I oppose Charter Amendment 2 and I support doubling the authorized strength of the Mpls police force. This is from my comments to the StarTribune:
3. Briefly describe the two or three issues that residents of your ward are most concerned about. What would you do to address those issues if you are elected?
Increasing crime and lack of security is the biggest issue. I propose to double the Mpls police force, bringing it close to the level suggested by Steve Berg’s StarTribune OpEd c.2006, “How New York Got Its Groove Back.” New police candidates should be deeply vetted by community groups in addition to more traditional qualifying procedures. They should be a part of a greater emphasis on community policing over 911 policing.
4. Since George Floyd was killed in May 2020, cities including Minneapolis are reevaluating how they handle policing. How do you think law enforcement should be done in Minneapolis? And what do you think the balance should be between funding policing and violence prevention?
There is no dichotomy between policing and violence prevention. If policing is not preventing violence, its methods need review and reform. Police officers need to bring more than muscle or ordnance to a situation; they should already have strong support within the immediate neighborhood, be trained in conflict mediation and de-escalation, have sufficient numbers to discourage violent resistance, and be able to recognize when a situation may call for assistance from mental health or other professionals.
I support efforts to remove arbitration clauses from police contracts. Officers accused of wrongdoing can be afforded the same due process granted to other public employees, including administrative appeals from and judicial review of disciplinary actions.
6. Please briefly summarize your positions on the three ballot questions (government structure, public safety and rent control) that Minneapolis residents will vote on in November.
Amendment 2 – abolish the police department. Strongly oppose. This is an untenable proposal that nine council members originally signed onto. As a result of citywide blowback and one special election, that number is now reduced to six. I expect that the proposal, and most if not all of its proponents on the council, will be overwhelmingly rejected by the voters. The form of the ballot question itself (as of the beginning of September) is a head-shaker: the proposed public safety department “could include licensed peace officers (police officers) if necessary” (emphasis added). This proposal also would put public safety in the same balkanized state as other city efforts, with only four of the 13 council members having executive control over it.
I believe we need a 21st century approach to public safety — one that is mindful and respectful of everyone involved. Let me be clear, I do not believe defunding or abolishing the police will accomplish this. This type of rhetoric and ill-informed ideology will only continue to drive a divide in the important work ahead of us to reform our police department and public safety system as a whole. The message is clear from residents across this city, we need comprehensive police reform and we need to provide tools to our police department to tackle the violent crime that is plaguing our city. Public safety is more than policing, policing is the reactionary part of public safety. We have to be willing to work together to identify the path forward that includes investments in violence prevention, youth focused engagement, mental health support, officer training and wellness, community engagement expansion, re-thinking how we handle non-emergency calls, and other critical steps. I want to share some of those ideas with you:
Rebuilding and re-imagining our police response to community needs, I do not support defunding or abolishing the police or any form that is branded in a feel good way that accomplishes the same thing (our current proposed public safety charter amendment), and it is not because of my professional career in public safety, however, I am a well informed citizen of the crime in our city and county because of that.
We need to support our chief as council members and community. I believe in the chief’s commitment to reforming our police department to be more fair, inclusive, responsive to community feedback and continually be transparent.
Officer Accountability/Civilian Oversight/Transparency/Additional Officers, we know currently there is a reduction in critical services, such as community outreach, homeless engagement, and investigators being pulled to other areas such as patrol. The massive exodus and efforts by members of the current council to defund/dismantle/abolish the police are costing residents their peace of mind, physical safety, and causing individuals and families to consider leaving our city. I have seen firsthand the hard work our police officers and sheriff’s deputies do each and everyday to serve our community and how budget cuts can really have an effect, lower numbers of officers equals increased overtime and increased burnout and chances for mistakes or judgement errors to occur. We must hold officers accountable, create increased measures for civilian and community engagement/oversight, and commit to being transparent in all that we do. The bottom line is this, we NEED more police officers in our community to serve and protect. Even prior to the large decrease in services, our officers were consistently running from call to call leaving very little time for relationship building and to learn their community. At this point, there is no reason we are not at 100% compliance with officers wearing and using Body Worn Cameras, it protects officers as well as the public. I support a consistent review of even lower level incidents to evaluate officer conduct and engagement in the community, it’s focus is to ensure we are growing and building community trust while ensuring our officers are engaging with the public the manner we as a city want our city to engage with the community.
Officer Wellness (Mind, Body, Spirit, Financial) We often forget that our police officers are humans just like each of us but they layer on incredible levels of pressures and criticism in addition to the everyday challenges we each face. Rates of divorce, substance abuse, burnout, and mental health issues in this career field are staggering. We must do better by the officers we ask to serve us and handle our darkest moments. In my official capacity, I partnered with our Tri-Wellness division to help identify funding to support the growth of this division across our agency. This issue is personal, these officers and deputies are my friends, colleagues, and by and large here for the right reason, to serve and protect each of us, we need to ensure we make the investments into them to ensure they are of right wellness to serve our community.
Hiring, Training, Recruitment are critical to ensuring we reform our police department in a way that serves our current and future needs. A lot of the conversations that we have had are so short sided in nature, we need to start looking at how to right-size our agency to serve the future needs, anticipate for retirements, staff to the needs of our 911 emergency services, and beyond that increase our efforts to engage and build relationships. We need to look at how and where we are recruiting officers from, analyze our requirements of service to community, increase the funding for new and continuing training, identify professionals in the subject matter to provide innovative training and identify the right candidates through involving community in the hiring process. We must make significant investment in Deescalation, Anti-Biased, Use of Force, and Community engagement training. Utilizing our Cadet program to identify strong talent for our open and upcoming positions, investing in our Community Service Officers to train them and groom them to potentially make that transition.
Identifying ways to handle non-emergency or low-level enforcement calls that will free up the officers to focus on proactive policing and relationship building throughout the city. Some of these call-types can be routed to city support services, our Community Service Officers, and other county agencies to layer on support as it makes sense.
911 Dispatch Emergency Services, supporting our dispatchers in providing advanced training, mental health/substance abuse support integrated in the call-taking process with a focus on a connection to resources, support, and professionals integrated in our 911 services to triage calls better that will ultimately yield more positive outcomes by connecting trained professionals and case management to those who need it most.
Officer Discipline has to be foundational to how we continue to reform our police department. The police chief should be able to terminate an officer and that termination be upheld. I support a review process but do not believe an officer who has caused harm, done something to break the law that we expect community members to follow, or another gross violation of policy or standards, should be able to return to the job serving the community. Implementing community review processes and input can aide in the transparency and oversight that will help ensure this is supported. Additionally, I believe we need a system to flag officers displaying at-risk behavior based on investigated complaints or behavioral with options to remedy by the chief. This is no different than how other components of the business/employment world work, development and training is a significant component in delivery of discipline.
Mental Health & Violence Prevention has to be a fundamental focus of ours as we focus on reforming our public safety system, as a whole. We need to make investments to further expand mental health co-responder programs, social work intervention, case management, victim services and resources, violence prevention, and restorative justice programs. Many of the above programs or pilots have shown great promise in large metropolitan cities. A significant component of violence prevention is youth engagement, making investments in after school programming, youth events, avenues for career exploration, unique neighborhood/business sponsored activities, and thinking outside of the box on creating new avenues for youth engagement and support. We have to stop treating this as a one size fits all solution.
Learning from other cities, agencies, jurisdictions. We do not have to re-create the wheel of police reform if there are things that are working in other agencies or jurisdictions around the country that we can try. Not everything will work here in Minneapolis, but it does not mean that we should not invest in researching what is working, what is not working, and new innovative ways to deliver public safety services.
Investing in tools, increasing the tools and technology for officers to be able to quickly de-escalate situations. The reality is, each and everyday companies around this country are researching and creating tools to aide in the de-escalation, intervention, and reduction of use of force such as BOLA WRAP, a non-violent tool used to temporarily restrain a potentially violent subject so officers can safely take them into custody.
Partnership across governmental lines is a critical piece in our reform efforts. Police officers are licensed PEACE officers in the State of MN and are licensed through the POST board. We need ensure we are continually working with local, state, and federal officials to ensure our city operations and policy are cutting edge, in line with the standard of policing that we expect as a state, county, and local municipality. We must also work to ensure we have the funding support and legislative support for changes to policing at a state level, being the largest metropolitan city in the state our work has significant impact across the entire state.
Community education and resources is a piece we miss all too often. The more the community is trained in safety, awareness, and operational information, the greater understanding each citizen will have when interacting with the police and in some cases, preventing the need for an interaction with the police. Making investments in community education and resources should be on the priority list of how we move forward.
Tools to track and document performance are critical to ensure our city police department and leadership are delivering on the commitments made to reform, reimagine, and serve our city. By having specific KPIs (key performance indicators) and creating tracking/performance measures for the chief and the department, there will be less political influence and maneuvering and more in line with running a department in a large organization. Allowing the chief to specifically address key areas of opportunity and allowing city government a tool to followup on performance.
These are some of the ideas that I have for how to comprehensively reform our police department to ensure it meets the needs of our growing city for years to come. At the foundation of any changes we make, I believe we must be transparent with the public and allow time for community input, engagement, and preparation. A key piece of what we need to do as a city is education, we must educate our residents to ensure they are informed of changes we are adopting to our core city service delivery such as policing and public safety. Together we can make this city safer for ALL residents!
I believe in a both/and approach to reforming our public safety system. I believe we must take a comprehensive approach to reforming our public safety system; and, I believe this comprehensive approach must be a product of deep engagement with our community, inclusive conversations, strategic problem solving, and long-term planning.
I believe we must reform our public safety system, by addressing structural and systemic racism, implementing deep structural change, and creating public safety alternatives beyond traditional policing; and, we must continue to perform the core components of our public safety system, which requires adequately staffing and funding our Police Department.
As it stands, the Minneapolis Police Department is understaffed and is having difficulty retaining or recruiting staff. This is largely due to the growing animosity towards the Minneapolis Police Department within our elected leadership on the current City Council – and the ambiguity regarding the future of the Minneapolis Police Department. In order to effectively and efficiently perform the core components of our Public Safety System, we need a well staffed and adequately funded Minneapolis Police Department.
Beyond this – I am a strong advocate for developing alternatives to traditional police response, including non-police response for situations in which police officers are not best able or not trained to handle. I support the implementation of Crisis Intervention Team Programs, or Co-Responder Programs, to respond to mental health crisis calls. I also support the expansion of and investment in the Office of Violence Prevention. Further, I am also supportive of the revitalization of Block Leader Programs and Community Crime Prevention Programs.
The first step of transforming our public safety in Minneapolis is to create a holistic, public health approach that gets people the help they need and prevents crime before it causes harm in our communities.
I’m proud to have led throughout my first City Council term to lay the groundwork for a broader, more dynamic public safety system.
It is time to move beyond our one-size-fits-all status quo. We can and must do better. We have been shown time and time again that we are past the point of being able to reform the MPD. What we want is a true transformation of public safety. This means moving towards a new and improved version of public safety that is built to help everyone.
This means we invest in mental health providers, create victims’ services, and provide resources for unsheltered homelessness. We are living through an important moment where it’s time we take a hard look at our status quo and take on the challenge, together, of doing things better. We have the exciting opportunity to step into a future that more fully reflects our shared values of equity, justice, and safety for all.
Police officers, staffed at appropriate levels, will continue to be a part of our public safety system, but we need to be more strategic with how we use and fund our public safety resources. We can’t expect police officers to be equipped to solve every public safety issue. We also can’t expect major structural and institutional issues within the MPD to be solved merely by reform.
As an African American living in Minneapolis for over 20 years, I will be the first to tell you that I have had my fair share of run-ins with Minneapolis Police Officers who should have never ever been allowed to be a police officer patrolling our street. With that said, NO ONE running for office in the city of Minneapolis wants to get rid of the bad officers so the good officers can thrive and protect our communities more than me. Yet, I will not vote to re-think or re-imagine our Minneapolis Police Department not being a police department. I know how important police officers are to our society and our communities. I will push for reform in the Minneapolis Police Department, but I will not vote to defund or dismantle our police department, that’s a promise.
Here are a few steps I will take to deal with public safety concerns:
While these ideas aren’t the smoking gun we need to take back our community, it is a start.