned. You told me before we started this that this story was crazy, and boy, did you deliver. You are right. Tell us more about what was going on there.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s shocking. I mean, there were documented instances in the report of MPD officers using fake social media accounts to impersonate community members, sometimes even pretending like they had met someone at a demonstration. In one instance, an MPD officer allegedly posed as a Black community member, sending a critical message to a local NAACP chapter—really wild. As the local newspaper, the Star Tribune pointed out, these actions were not connected to criminal investigations that were being conducted or any sort of explicit public safety initiative, and many of the messages were deleted towards the end of 2021.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Excuse me. Like this would be bad enough if they were doing this, like, connected to something that they were actually investigating. Like, they’re just sitting around doing this for fun. Like, this is wild. Like, completely crazy. You also mentioned the problematic language they used. I imagine not very much of that can be repeated on the show, nor would we want it to be. But tell us more about the examples that came out of this report.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, there’s a lot of really horrible stuff in there, as you alluded to. But one detail from the report really stood out. Prosecutors from Hennepin County, that’s the county where Minneapolis is, talked to investigators, and they said that it’s sometimes difficult to rely on body camera footage in court because, quote, “of how disrespectful and offensive MPD officers are to criminal suspects, witnesses, and bystanders. And just to give another numerical figure as to how much evidence they were looking at here, the report reviewed something like 700 hours of body camera footage.
Priyanka Aribindi: That is really horrific, where they’re hesitant about this because the things that they are saying is so bad that they don’t want to be played in a courtroom or played to the public because it would make them think unfavorably, which they probably should be. Given all of this, what are the recommendations for how they can change, how they move forward?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s a big question. You know, one other part of the report was pointing out that the existing infrastructure for accountability is just insufficient. For example, the city’s Police Conduct Oversight Commission does not have the appropriate resources to do its work, the report said. And it took, on average 475 days for a police chief to issue a final disciplinary decision from when an investigation began. So that’s a lot of time. That’s over a year.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Way too long.
Gideon Resnick: So the Human Rights Department is going to work with the city on a court enforced-agreement that is known as a consent decree to identify specific long-term changes that the police department needs to make. And that consent decree could remain in place for an indeterminate amount of time. Here is the Human Rights Department’s commissioner, Rebecca Lucero, again:
[clip of Rebecca Lucero] The investigation finds that without fundamental organizational culture change, reforming MPD’s policies, procedures, and trainings will be meaningless. This is a big statement, but I think it speaks to the scope of the challenge that lies ahead.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Before that decree actually gets ironed out, though, the report recommended immediate changes to the way that MPD communicates with the public, improving oversight and accountability, as well as trainings. We’ll link to the report and the Star Tribune’s reporting on all of this in our show notes.
Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s shift gears a little bit. We will move to the latest out of Russia, starting with the former U.S. Marine who Russia released yesterday in a prisoner swap with the U.S..
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this was interesting and, you know, relatively unexpected because it does indicate that there have been some diplomatic breakthroughs between Russia and the U.S. in the middle of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right. I don’t think many people were expecting that at all. So for a little context on this swap, the former Marine, whose name is Trevor Reed, was initially detained by Russia in August of 2019. He had been visiting his girlfriend in the country and was accused of assaulting and endangering the lives of two police officers, though his family maintains that these were bogus charges. After spending 11 months in a Russian jail, he was sentenced to nine years in prison, which was the first time a punishment that severe had been given for this kind of alleged offense, which, again, he and his family deny that he committed. He reportedly suffered horrible treatment while incarcerated—you can imagine. He was in solitary confinement. His health rapidly declined. But on Wednesday, he was freed in exchange for the U.S. releasing Konstantin Yaroshenko. He is a Russian pilot who was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison back in 2011 for cocaine trafficking charges. It became a really prominent case in Russia because Yaroshenko had never been in the U.S. before. The U.S. extradited him from Liberia, where he was arrested for this case. And they kind of pointed at it as an example of the U.S. really overstepping bounds in terms of extradition. But you’re right, it was really unexpected that this kind of breakthrough would be happening while this war has sort of been raging on and there hasn’t really been that much progress in getting it to stop.
Gideon Resnick: No, absolutely. So Reed’s release is obviously great news for his family and all the people that were involved in the diplomacy of all this, but he was not the only American being held in Russia. Can you tell us about the other people who are still stuck there?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So most notably, WNBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is still detained in Russia. She’s been there since mid-February after being accused of having vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. Trevor Reed’s release has brought attention back to Griner’s situation. You know, we’ve talked about this on the show before. There’s been a bit of back and forth on the Internet and the media about how much attention this has been getting publicly. But officials and her team have really been working somewhat quietly on this case, not because, you know, they don’t care and they don’t think it’s important, but because they don’t want to inflame tensions during an already intensely sensitive time with this war. Yesterday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that Griner’s case is still a, quote, “top priority.” And when speaking about Reed’s release, President Biden also mentioned another person, Paul Whelan. He is another American who’s been detained in Russia since 2018 on espionage charges. So there are still a couple of people who we need to get out of there.
Gideon Resnick: Right. And hopefully the State Department can secure the release of those folks. But switching gears a bit, despite this diplomatic breakthrough, back in Europe, Russia is retaliating against sanctions as well as the West supply of arms and support for Ukraine. So tell us a little bit more about what’s happening there.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, so Russia has suspended shipments of natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria. This is pretty big news. Both of those countries, along with the rest of the European Union, rely heavily on natural gas to do things like heat their homes, to cook meals, you know, basic stuff. Poland gets 45% of its gas from Russia while Bulgaria gets 90%. This actually goes against a long-standing Soviet-era pledge Russia made that regardless of the political climate and what was going on, they could be relied upon as a natural gas supplier. But according to the Russian state-run energy company Gazprom, Poland and Bulgaria were singled out specifically because they refused to pay for their gas in rubles, which is the Russian currency. Putin set the rule last month that they needed to pay in rubles in order to boost the value of the ruble while this war continues.
Gideon Resnick: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: This is sort of seen as the Kremlin’s toughest retaliation so far against EU countries that have supported Ukraine. Polish and Bulgarian leaders have called this blackmail. EU leaders are having an emergency meeting about all of this, though we should say that the immediate economic impact is estimated to be limited at this time. That is a little bit about what’s happening in and around Russia at the moment. We will obviously keep following this and the situation in Ukraine. But that is the latest for now. We will be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Aung San Suu Kyi. Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader, was sentenced to five more years in prison yesterday. Myanmar’s military took over the country last year in a widely-criticized coup. And this is the latest conviction in a long list of charges that the military filed against Suu Kyi that are largely considered to be fabricated. On Wednesday, a court found her guilty of corruption for accepting roughly $1.3 million worth of gold bars and cash from one of her former political allies. The trial was closed to the public and her lawyers have been barred from talking about the case. But Suu Kyi supporters say that the prosecution provided barely any evidence to prove their case other than witness testimony. In total, Suu Kyi has been convicted of 17 criminal charges since she was arrested last year by the military junta. She faces several more charges ahead of her, and if convicted on all of them, she could face up to 163 years in prison. Phil Robertson, the Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, said of Wednesday’s ruling, quote, “Destroying popular democracy in Myanmar also means getting rid of San Suu Kyi, and the junta is leaving nothing to chance.”
Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. Southern California officials declared an emergency water shortage on Wednesday, and as a result, the board of the region’s metropolitan water district is rolling out new restrictions on how much water residents can use outdoors. Starting June 1st, roughly 6 million SoCal residents in Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Bernardino Counties will only be allowed to water their lawns once a week. In this difficult time, we are breaking protocol to send sympathy to homeowners, especially ones engaged in a silent feud with our neighbor to have greener grass. We also want to note that there are consequences for breaking the rules. And if overall water usage in SoCal doesn’t go down enough, the water district is prepared to ban all outdoor water usage later this year. So please do not fuck this up for everybody else. Don’t do that. It’d be very bad. This all comes amid the severe multiyear drought in the area and the coming months are expected to be the driest on record in California. Devin Upadhyaya, an official with the water district, said on Wednesday, quote, “This is a crisis unlike anything we’ve seen before. We’ve done pretty much everything we can to alleviate the immediate crisis, and now we need the public’s help.”
Gideon Resnick: I didn’t really think that the climate crisis would have got us a new Chinatown, but I suppose that is what is happening here. I don’t know.
Priyanka Aribindi: Once again, Gideon’s making a reference I do not understand, but it’s fine. I imagine it’s funny to those who get it.
Gideon Resnick: I imagine to people who get it, it’s not funny. They’re going to skip over all this. New York continues to keep anyone who wants to know what district they live in on their toes. Yesterday, an appeals court in the state rejected a congressional map drawn by Democrats in the legislature. New York Dems had taken the liberty of drawing maps that worked in their favor, but a group of Republican voters sued—probably because they don’t like it when people steal their party’s signature move and don’t even credit them. The court ruled in the Republicans favor and said the new map had been drawn with, quote, “impermissible partisan purpose.” The justices also said that it violates New York’s explicit ban on partisan gerrymandering. A politically neutral expert was appointed by New York’s Supreme Court to redraw the district lines. Now, New York’s primary was scheduled to be held at the end of June, but the justices suggested that it might be delayed until August in order to get the map implemented in time—man-o-man, moving targets abound for us all. Democrats nationally had hoped New York’s map would help secure some House seats in this year’s midterms and offset some of the redistricting gains that had been made by Republicans in states like Texas and Florida. Those hopes have now been dashed. This is proof, though, of why it’s bad to be late to a trend. And in this case, the trend is partisan gerrymandering.
Priyanka Aribindi: Bad to be late to a trend. Bad to have an election in August. Like, who thought that through? I’m sorry. I don’t know who’s going to be around. Not very good overall. Gideon, as a New Yorker, how are you feeling?
Gideon Resnick: The summer homes voters are really going to make a show they meant to be back.
Priyanka Aribindi: Shaking in their boots right now.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, they meant to be back to vote and unfortunately, they couldn’t, you know? But that’s, that’s okay.
Priyanka Aribindi: Darn. We want to update you on the greatest fight related to Disney since Donald Duck versus standards of decency around pants: the company’s war with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. As you may remember, DeSantis signed a law to revoke Disney special tax status that’s been in place for over 50 years, a.k.a. the Reedy Creek Improvement District—do not know how they got to that name, and will never spend the time to find out. Under the law, the district will be dissolved next year, but it might not be that simple. According to recent reporting by Orlando TV station WESH, the district’s leaders met last week and concluded that Reedy Creek can’t be dissolved legally until its roughly $1 billion bond debt is paid off. Now, this is where it gets tricky. On Monday, DeSantis said the state won’t absorb that debt, so it’s unclear who would pay that bill. Because of that, Reedy Creek plans to simply hit mute on DeSantis and go about its business as usual—I wish for all of our sakes that we could do the same thing. So there are still a lot of legal questions out there, but we know this for certain: Ron needs to read the full terms and conditions before he commits to his next culture war.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Where is the tax exemption for Universal Studios? What’s the name of that establishment? What fight are we going to get into about that?
Priyanka Aribindi: Where is Universal Studios on this issue? They’ve been shockingly quiet, have not heard a peep from them.
Gideon Resnick: I am raising questions. I know there was a lot of work that needed to be done on the Spider-Man ride. The Hulk ride is looking like it needs some upkeep, but let’s hear from them. That’s all I’m saying. And those are the headlines. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, turn a hose off in SoCal, and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just Reedy Creek’s laws on indecent exposure for ducks like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And stay free, Donald Duck!
Priyanka Aribindi: Don’t let us shame you into pants wearing. You do your thing.
Gideon Resnick: You live your truth, Don.
Priyanka Aribindi: The only good Donald out there.
Gideon Resnick: Right, right. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’ recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzy Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.