I was 16 when I attended the Juneteenth celebration in 2007, where gun violence cut short a young life.
In 2015, I stood at the corner of Plymouth and James and talked to neighbors who were shaken by the police killing they had just witnessed.
I've sat through countless North Side funerals where the rooms are full; the community experiencing and bearing witness to this trauma we share.
Our pain has often been exploited as a reason we need only police, a reason why change and new approaches pose too big a risk.
But whether overall crime has been up or down, north Minneapolis has been forced to carry the burden of gun violence in our city. This is the "norm" some are proposing we maintain.
So, how do we create a more just and safe place to live? In this discussion — our city's current discussion — North Siders are presented as having only one perspective. This ignores the true diversity of our opinions.
As someone who was born and raised here, I've seen the full spectrum — I've experienced both community violence and police violence, and I've also experienced the specific abundance that North Siders possess when collectively caring for one another amid them both. I fully understand how impossible it can feel to look toward the future when children have been killed in your neighborhood.
Change can be scary, but what's scarier is the cost to our community when we do nothing to adequately invest in our youth, our mental health and our economic agency. Neighborhood violence and police violence are often two sides of the same traumatic coin.
In the city of Chicago, over 100 years ago, there was a lot of talk about reforming the police after they played a primary role in initiating the 1919 race massacres, known as Red Summer. Gov. Frank Lowden established the Chicago Commission on Race Relations to study the event. The commission's conclusions set the foundation for our current dialogue on police reform and boiled down to three primary points: the police should be nicer, the police should be fairer and the police should be held accountable when they aren't.
Today, cities have new terms like "community-policing" and "implicit bias training," and new technologies like "body-worn cameras" and "early warning systems." It's all aiming toward the same goals of that 1919 commission. But reforms meant to make policing "nicer, fairer and more accountable" never came to fruition.
Our current police-only system not only fails to prevent harm, it causes plenty of harm too: The killing of Barbara Schneider, the corrupt metro gang "strike force," more than 30 years of untested rape kits and the murder of George Floyd are just the tip of a tragic iceberg. We can and must keep people safer than this.
We don't have to create a new system from scratch either. The Office of Violence Prevention helps us identify violent actors and situations, and uses informed and proven methods of engagement to prevent violence from spreading. Imagine what this strategy could do with more staff and resources.
A dedicated mental health response can keep people from harming themselves and others. It would offer care instead of armed police who are ill-equipped and often escalate mental health crises to dangerous, sometimes fatal, levels. We can keep drivers and passengers safe by enforcing traffic laws through an unarmed traffic enforcement division, without Black and Brown people having to fear death over a broken taillight or expired tabs.
The real discussion is about more safety; no one is proposing less. Here on the North Side we need this change now. I refuse to believe the untimely deaths of our neighbors, friends and children are a foregone conclusion. There is no number of names or vigils that should ever be acceptable to us, but that's exactly what All of Mpls is promising to maintain.
The demands for change in 1920, after Red Summer, were the same as the demands in 2020, after the murder of George Floyd. We cannot afford another year. Vote "yes" on City Question 2 to create the Department of Public Safety we deserve. It is time to address problems at their root, and offer peace and safety for all people.
Jeremiah Ellison represents the Fifth Ward on the Minneapolis City Council.