Race and White Supremacy in American Policing
Illustration by Brian Stauffer
By STEVE VOLK
Anita Muldoon could sense that this might be her last chance to make it as a cop. She was riding shotgun in a Minneapolis squad car in the fall of 1993 when her training officer offered a blunt assessment of her standing. “You’re not trusted,” he told her. “And you won’t be until you’re in a physical fight.”
To rectify this, he said, she’d need to “leak” someone, as in make them bleed. Muldoon felt her stomach drop. She had known she would stick out from her peers — a liberal woman embarking on a law-enforcement career in her mid-thirties. She just hadn’t understood all the reasons why. Since coming to the 3rd Precinct, she’d often heard the n-word from her colleagues. Now her training officer motioned toward a black man walking in their direction on the sidewalk.
“He doesn’t even need to have done anything,” he said. “I’ll back you up.”
The training officer angled the car curbside and glanced at her to see if she accepted his invitation. In response, Muldoon says she remained quiet, her body rigid with panic. The officer drove on, the silence between them so tense that she figured her career was over.
Soon after, Muldoon was informed she had failed field training. She sent a letter of resignation to then-Police Chief John Laux, writing that she had been shuttled between more than a half-dozen training officers in the 3rd Precinct, who asked about her sexuality, the color of her fiancé, and casually lobbed racist statements into the conversation. Just weeks before she had been asked to “leak” someone, she tells Rolling Stone, a different training officer had leapt from their squad car, grabbed hold of a young black male crossing the street and beat him. He justified his assault by telling Muldoon that he’d arrested the young man in the past.
She ran through her experiences of racism inside the department in her letter, and closed with a warning: “Having experienced the system from the inside, I fear for the future of this city.”
After the entire nation was rocked by the killing of George Floyd, the black Minneapolis man murdered by a white cop in the same precinct where Muldoon had trained, her words look prophetic. She is speaking publicly for the first time, 27 years later, because Floyd’s needless death surfaced the racism she’d seen firsthand. “It is past time for white people and police to speak up about the racism they’ve witnessed,” she says today.