Minneapolis is now disbanding the entire community service police officers unit – and that’s only the beginning

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN– Due to recent approved budget cuts of the Minneapolis Police Department, they will be cutting its entire staff of community service officers. 


 

City Council recently approved a revised budget that cut more than $24 million across various departments, including $1.5 million being cut from the police department’s budget. On July 29th, Mayor Jacob Frey signed off on the revised budget.

Minneapolis Police Department Spokesman John Elder said that all 25 community service officers (CSO’s), who work hard to assist the department, will be terminated by the end of the month. These paid positions are held by civilians who oftentimes are in school studying law enforcement. 

According to Elder, cutting the program was a “difficult decision” for Chief Medaria Arradondo because the CSO position was a tool for extending and increasing diversity within the department. Many CSO’s would become sworn officers following their training.

In addition to the approved revised budget cuts that have forced the police department to disband their community service officer unit, a Minneapolis commission is expected to review a proposed amendment that would dismantle the city’s Police Department and replace it with a new public safety department.

According to CBSN Minnesota, the 15-member volunteer commission could approve the proposal, reject it, propose a substitute, or ask for more time to review it. The City Council is not bound by the commission’s decision. 

The proposal would essentially eliminate the Police Department from the city charter and replace it with a “Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.” Allegedly, the new department would prioritize public health with a director who has “non-law enforcement experience in community safety services.”

The department would still allow for armed police officers, but they would answer to the new director. Some members of the commission have worried that the process, which has already included two public hearings and online comments, is moving too quickly.

Their concerns are valid, seeing as how the process unfolded during a violent summer in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd and with shootings dramatically higher than last year, many residents are worried about the proposal to abolish police officers.

Mayor Frey said that he remains opposed to eliminating the police department.

He said:

“We should not go down the route of simply abolishing the Police Department. What we need to see within this department and within many departments throughout the country is a full-on culture shift.”

Mayor Frey and Chief Arradondo have made some changes since the death of Floyd including requiring officers to document attempts to de-escalate situations whether or not force is used and they have expanded requirements for reporting use-of-force incidents by having officers provide more detail in their reports. 

According to MPR News, violent crimes continues to climb to levels not seen in the last several years in Minneapolis. This surge in violence is happening at a time when the number of police officers on the street are declining and members of City Council are supporting a change to the charter that would completely eliminate the police department.

Mayor Frey recently announced that 288 people had been shot and wounded so far this year, which is 121 more people hit by gunfire than the same period last year. In addition, response time data shows that it is taking officers longer to respond to certain 911 calls as the force has shrunk in size.

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Here is another article from Law Enforcement Today about the violence and budget cuts to the police department in Minneapolis.

On Friday, Minneapolis city council members took additional steps forward toward the goal of dismantling and replacing the city’s police department when they voted 12-0 in favor of an amendment to the city’s charter.
 

 
The currently available draft of the amendment removes the police department completely from the list of departments the City Council is to provide for the city, replacing the police with a department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. 
 
This department is to “have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach.”
 
The director of this department will have “non-law enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches.”
 
The amendment removes the position of police chief, as well as the position of fire police, who previously operated under the jurisdiction of the fire department at fire scenes.  The amendment does provide for the presence of some “licensed peace officers” who are to be directly under the supervision of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.  
 
If this amendment goes through committee, and passes review by the City Council and input by citizens and city officials, it will be placed on the city’s November ballot for a vote.

 
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who has stood against defunding the police, raised concerns about disbanding the police department. 
While advocating for “structural change,” he asserted:
 
“It’s not clear as to whether in a year from now or in a year and a half from now we will still have a police department or division that would be able to respond to violent incidents.”
 
Barry Clegg, Chairman of the Charter Commission, also pointed out the unknowns in the potential implementation of the amendment:
 
“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.”
 
In a quote to the Wall Street Journal, Councilwoman Alondra Cano appeared to validate Clegg’s concerns about the council’s present lack of planning when she stated:
 
“The people of Minneapolis can choose how they want to show up for each other when people need help.”
 
Although three Minneapolis City Council members enjoy taxpayer-funded private security details, to the tune of $4500 per day, Minneapolis City Council president and amendment co-sponsor Lisa Bender appears to believe that the general public should check their privilege when calling the police for assistance.
 

 
When CNN reporter Alisyn Camerota asked who she would call if her home was broken into in the middle of the night, Bender responded:
 
“Yes, I mean, I hear that loud and clear from a lot of my neighbors.  And I know, and myself too, I know that that comes from a place of privilege because for those of us for whom the system is working, I think we need to step back and imagine what it would feel like to already live in that reality, where calling the police may mean more harm is done.”
 
The general public in violence-torn areas of Minneapolis have expressed concerns and fears about potential lack of police response as work toward disbanding moves forward.
 
Minneapolis has one of the highest crime rates in the country, with residents facing 367 crimes per square mile and a violent crime rate of 8.15 per 1000 residents.  Minnesota as a whole has a violent crime rate of 2.2 violent crimes per 1000 residents.
 
According to the Star Tribune, Steven Belton, president and CEO of the Urban League Twin Cities, reported a “significant, dramatic uptick” in violent crime, starting June 7 when the city council declared intent to move forward with disbanding the police.  113 people have been shot in the city since the death of George Floyd.
 
Belton went on to note that violent people “have used that sound bite — ‘defund the police’ — as an indication that there is no consequence, that there is no policing, and [concluded] that they are free to do whatever they want to do.”
 
North Side resident Keion Franklin, speaking in the aftermath of a local Minneapolis shooting that wounded four people, told the Tribune:
 
“I know on one side of the city, it looks beautiful for defunding to happen, but here on this side of the city, I’m scared if you defund the police … Is it going to turn into World War III over here?”
 
It doesn’t take an expert in human behavior to ascertain that in situations of violence, the overwhelming instinct of victims and spectators is to summon law enforcement trained in approaching violent situations. 
 
One need look no further than Seattle, where residents of the anti-police CHOP area summoned police and other emergency responders to violent incidents.  One shooting victim even threatened to sue Seattle police over claims the police “abandoned” him, when in fact the barricades around CHOP prevented law enforcement response.
 
In their efforts to get rid of the police department with their new amendment, it appears that the Minneapolis city council members lack foresight and are ignoring concerns of their constituents, while suggesting that those wanting police response should check their privilege.

 

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