In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, our City Council stood in front of a crowd in Powderhorn and pledged to “Defund the Police.”
Words are important. That headline, coupled with a lack of planning, created unfortunate perceptions. To police, it was a threat. To criminals, it was an invitation. The results: skyrocketing crime and long-safe neighborhoods on edge. Officers are becoming demoralized, with more than 150 seeking early severance due to stress.
Dig deeper, and the ideas underpinning the movement have merit. Instead of police, trained specialists could intervene in non-violent situations. Instead of paramilitary-style equipment, we could fund programs addressing root causes of criminality. The large budget leaves room for redistribution of funds.
Those ideas don’t fit into a pithy headline. Nuance is tough, but a complicated concept isn’t served by blunt slogans. Politicians should understand the importance of clarity. The following statements would better convey the message:
- We denounce the killings of unarmed people of color that have been carried out by police around the country. We will create real change to end this cycle of violence.
- Minneapolis needs its police to protect citizens from violence. We are grateful to the officers who put their lives at risk doing so. The police will always be a part of the public safety picture in our city.
- Police bear the burden of responding to situations that would be better served by other specialists. We will build those capabilities into our public safety program while continuing to support the police force.
This would start us on the road to healing and provide clarity for those trying to reshape our future. All it requires of our leadership is humility and a willingness to clarify their positions.