Established in advance: Saint Paul’s sitting city council is never going to be the most completely detached-from-reality elected body in the United States. Even if you leave out Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Berkeley, Cambridge and DC, we are across the river from Minneapolis.
But it’s not for lack of trying.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Ramco sheriff Bob Fletcher – his record of passive-aggression against law-abiding gun owners needs some atonement – but his current term in office has been notable for one of the most interesting social media experiments I’ve seen, his “Live On Patrol” weekly video stream.
The stream – which involves the Sheriff and his partner rolling “tape” for 2-3 hours on, usually, Friday nights around Ramsey County, mostly Saint Paul – have become a hit around the Metro and likely, elsewjhere, as Fletcher just drives from place to place and shows the viewer what Saint Paul is like after dark.
I’ve watched it a few times. As Fletcher notes in describing the show, “‘Live on Patrol’ focuses on community relations, instead of arrest. In addition to preventing crime, the goal … is to build community relationships and improved trust through transparency”
That runs directly counter to the interests of a good chunk of Saint Paul”s radical-left City Council. And they’ve made their displeasure known:
A resolution, which seeks an independent review of the show, is sponsored by council members Amy Brendmoen, Mitra Jalali and Rebecca Noecker and will be discussed at the council’s meeting on Wednesday.
Fletcher said his detractors don’t like that his livestreams show why police are needed.
“Some elected officials are opposed to ‘Live on Patrol’ because it builds trust with the police and that runs counter to their narrative to defund law enforcement,” Fletcher said. “Many council members would prefer the public not be aware of the current increase in violent crime. They are opposed to transparency when it reflects on their failure to keep the community safe.”
The council members are requesting the State of Minnesota Peace Officers Standards and Training Board evaluate the video to determine if it violates the Sheriff’s office’s policies and the Minnesota police code of conduct.
Should be an interesting meeting.
Brendmoen, the City Council president, said it’s not a political issue.
“We’re trying to answer questions that community members have brought to our attention,” she said Thursday, adding that those questions have included: “Why is an elected sheriff able to not wear a body camera while he’s on patrol? Why is a sheriff able to do this patrol with a camera on that’s violating what we believe are the St. Paul police’s rules of conduct and rules of pursuit?”
Brendmoen accuses Fletcher of violating SPPD rules of conduct – and he’s not a Saint Paul cop? Violating rules of pursuit, when (I saw this episode) he was probably seventh car back in a pack of cops pursuing a suspect on 35E?
If Brandmoen says it’s not a political issue, then it is a purely political issue. They see Fletcher – who, while neither conservative nor Republican, seems to be the closest thing the county has to a dissenter with any sort of even potential political oomph – not only gaining popularity, but doing it via media that outflank their political control. That’s got to make the non-profiteers nervous – being doctrinaire progressives from a single party autocracy, they have no idea how to deal with opposition, other than using the bureaucracy to shut them down.
Just like in any non-profit.
This episode may be the first example of oppositional politics outside a DFL convention in Saint Paul since Norm Coleman left the DFL.