Ellison: Come on, do you really want police responding to a rape?

The answer to this question is a big ya, you betcha, but the absurdity of it escaped Minnesota’s attorney general. In a clip from a discussion on dismantling the police department, Ellison wonders aloud why a rape victim would want the police rather than a social worker to respond. After all, Ellison argues, police officers are only trained in “how to use a firearm,” which is not just untrue but also would be an indictment of his own office and the state of Minnesota.

NPR moderator Yamiche Alcindor and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) don’t appear terribly impressed with this argument, looking elsewhere when Ellison winds up his pitch with a “Right?”

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Keith Ellison, former Democrat National Committee vice chairman and current Minnesota attorney general, said he does not want police officers to respond to rape calls. The shocking policy suggestion occurred during a Zoom conversation featuring Ellison and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) to discuss racism and police reforms. The dialogue was moderated by White House correspondent for “PBS NewsHour” Yamiche Alcindor.

Ellison stated: “If you’re a woman who’s been a victim of a sexual assault, and the assailant ran away, wouldn’t you rather talk to somebody who is trained in helping you deal with what you’re dealing with, as opossed to somebody whose main training is that they know how to use a firearm? Right?”

It’s a short clip, and so the context of this comment is not entirely known. On the other hand, what context would make this sound good? Other than a framing of “this is the absurdity of dismantling the police department,” not much. “If the assailant ran away” doesn’t count as context, either. If there’s a rapist on the loose, don’t we need police to respond in order to collect evidence and to start an investigation to protect other women in the community? Shouldn’t an Attorney General know that?

Curiously, this dialogue didn’t even garner any attention for its mansplaining of rape to two women of color. Not to mention that Ellison’s own history with allegations of sexual misconduct makes this look even creepier. So much for #MeToo, I guess.

Needless to say, having the state’s top law enforcement officer question the need for police involvement in sexual assaults isn’t exactly a confidence builder. That’s unfortunate, since police have made improvements in and out of Minnesota in their handling of such cases. Police routinely make counselors available while investigating rapes as the serious and violent crimes that they are. In fact, rape and other sexual assaults are one of the many reasons why policing is a necessity, not a luxury, and the suggestion that women only need counseling afterward rather than enforcement at all times is as condescending as it is absurd.

Hardly any media has reported on this story, so kudos to the Federalist’s Evita Duffy for highlighting it today. Ellison has other problems on his hands today, though; his office has been accused of violating a gag order in the prosecution of the four officers involved in the homicide of George Floyd. Ellison’s office called the claim a “smear”:

The Minnesota attorney general’s office rejected as “entirely baseless” allegations by defense attorneys that it violated a judicial gag order in the case of four fired Minneapolis police officers charged in the killing of George Floyd.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank, in a brief filed before a Tuesday motions hearing in Hennepin County District Court, argued against an assertion last week from one defense attorney that Attorney General Keith Ellison and an office spokesman “should be jailed” after issuing a news release last week that highlighted the addition of four pro-bono attorneys to the prosecution team.

“Defendants’ motions for contempt/sanctions are a complete distraction from the intended purpose behind the Court’s Gag Order and must be denied,” Frank wrote. “They should be seen for what they are: a ploy to publicly smear the office tasked with prosecuting this matter and a tacit attempt to taint the jury pool in an effort to encourage the Court to later order a change of venue.” …

“There is no reason to announce that these so called ‘super stars’ are joining the prosecution and that they’re doing it for free. It is an obvious statement to the public that these ‘super stars’ believe that our clients are guilty,” [defense attorney Earl] Gray wrote.

The demand for Ellison to be jailed over an announcement of the prosecution-team expansion is hyperbolic. However, one has to wonder why Ellison’s office issued that press release at all. It certainly appears to make a public case that the prosecution of the four officers is so popular that people are lining up to join the effort for free. Gray’s correct that this looks like a political statement, and as such should be covered by the gag order — or if not, then defense attorneys should have as much access to the media as Ellison has.

Maybe a few days in the clink would be a good idea for Ellison, however. It might keep him from shooting his mouth off about rape and its relative unimportance in law enforcement.

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