Downtown Council CEO Steve Cramer wrote a commentary opposing the Yes 4 Minneapolis public safety ballot question ("Why the defund amendment must be defeated," July 28). We are a group of neighbors in the 13th Ward who disagree with his conclusions.
No chief?— Cramer suggests that Yes 4 Minneapolis would "eliminate" Chief Medaria Arradondo's job. This is incorrect. The amendment removes the requirement for a police chief, but doesn't mandate elimination. Chief Arradondo has widespread support at City Hall. If police become part of a broader public safety department, we'll still need his leadership.
But healing Minneapolis right now requires more than just a good police chief. We need to confront patterns of injustice.
On May 18, 2017, Mohamed Noor began a routine traffic stop by pointing his gun at the driver's head. On May 25, he performed a welfare check resulting in a complaint for excessive force. And on July 15, Noor shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond outside of her home here in the 13th Ward.
Arradondo became chief of police days later. That September, Derek Chauvin struck a 14-year-old boy in the head with a flashlight, then used his knee to pin him down for almost 17 minutes. Having just witnessed a fatal lesson about ticking time bombs, should Chief Arradondo have recognized Chauvin as another Noor waiting to happen? And is it fair to ask one person to make these calculations alone? We need outside oversight, but the mayor currently holds this authority and has repeatedly failed to use it. True accountability comes from a system with checks and balances, not from any one leader.
No reform? — Cramer notes that the public safety amendment is championed by abolitionists and asks: if they want police abolished anyway, why would they care about reform?
If I board a bus for Chicago, and someone else, headed further south to Dallas, starts their trip on the same bus, we are both fully invested in reaching Chicago. Abolitionists want to get rid of police because they believe policing is inherently racist and harmful. But we all want to protect our communities from harm.
As co-signers, our individual convictions vary. Some of us are abolitionists. Some are decidedly not. However, we came together because we all agree that the new department structure proposed in the public safety amendment will drastically increase accountability and reduce harm in policing.
No plan? — Cramer sees Yes 4 Minneapolis as idealism unprepared for the realities of violent crime.
No one is suggesting that someone who's being robbed at gunpoint should call 311 for a team of therapists. We will still have police for these emergencies if the amendment is passed. Some of us do dream of a world beyond policing someday—but we all recognize first and foremost that people need to feel safe.
Failure to provide safety is a recipe for vigilantism. But safety doesn't stop at policing. We can bolster programs proven to reduce crime. And for the sake of our neighbors who have been hurt by violent or racist policing, we can offer expanded support services addressing a wider range of issues.
In Linden Hills, we almost never see squad cars. If police are the key factor in deterring crime, Linden Hills should be uninhabitable. But it's not just police that create safety: it's investment in communities and having resources and opportunities.
No need? — Cramer claims the amendment creates unnecessary bureaucracy and confusion about who's in charge. He says we just need better integration of other programs with MPD. If better integration in our current system were that easy, we would have achieved it by now. It's time to end our inertia. By putting all safety services, including police, into one department, we treat violence intervention, youth outreach, support for unhoused individuals, and crime response as part of the same interconnected system with the same goal.
As for confusion about who's in charge, this is insulting. If voters understand the difference between Congress and the president, they understand the difference between City Council and the mayor.
No safety? — Cramer says the amendment will stall reform efforts, making us less safe. But if we still aren't capable of eliminating violent cops before they become killer cops, reform has stalled. We need a new approach. Cramer prefers a both/and approach. We think Yes 4 Minneapolis is the true both/and approach, with greater accountability.
No transparency? — Cramer laments mixed messages surrounding last year's Powderhorn event.
After George Floyd's murder, people most affected by police brutality picked up the phone and called council members. Council members were hearing a near-unanimous demand for unprecedented changes to policing. At Powderhorn, they answered. When people then called to express displeasure, it let council members know that many constituents disagreed. They heard their constituents' concerns, and they voted for emergency police funds being requested. Participation works. We all can and should participate in these conversations.
Here's some transparency: We all live here. We have families, homes and businesses here. When we talk about the future of Minneapolis, everything we hold dear is at stake.
We're voting Yes 4 Minneapolis.
Heather Silsbee, Artemis Johnson and Elianna-Lippold Johnson live in the 13th Ward of Minneapolis. This article was submitted on behalf of 22 residents of the ward.