Minneapolis City Council members, who recently voted to defund the police department, demanded answers from the city’s police chief for the recent uptick in crime.
“What I am sort of flabbergasted by right now is colleagues, who a very short time ago were calling for abolition, are now suggesting we should be putting more resources and funding into MPD,” Councilmember Phillipe Cunningham, who supported defunding the department, said during a police reform meeting Tuesday.
The council took more than $1 million from the police budget this summer to hire “violence interrupters,” who are supposed to defuse potentially violent situations instead of police officers. The impetus for the policy came in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers on May 25, sparking protests all over the country.
In June, the council voted unanimously to dismantle the police department in favor of a “Department of Community Safety.” That plan was delayed in August when the Minneapolis Charter Commission voted to take more time to review the plan.
According to Minneapolis Police Department crime data, violent crimes such as assaults, robberies, and homicides are up in 2020. In August, the city passed the grim milestone of seeing more homicides in 2020 than in all of 2019. Arsons are also up 55%.
Cunningham’s ward has been one of the hardest hit by the crime wave, including the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy and two others who were hit by stray bullets while sitting in their homes.
Cunningham, however, remains committed to the recently instituted public-health-based reforms to the city’s law enforcement.
“If we have these systems in place, we are getting ahead of the violence,” Cunningham said. “That’s why I have advocated so strongly for the violence interrupters, because if they are interrupting the violence before the guns are being fired, then the MPD doesn’t have to respond to that violence.”
“Residents are asking, ‘Where are the police?’” said Councilmember Jamal Osman, who has been fielding complaints that calls for police are going unanswered. “That is the only public safety option they have at the moment. MPD. They rely on MPD. And they are saying they are nowhere to be seen.”
Council President Lisa Bender, one of the leaders of the effort to dissolve the department, accused police of purposefully not arresting people for committing crimes.
“This is not new,” Bender said. “But it is very concerning in the current context.”
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told council members that he has planned reforms, including adding more officers to patrol. But the department faces obstacles, including the loss of around 100 officers who have either taken leave or left the department entirely in 2020, which is more than double the typical amount of turnover for the department.
“We need to make sure that our communities know that we are going to be there,” Arradondo said. “That we’re going to be responsive. We’ve taken an oath to do that.”
Author: Michael Lee