”We…reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women…”
— United Nations Charter
Captain Donald Banham, a native son born and raised in Minneapolis, whose father was a sergeant in the University of Minnesota Police Department for over 30 years, retired last month after a distinguished 28-year career in the Minneapolis Police Department. He is one of the greatest officers in the history of the department and, quite deservedly, a legend in his own time.
But rather than follow the custom of going to the retirement party and presenting him with his badge in a display case, the mayor, police chief, and Police Officers Association President elected not to attend, not to encase his badge, not to recognize his departure with well-earned respect, dignity, and acclaim. This brings another stain of shame on the City, the very opposite of all the fine things said about Captain Banham by the MPD six months earlier at a December 3, 2010 promotion ceremony.
Even Minneapolis’ so-called Black political leadership were not there, revealing how in league they are with the City’s disrespect and distain, revealing how out of touch they are with their own community.
Captain Donald Banham joined the Minneapolis Police Department in 1983, served in the Second, Fourth and Fifth Precincts in such units as Assault, Canine, Community Response, Decoy, Gang, Juvenile, Narcotics, Public Housing, Special Swat Operations, and Street Crimes.
Capt. Banham served as a commander of various of these units as well as a permanent watch commander. In 2004, Capt. Banham was appointed inspector and returned to command the department’s Fourth Precinct. In 2008, he commanded a division in the RNC Mobile Field Force and later took command of the Strategic Information and Crime Management Division. He was also a member of the Minnesota Vikings security detail for over 20 years.
With the departure of Capt. Banham, an era ends and a position of captain opens up.
I discussed the promotions list in my column of December 19, 2007, when three Whites not on the list were promoted to lieutenant instead of Blacks. Here we go again: At the top of the June 2011 captain’s list were Arodondo, Edwards, and Harris, three of the “Mill City Five” group. As soon as Capt. Banham retired, the police chief and Civil Service Department announced the list was being killed (their terminology).
So three African American lieutenants, who had sued over the existence of strong institutional racism but settled and let the department off the hook, received retaliation instead. They became victims of the lies and misrepresentations made to them under color of law in their settlement of May 2009.
The City has gone to great lengths to suppress this latest act of discrimination to let their men know they still lead by racial animus and distain, as they publicly disrespected the legacy of Capt. Banham by then quickly initiating payback to three African American lieutenants (as they did to two African American sergeants on December 7, 2007, who also pointed out the existence of institutional racist animus).
They have sent “a message” to Black officers of their opposition to the work of Capt. Banham, who throughout his career and when he was president of the Black Police Officers Association promoted diversity and integration, fought for equality of access and opportunity as well as dignity and respect for all officers, regardless of color. The mayor and chief continue their campaign to nullify and reverse progress made against racism.
I’m reminded of my columns of October 22, 2008 (“In the matter of Sgt. Giovanni Veliz”) and December 5, 2007 (about the historic lawsuit by five Black officers against City and chief, who were labeled by the majority media as “the Mill City Five”). They reached a settlement in May 2009. I held then and hold now that that was a mistake. The taking of retirement by Capt. Bahnam is a consequence of their allowing the discrimination not to be brought out at trial (see my July 14, 2008 list of nearly 70 columns reporting on police department discrimination).
Captain Banham, go with the strength you displayed in your 28-year career. May God’s hand continue to be on your shoulder, as you display your strength of a Black warrior. Walk with your head held high and integrity and spirit still intact.
Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm; hosts “Black Focus” on Blog Talk radio, Sundays at 3 pm; and co-hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “ON POINT!” Saturdays at 5 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his solution papers for community planning and development and “web log” at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com.