The number one priority of government is to provide for the safety and security of the citizens it serves. This is accomplished in many ways but most notably takes the form of police and fire protection but is also accomplished in less noticeable ways such as through Public Works (street plowing, tree trimming etc.) I believe that as priority services that they need to be adequately funded to meet the city’s needs.
Specifically on the issues surrounding policing. Watching the video of George Floyd’s life slipping away under Derek Chauvin’s knee as he cried out for help was excruciating, and watching parts of the city that we all love be destroyed was heartbreaking. But in the midst of all the destruction, I saw a lot of people start to come together and have important dialogs around the issue of race and policing in our community.
Unfortunately, the discussion seemed to cease when the term “Defund The Police” became not only the battle cry of those who want to “abolish the police”, but also of those who want to double down on “law and order.” The issue is much more complicated than a three-word phrase can convey.
As of this writing the City Council is debating the merits of the Mayor’s proposed policing budget and the “Safety For All” plan. I’m not in favor of the “Safety For All” plan as it is written for the following reasons:
1. Removes overtime from an already short-staffed MPD, meaning off-duty officers cannot be hired back to work, leading to even less coverage and slower responses.
2. Relies on very limited data from violence reduction studies conducted in other cities that have had mixed results and only address murders and shootings, which although serious are a relatively small subset of the overall number of crimes. I do support further study on how violence interception strategies can help Minneapolis.
3. Assumes a reduction in police workload by removing some mental health crisis calls and parking enforcement duties, but is more than offset by an increased double-digit rise in crime.
4. Assumes that mental health crisis calls to 911 dispatch can safely be handled by unarmed mental health workers, paramedics, and firefighters who first respond. I’m in favor of adequately funding the Co-Responder Program and I believe that we need to lean more heavily on our county and state partners to accomplish this.
5. This plan is rushed and does not have broad consensus, not even a majority backing of the City Council.