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For many of us TONY BOUZA’S forever been an enigma. This erudite retired cop and former Minneapolis Police Chief has blown most of us away with his extraordinary command of the language and the kind of candor that makes most Minnesotans squirm. This is not a state given easily to the sort of directness Tony Bouza’s pretty much always brought to the table.
But, for some us, too, a cop is a cop – and our observations of the police culture, especially as lived inside the Minneapolis Department over these many decades has led to some serious distrust of that culture’s propensity for violence, deception and self-preservation, often at the cost of innocent lives. An entire organization dedicated to stopping police brutality thrives in Minneapolis with no shortage of cases to protest almost every week.
At first blush, Bouza’s appointment by Mayor Don Fraser in 1980, it was thought that, together, the guys would either watch the Minneapolis cops clean themselves up or be cleansed by these two brilliant politicians. Neither happened, for the most part, and certainly not for long. The Minneapolis Police Department remains one of the most notorious nests of thumpers and liars and those who protect them by either covering up their crimes and misdemeanors (and felonies) or failing to report the transgressions they know are illegal. Bouza’s only one of several former cops to come forward with the ugly truths about policing.
Now comes a little tome in which now 84-year-old Tony Bouza, already an author of some note, has compiled a captivating series of essays on what he says have been Lessons Learned (Southside Pride, June, 2012). His opening piece on one of his most admired adversaries, the late anti-war activist, Marv Davidov, is similar to the eulogy he delivered at Marv’s life celebration to a packed house at St. Thomas University over a year ago, and the picture of them facing down each other through Honeywell’s Defense fences is a well-staged classic. Bouza’s wife Erica was on the other side of that fence with Davidov.
Bouza winds up this booklet of memories with a scathing denunciation of what he calls the out-of-control police culture in America, tracing his credibility to make such a judgment across his career and retirement years – just shy of 60 of them as this is written. We’ll explore his views on this subject in depth.
In between those bookends of columns are a bit under 100 pages of newsprint containing his observations on the passing scenes of life as he’s encountered it from his days as a rookie in New York City where his native Spanish language came in handy during a tale of real intrigue he recounts as an indictment of dictators everywhere through his stints in other cities, even a treatise on Minnesotans and Media and Picking Police Chiefs and Racial Profiling.
Well, you get the idea. It’s hard to say if anyone else’s stream of consciousness writing on such a variety of topics would fascinate as much as Tony’s does, but it’s an unlikely match at best.
I hope we can do justice to it by spending an hour with Tony Bouza this week on TruthToTell. In any event, TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI will try and over as many of the better bases in Bouza’s book as possible.