The violence is out of control in Minneapolis; just this past weekend there were 7 shootings and 11 people were left injured (https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2021/09/20/11-injured-3-critically-in-7-weekend-shootings-in-minneapolis/). Our communities are in crisis, and we need new leaders, like me, to step up and say enough is enough!
Violence in low- to lower middle-income areas is unfortunately not that uncommon anymore. I am Hispanic woman and grew up in a rough area and I’ve had a traumatic experience with violence. This year, I’ve seen the violence happen right in front of me. People that are committing crimes are being emboldened by the lack of a police presence and the lack of accountability for their actions as individuals. They also have a complete lack of respect for their community and their community members.
Due to my teaching background, I do support a community-based approach to helping reach kids in these high-risk areas, so they don’t become another statistic. Parents need resources and their communities (religious leaders, teachers, etc.) to help guide them. I support a police presence in our neighborhoods, and police liaisons within the communities to help curb the increasing violence.
Systemic change is required in how Minneapolis handles law enforcement. The proposed public safety Charter amendment does not provide that systemic change. Calling our law enforcement function the Department of Public Safety instead of the Minneapolis Police Department isn’t transformational. Removing the Police Chief position from the Charter doesn’t create change, it moves accountability further from elected leadership by making the Chief accountable to another department head. Having 14 bosses making decisions about law enforcement doesn’t solve the problems with MPD. Under current state law with a new Department of Public Safety, Minneapolis will still have the same union, the same state laws that require binding arbitration, the same inability to require residency, and the same broken system currently used to discipline and fire officers.
Police officers are asked to do too much. Mental health and domestic calls could be handled by mental health professionals alongside law-enforcement. Drug overdose calls could be handled by EMTs. Various livability crimes could be handled by public safety ambassadors, a trained but unarmed co-responder or violence interruption expert. There is still a need in our city for armed law-enforcement with fast response times and increased staffing in investigations and victim services so that bad people are prosecuted when caught and victims are respected. I am not an expert on how many officers are needed right now, I hope it will be less in the future as alternative responses are developed and implemented. I do know, however, that we don’t have enough right now.
Our city government has the ability and responsibility to create systems of public safety that keep all of our communities safe. We are currently only investing in the Minneapolis Police Department and we could be doing so much more for our residents. This moment requires leaders who will think bigger about how to make real change, not double down on the same ineffective policies. I have a proven track record of making change in Minnesota and will do the same with public safety in Minneapolis. Here is how we get to a practice of public safety rooted in care:
First we must invest in proven, community-based violence prevention programs that provide holistic support to neighbors in need. Many of these programs already exist in our city but need more funding and expansion.
Second, we must hold police officers accountable. We must be able to fire cops who do harm in our communities. We must also renegotiate the police union contract and enforce systems of discipline for misconduct. We must also make better community control over how police are held accountable.
Third, we can lessen the load on officers by moving unnecessary duties to other city departments and expanding 311 services. By transferring unnecessary duties to other departments, officers will be able to focus their time and energy on addressing violence while our communities receive the right response.
Finally, I support a new Department of Public Safety so we can prioritize violence prevention, address root causes of crime, and send the right responders to situations.This new department will still include armed peace officers, but by removing required staffing levels, we can thoughtfully plan to meet community needs with the appropriate solutions.
What specific steps are you in favor of to deal with public safety concerns?
Thank you for the question and the opportunity to speak directly to Minnesota Women’s Press readership. Beyond dealing proactively with the Federation — understanding and therefore gaining control of the procurement, development and training of new recruits, and assuring that these men and women reflect our Community’s values — I am interested in cultivating maximum Community buy-in. This buy-in is central to my proposal of Neighborhood Comfort and Safety Nodes. I believe this proposal is among the most progressive and transformative ideas to emerge out of this ’21 electoral cycle.
Comfort and Safety Nodes are hubs out in the partnering neighborhoods where we will pair Public Safety (Peacekeeping Officers) with Hennepin County-provided Mental Health and Medical Professionals on a daily basis. This is an evolution of transformative work being done out of Eugene, Oregon (CAHOOTS) and Denver, Colorado (STAR). We are not necessarily remaking the wheel but rather tailoring current ideas to our Community’s specific needs. These nodes would be placed out in the neighborhoods in empty storefronts, available church offices, or other available existing infrastructure. Think local beat cops meet Sesame Street style neighborhood engagement.
Falling back on my 22 years in talent management, I want to know who the officers are that will be serving my community. I want to see headshots, academic and skill resumes, as well as mental and character evaluations. My thought is to then pose these prospective Community Peacekeepers to the various neighborhood organizations that they will be serving. This way, each partnering Neighborhood has an active role in selecting and or approving — thus knowing — the public safety officers that will become members of their communities. I also want the neighborhoods represented in the chamber on the day that new recruits receive their badge.
My vision is to stand next to the mayor or police chief in front of Ward Seven’s Community delegation and take part in the pinning of these recruits. I want to feel I have bought in, that my constituents have bought in, and that we know exactly who we will be working with. Neighbors should know the individual professionals who staff their local Comfort and Safety Node. Neighbors should see these public safety and accessory professionals daily, biking past their block, engaging in outreach, and being vital integrated members of their communities.
Regardless of which way Community decides on the ballot amendments, my prescription remains the same. From my perspective, this Comfort and Safety Node plan will have positive long-term and transformative results. It is paramount that whoever we place in charge of keeping our Communities safe (as well as the Federation that supports them) reflect the current values of the People of Minneapolis. I invite interested Minneapolitans to visit my website teqenwardseven.com/comfort-and-safety for a deeper dive into this progressive plan.