The voters of Minneapolis face a big decision in November now that the City Council has finalized language for the Yes 4 Minneapolis-sponsored ballot question.
As a longtime resident and involved citizen, there are several reasons I plan to vote no.
No chief — Medaria Arradondo is a Minneapolis kid who puts his heart and soul into keeping our city safe for everyone. Years ago, he had the fortitude to sue his own department for discriminatory practices. More recently he showed the world how an ethical police leader tears down the "blue wall of silence" when an officer crosses the line of acceptable conduct during the trial of Derek Chauvin.
Arradondo's commitment to transform the Minneapolis Police Department into a more effective, just and trusted force in our city should be upheld and supported. Instead, the Yes 4 Minneapolis amendment eliminates his job.
To me, with crime rising throughout Minneapolis and the imperative to reform policing a top priority, it seems like a terrible time not to have a chief of police in Minneapolis.
No reform — The organizations behind Yes 4 Minneapolis aren't for reforming policing. They want it abolished. Their own leaders say so. On July 15, Miski Noor and Kandace Montgomery, speaking for Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block in the publication "In These Times," wrote, "We understand that abolition is the long game. We're in it for as long as it takes."
If the real long-term goal is abolition, we can't look to the leaders of Yes 4 Minneapolis to help now with the hard work of reform. That's just not what they are interested in. Why work to improve something you fundamentally don't believe in?
For voters who think no police department is better than a transformed one, this amendment is for you. But if that is your view, please read my next point.
No plan — There is no plan for what comes next should the Yes 4 Minneapolis amendment pass. None. To give a hint of what they might think is sufficient to provide for safety in Minneapolis, on their resource page the groups advocating for this change identify the city's 311 line, United Way 211, Minnesota's poison control system, references to Narcan and CPR training and other like responses. All these are helpful in their own way but hardly what is required to deal with the spike in gun violence, homicides, domestic assaults, property crimes and civil unrest across the community, especially areas where our Black and brown neighbors live.
A degree of denial about the seriousness of the safety situation, and about the need for professional law enforcement to respond, investigate, and hold offenders responsible, pervades the arguments in favor of the Yes 4 Minneapolis ballot question. Hope for a utopian future isn't a plan for dealing with today's reality.
No need — One argument made is that this amendment is necessary to add non-policing strategies to the overall approach to safety in Minneapolis. Not true. Community Crime Prevention staff have been part of MPD for decades. More recently, violence prevention and mental health focused interventions have been funded and are underway across the city.
These newer initiatives, in my view, have not been adequately integrated with law enforcement to create a seamless continuum of safety strategies. That work lies ahead for those truly interested in creating a multifaceted approach to keeping all of us safe. The Yes 4 Minneapolis amendment is not necessary for this work to occur, and in fact would make things harder by adding bureaucracy and confusion about who is in charge.
No safety — Add it all up and a vote for the Yes 4 Minneapolis amendment would make Minneapolis less safe. We can't successfully build MPD into the department our chief envisions with him gone. Reform efforts will be stalled by creating a bureaucracy from scratch with no guiding plan, and too many people with conflicting views in charge.
If the amendment passes, the influence of those promoting it will be significant, and they don't believe in policing at all. Minneapolis will become an outlier at a time when other major cities are finding their way to "both/and" — improving public safety for their citizens by insisting on transformational law enforcement while embracing complementary, non-policing approaches at the same time.
No transparency — I find it ironic that the promoters of Yes 4 Minneapolis now object to a straightforward, accurate portrayal of what they have in mind for our city. Could it be that obfuscation is their only path to pulling one over on the voters? Most people don't like to be misled, yet that appears to be the emerging campaign tactic for passage of this amendment. The antidote? Vigorous, factual debate about the most serious issue facing Minneapolis in this year's election.
I often think about how much more productive it would have been had City Council members, in early June of last year when speaking at Powderhorn Park, identified both/and as their rallying cry for all of us to work together, rather than unfurl the polarizing "defund the police" banner.
Too late now, but not too late to turn away the byproduct of that bumper sticker philosophy and reject the Yes 4 Minneapolis charter amendment.
Steve Cramer is president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council.