First responders are critical to the safety of our community. As Minneapolis firefighters, the dual role we play is crucial. Whether battling fires or responding to medical emergencies, including attending to victims of accidents or violence, we have a sworn duty to protect residents and visitors in Minneapolis, and we proudly put our lives on the line every day.
Most of us understand the urgency during a fire. The faster we arrive on the scene, the greater chance we have of containing the spread. By quickly putting out a structure fire, we are saving any surrounding homes or buildings as well as the lives of those inside. Needless to say, response time is vital.
The same goes for medical emergencies. Many of these involve trauma and require lifesaving efforts. The faster we begin medical intervention, the greater the chance of survival.
Arriving quickly often means walking into chaos — chaos that, if not contained, can lead to danger and sometimes violence. This not only puts us at risk but also delays aid for victims. The Minneapolis Fire Department is part of a broader public safety system, and we depend on other first responders, such as the police, to secure emergency scenes so we are free to do our jobs.
While our commitment to the community, residents and visitors we serve is unwavering, the lifesaving work we do has become embroiled in a political battle over police funding. With available law enforcement personnel lacking and the threat of on-scene violence escalating, we are finding it more and more difficult to do what we are called to do as efficiently as we should.
Currently on the ballot is Question 2, the charter amendment that could ultimately allow for disbandment of the Minneapolis Police Department. We must not allow this to happen.
Residents of Minneapolis are already living with the ramifications of a city lacking enough police. For over a year, the city has been operating its Police Department severely understaffed, and the crime rate has soared. As of Sept. 30, the city had seen more than 500 people injured by gunfire in 2021 alone, and the murder rate is up a staggering 26% over last year's.
We can already see what a city with limited police officers looks like and how it affects the public. Now imagine it with still fewer or none at all.
Proponents of the amendment want the public to believe that a Police Department is unnecessary and should be replaced with a "Public Safety Department" that would be formed and governed predominantly by the Minneapolis City Council. This ambiguous and impractical proposal is exactly the opposite of what a public safety plan should look like. Not only does the proposal fail to lay out a concise and actionable public safety strategy, it fails to provide any specific means for peacekeeping and containment efforts.
How can we fight a fire effectively when we can't get to the building because there are people blocking the street?
How can we quickly offer lifesaving care to a victim of crime when there are no police officers to secure the scene?
How can paramedics safely load and transport a trauma victim when they fear for their own safety?
These scenarios are real. They have happened. They will continue to happen without a full and chartered police force. The Police Department assists all other public safety departments, and the residents of Minneapolis deserve to know that when they call for help, we will respond quickly and do our job effectively. This will not happen if 13 members of the City Council — each from a different ward and all with their own political agendas — are in charge of ensuring public safety.
The Police Department is not without its flaws. The deplorable actions of former officer Derek Chauvin were repulsive and inexcusable. Discussions must be had and decisions must be made to create positive change and rebuild public trust. But the proposed amendment is not the answer. Not only does it ignore the direct correlation between the decrease in police officers and an enormous increase in crime, but it also it completely fails to address — or even acknowledge — concerns from all other public safety departments.
Minneapolis needs to heal and it needs to rebuild. It needs less political rhetoric and more common sense.
Mark Lakosky is president, Joseph Mattison is secretary and Cory Martin is treasurer of Minneapolis Fire Local 82.