There’s an increasing disconnect between those who feel safer when Minneapolis police are nearby, and those who feel less safe, and we need to do better. The tragic deaths of Jamar Clark and Justine Damond and their aftermaths have laid bare a long-simmering mutual mistrust between city residents and the MPD. The growing perception of our police is of a force too quick to draw guns, and too resistant to reforms to give us much immediate hope. Our government only works well when it trusts and respects the community it serves.
We need to shift the conversation on criminal justice reform to a broader conversation on community safety beyond policing. We need to proceed with real urgency to transform the role of police in our city, to align public safety efforts with our city’s equity values. We want a police force of world-class de-escalators, focused on bringing peace to tense situations, and resolving conflict before it ever escalates to crime. That will take re-training and a re-orientation of approach that is long overdue.
We are calling on police to solve too many problems, and it has to stop. We need to re-evaluate what functions we ask police to play, so that we have mental health professionals responding to mental health crises, and community service providers responding to non-violent crimes that are symptomatic of homelessness or other failures of our social safety net. This will mean better responses to specific needs, and it will allow police to focus on serious violent threats to public safety.
We should, wherever possible, emphasize prevention, diversion, and non-arrest penalties, to minimize arrests for non-violent crimes. The best way to avoid racist outcomes in the criminal justice system is to keep people out of it. This arrest reduction approach takes on special urgency in light of our commitment to sanctuary city status, given Hennepin County’s continued collaboration with ICE.
I will use the power of our city budget to reverse the trend of militarization and promote violence prevention and de-escalation strategies, trainings, and policies. By over-investing in technology that has a dehumanizing effect, we’re exacerbating the problems already created by having a police force that largely doesn’t live in the city and doesn’t feel like part of our community.
I support community policing strategies that create relationships between law enforcement and people in the neighborhoods to which they’re consistently assigned. Done right, this can pay real dividends in building trust and mutual respect.
I support accountability efforts that make policing more transparent and more accountable to the public through independent civilian review boards, and more timely disclosure of information.
And, we can design safer streets and sidewalks, eliminating unlit parking lots and alleys, and improving visibility and eyes on the street, to make downtown feel like a safe, healthy place to live, work, and have fun. We should be looking, wherever possible, for design solutions that put eyes on the street, create vibrant street life experiences for us all, and create real public safety.