As crime soars in Minneapolis; residents demand answers from city council who voted to defund police

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN  Residents and business owners in Minneapolis have expressed growing concern over an increase in crime.  The increase appears to correlate directly with a decrease in the number of officers that the Minneapolis Police Department is fielding on the city’s streets. 

People from all five city precincts are calling upon the City Council for some sort of help as robberies, vandalism and violent crime continue to affect quality of life and livelihood.

The once beautiful and vibrant city now resembles a war zone in many ways.  Long-time residents are packing up and leaving the city, with businesses following suit. 

Together they leave vacant homes, boarded-up buildings and empty sidewalks in their wake.  Civil unrest also occurs at night, in addition to general crime.

Demonstrators have set up a one-square block, barricaded an autonomous zone similar to Seattle’s temporary “CHAZ” settlement, calling it “The Free State of George Floyd.”

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo stated:

“We are experiencing gun violence in the city that we have not seen in five years.  Our homicide rates have doubled last year’s.  We’re sadly approaching near 400 people who have been shot and wounded by gun violence.”

MPD (as well as police departments across the state) has seen an unprecedented level of demoralization, which have effected not only retention of veteran officers, but recruitment of new officers as well.  WCCO reported that new officer hiring is close to a 25-year low for the department. 

Concern for the political climate in the area, as well as anti-police sentiment from some of the loudest groups (those purported to be protesting for George Floyd), have made Minneapolis a less-than-ideal place to serve on the police force. 

Minneapolis City Council members, elected by residents to legislate in the best interests of the city, took it upon themselves in July to begin defunding the MPD.

The Council’s Budget Committee in July approved a $1.1 million appropriation of funds from the Police Department to the Health Department.  They had previously advanced a proposal for a November ballot vote to create a new Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention under the Health Department. 

The Council intends to eventually replace the current police force with an unarmed corps of community responders, to be known as “violence interrupters,” under the new department.

The plan for the responders is to train and empower them to engage the community and de-escalate violent situations.

Ahead of the proposed police force replacement, the city in August began deploying several dozen responders in a pilot model called “Cure Violence.”

Interestingly, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has been hosting screenings of the documentary film “The Interrupters” around the city since April, in order to familiarize residents with the pilot program and its intent. 

This indicates that plans for the program have likely been in the works since before the death of George Floyd, who died on May 25.

The trailer can be viewed below (WARNING: Language).

In June, the City Council also voted unanimously (a veto-proof 12-0 vote) to advance another charter amendment proposal to the November ballot that would allow a change to the city charter that mandates police department funding.

Approval of this referendum by city voters would provide an unobstructed pathway toward dismantling the Police Department completely, making good on the Council’s pledge to do so.

The verbiage of the proposal outlines a public health-based approach to violent crime, rather than a law enforcement-based approach.  This seems to clarify the Council’s reasoning for appropriating Police Department funds to the Health Department.

The amendment specifies that the appointed director of the new community safety agency would be restricted to those only with “non-law enforcement experience.”

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Barry Clegg, chairman of the City Charter Commission, questions the rush to push these proposals through to the November ballot.

Clegg said:

“As I understand it, they are saying, ‘We are going to have this new department. We don’t know what it’s going to look like yet. We won’t implement this for a year, we’ll figure it out.’  For myself anyway, I would prefer that we figured it out first, and then voted on it.”

The Charter Commission eventually voted neither to approve nor reject the proposal, opting instead to delay a decision until after the Aug. 21 deadline, meaning that it will miss the Nov. 3 ballot.  The damage has already been done toward department morale, however.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, though supportive of police reform and overhaul, does not support dismantling MPD entirely.  He expressed concerns about the proposed amendments, saying:

“There is a significant lack of clarity. And if I’m seeing a lack of clarity, so are our constituents.”

When asked directly at a June BLM rally whether he supports defunding the department, he was booed away by the crowd after failing to give the desired answer.

(WARNING: Language)

The low morale among officers in the department has gained national attention, with the notable abandonment of the police force by its city even being covered in Newsweek.  That abandonment includes protestors and rioters, City Council Members, a lack of support from the Mayor, and general anti-police sentiment expressed by the loudest among city residents.

The expected result of an undermanned and demoralized police department, however, is an uptick in crime.  So far, the community responders deployed throughout the city have been unable to curb crime and violence and the impact of the increase is being felt citywide.

Steve Taylor, a Minneapolis business owner, told WCCO:

“We’re just running the police we do have ragged at this point they need their rest we need some kind of help from somewhere.  This is something we have to treat urgently before more people die.”

City resident Liz Cruz added:

“Help us, come and see what’s going on and we’re really not getting any responses from the mayor or city council we feel kind of alone right now.  People are empowered right now because they are thinking, ‘Oh yea less police force we can go and have whatever kind of fun we want to have shooting up everybody, killing people, killing teenagers in the middle of the day.’”

Constituents from all over the city have been repeatedly calling and approaching council members from their districts, demanding a solution to the decreased police presence and rising crime rate.  A group of residents in one neighborhood is even suing the city to force it to maintain an adequate number of officers on the streets.

One of the most overlooked facets of policing the community is that the law enforcement officers doing the policing are also human.

Individual officers can take only so much bashing, rejection, hatred, votes to defund and talk of defunding from the community they serve . . . before they begin to question why they would want to serve that community. 

Many Minneapolis residents may be waking up to that reality now, but it might be too late.

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