Minneapolis has experienced a historic disaster with the death of George Floyd on May 25 and its aftermath. While the four police officers accused of Floyd’s murder face prosecution, the people of Minneapolis have seen little justice.
Shootings, murders and other violent crimes have soared in north Minneapolis, Phillips and elsewhere (up 128% over the same June period last year) and there has been an unacceptably slow response from city leaders to the destruction of over 500 homes, schools, community centers, minority-owned businesses and public facilities.
Where is the Marshall Plan discussion for our communities? Where is the support and recognition that we must rebuild vibrant communities along East Lake and Broadway instead of leaving them to despair? Some of those allegedly responsible for the devastation, like the Amsler brothers and Matthew Lee Rupert, have been arrested. But hundreds have evaded arrest or simply been released with a shrug. What message does that send to those who protest peacefully? What message does it send when our leaders take no responsibility for the death of George Floyd and the horrific aftermath?
Was it really the fault of a statue of a 15th-century explorer? Or should we instead be looking at the policies and actions of those now in power?
As bad as the city’s response has been so far, it promises to get much worse. We must stop the crazy train at the City Council before it takes us all off the rails. The same leaders behind the mismanagement, cruelty and devastation we lived through are now claiming they can “fix” the system by doing what politicians seem to do best: Create a new bureaucracy with a name only Orwell could imagine.
Thankfully, many in our community, such as Sondra Samuels, Steve Belton and Nekima Levy Armstrong, who have been involved in civil rights and economic opportunity for decades, are questioning this madness. We understand the pain and tragedy that a breakdown in trust with the police brings to a community. We have devoted our lives to raising children and grandchildren who respect the laws, fight for economic justice and have the courage to call out racism.
But we also understand that no good comes from vilifying every police officer or failing to recognize how challenging their jobs can be. So we must do our part as well.
Many are simply laughing at “Defund the Police,” but all too often we have seen unhinged policies become reality if good people fail to object. So object we must. There are dozens of practical measures to reform policing, such as banning high-speed pursuits and chokeholds. They will not make angels out of devils, but they will address concerns around police abuse, while keeping us safe.
Politicians such as my opponent Ilhan Omar are selling fantasies and misleading people in these opinion pages about the proposed changes (“Minnesota can lead in social transformation,” June 29.) The Camden, N.J., experiment Rep. Omar cites did indeed lower crime, but she conveniently omits that Gov. Chris Christie dissolved the local police department by putting those resources with the county, which recruited many more officers for the city at the lower county pay scale.
Is anyone on the council proposing that the Minneapolis Police Department be dissolved into the Hennepin County Sheriff Office so we can increase uniformed officers?
No, it appears the proposed charter changes would introduce a political patronage scheme that leaves leftovers for sworn law enforcement officers. We suggest those interested in seeing the results of political patronage schemes look to Tammany Hall or the horrible Chicago crime statistics.
Does anyone really think it is good idea for Police Chief Medaria Arradondo to have 14 bosses instead of one — with each politician shaving off money to fund pet projects?
This City Council needs to look in the mirror, acknowledge its own culpability and slow down. We must focus on rebuilding the city together, not as 13 fiefdoms. I urge the council to work with all key stakeholders, including law enforcement and especially people in the communities, to review the options carefully.
Defunding sworn law enforcement officers will set our community back, further ignite crime, and be a major obstacle to rebuilding as one community.
Lacy Lee Johnson is a Republican-endorsed candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s Fifth District.