I just read former U.S. attorney Andrew Luger’s commentary on the proposed charter amendment to eliminate the requirement for a police department (“Charter change is reckless, unnecessary,” July 23).
A week ago I read Downtown Council CEO Steve Cramer’s stark warning that, overnight, Minneapolis has become an undesirable place to do business (“Business groups warn on defunding,” July 15). I’m not normally one who would advocate something revolutionary like throwing open the door to abolishing the Minneapolis Police Department. But I’ve lived here for nearly 42 years and, finally, I wonder: What exactly does it take to reform the Minneapolis Police Department?
My answer: The department is beyond redemption. The MPD can’t be reformed. If there’s going to be meaningful change, if the people of Minneapolis are going to feel protected and served, it won’t be by a “reformed” MPD. Because we’ve tried reform for decades and it doesn’t work.
It’s time to start fresh with something new. That requires letting the people vote on amending the City Charter and having a citywide conversation.
After a revolving door of chiefs and many attempts at “reform,” the stark truth is that nothing has changed. Black men and people of color are still being brutalized and killed by the MPD at a much higher rate than white people. The only reason the death of George Floyd is different is that it was recorded on a cellphone camera.
In the time since, we’ve been reminded that 93% of MPD’s officers don’t live in Minneapolis. We’ve heard Sgt. Anna Hedberg recoil in horror at the very thought of going “to Cub Foods with my two beautiful little girls.” She doesn’t feel the need to bring them into “that kind of danger.” We see a quarter of the department’s officers suddenly file for disability. We hear them wail about feeling unappreciated and unsupported. We hear once-respected civic leaders raise the alarm against anarchy.
I’m not a huge fan of the current City Council. But they at least have the clarity to understand that there are deeply ingrained systemic problems in the Minneapolis Police Department and that tidying things up around the edges won’t work because it’s never worked. And they have the courage and honesty to do something about it.
The proposed charter amendment leaves many unanswered questions. So it’s high time we have a communitywide conversation to answer them. That conversation requires amending the charter so that everything’s on the table.
Louis Hoffman lives in Minneapolis.