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Proposed Police Oversight Commission Looks a Lot Like the Old One

Plus Black people live longer in this MN 'burb, NYT shouts out quiet MN lab, and hero dog appears on calendar in today's Flyover.

Technically, this is the Minnesota State Patrol. Life is hard without an expensive photo-license service!
Photo by munshots on Unsplash

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily midday digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

Council Member on New Police Oversight Commission: “We’re Not Stuck with It Forever.”

Police accountability: We really need it. An incredibly depressing 70+ page report from the MN Dept. of Human Rights states that “between January 2010, and May 2021, the average time that it took OPCR and/or Internal Affairs to complete an investigation and for a Police Chief to issue a final disciplinary decision after a police misconduct complaint was filed was over 475 days.” That’s not good! So now the city is hoping to overhaul the complaint and oversight process. Changes include adding more civilians to the commission, adjusting how those people are selected, and streamlining the Office of Police Conduct Review and the Police Conduct Oversight Commission into a Community Commission on Police Oversight. 

While Mayor Jacob Frey likes the new plan, critics say it’s not going to do much. One problem? Complaints would still be reviewed by a panel of two civilians and two police reps. “I do have concerns about Minneapolis police officers serving on these panels to evaluate these officers, given the longstanding history of corruption and the blue wall of silence,” civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong tells the Strib. The current system requires at minimum seven civilians and 12 sworn police personnel; under the new proposal that civilian number would be upped to 15. Individual issues would still be examined via a panel, which then would send on any disciplinary suggestions to the police department. “We’re not stuck with it forever,” says Councilmember LaTrisha Vetaw of her glass-half-full outlook. “We can always go back and change it.” City Council will decide whether to give the thumbs up next week.

NYT Goes Long on “Quietest Place on Earth”—aka the Ol’ Seward Music Studio

‘Round these parts? We’re big fans of New York Times writer Caity Weaver. So much so, in fact, that we can forgive her unforgivable 2018 Super Bowl essay description of Minnesota as “a Pepsi state.” For her latest, Weaver ventured back to Minneapolis, this time in pursuit of the “quietest place on earth.” That’d be Orfield Laboratories, the former recording studio located next to Matthews Park in Seward. “What happens to people inside the windowless steel room is the subject of wild and terrible speculation,” Weaver writes of the echoless anechoic chamber. “Public fascination with the room exploded 10 years ago, with an article on The Daily Mail’s website. ‘The Longest Anyone Can Bear Earth’s Quietest Place is 45 Minutes,‘ The Mail declared.” The next multiple thousands of words are devoted to the author’s first-hand account being sealed inside a space so quiet, so mysterious that it’s rumored you can hear your own blood glug through your veins. The science and history are fascinating; the words, per usual, are hilarious and compelling; and the photos even come courtesy of Alec Soth, the celebrated Twin Cities photographer. Give the whole dang thing a read.

Black People Live Longer in Shakopee?

Interesting fact over at Sahan Journal: Scott County, Minnesota, is one of three counties in the U.S. where Black residents live remarkably longer than average. (The other two are Putnam County, New York, and Warrick County, Indiana.) Sahan references a joint study by the Brookings Institution and the NAACP, which found that while the average Black life expectancy nationwide is 74.4 years, in Scott County, it’s a whopping 89.7 years. Scott is experiencing something of a population boom, with a 17.4 % increase over the past decade; during that same time, the Black population has grown from 2.6% to more than 6%. Though the study doesn’t apparently draw any hard conclusions, it incorporates some novel “social determinants of health,” such as distance from Facebook friends, along with more traditional factors. No word on whether proximity to roller coasters was taken into account.

Local Retiree Dog Awarded Calendar Cover

We were heretofore unaware that the TSA publishes an annual “explosives detection canine calendar.” Don’t let that clunky PR phrasing disturb and/or alarm you. There are no exploding dogs in this calendar. No, there are just cute ones accompanying every month of a traditional calendar, one that happens to be peppered with TSA factoids. (“TSA also develops security policies impacting 1.5 million trucking companies and 3,000 motor coach companies”—huh!) Anyway, not unlike a dog with a bone, we’re buying the lede here: Eebbers, a recently retired 11-year-old Vizsla/Labrador Retriever mix who previously sniffed out bombs at Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport, won a contest to appear on the calendar’s cover. Way to go, Eebbers! The hero pup “is enjoying his retirement swimming in any of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes, getting love from strangers and eating all the apples to his heart’s content,” we learn from the August page of the calendar, where Eebbers also appears. (We’ll forgive the slight indignity of placing him on the month that supports International Cat Day.) In summation: bombs bad; TSA possibly ineffective and discriminatory; dogs cute (see below).