The death of George Floyd sparked public consciousness about racial inequality and inequity that is long overdue.
Sadly, the actions of former officer Derek Chauvin have cast a dark shadow over the overwhelming number of good cops in Minneapolis, who day in and day out put their own lives on the line to protect and serve the people.
In every city in America the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers ably protect their communities, upholding the oaths they have sworn.
Meanwhile, in times of great tragedy there are those who rise from the ashes to give comfort to the afflicted.
There are those who provide leadership when communities are clamoring for a way out from desperation.
There are people who bring the best and the brightest ideas to bear to change bad systems and bad processes.
And then there is the Minneapolis City Council.
A majority of the City Council members who have publicly declared they will defund and disband their Police Department.
Who, on the heels of Gov. Tim Walz directing the Minnesota Department of Human Rights to launch a civil rights investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, have concluded their best path forward is to simply eliminate the Police Department.
Implicit in the governor’s announcement is the belief that Minneapolis has had a Police Department filled with racists, violating the civil rights of Minneapolis residents over the past 10 years.
If there is evidence of this, it is indeed a bitter day in Minneapolis that such conditions were allowed to exist for so long. It is tragic that the elected leadership of Minneapolis — beginning with Mayor Jacob Frey and before him, Mayors Betsy Hodges and R.T. Rybak, and the uniformly liberal City Council members — could have allowed such conduct to occur day after day, year after year, in the Police Department they were responsible to manage.
Remarkably, the same mayor whose lack of leadership led to the ruinous riots and burning of his city, doesn’t agree with dismantling the Police Department. Yet in endorsing the governor’s investigation, Frey said:
“For years in Minneapolis, police chiefs and elected officials committed to change have been thwarted by police union protections and laws that severely limit accountability among police departments. … Breaking through those persistent barriers, shifting the culture of policing and addressing systemic racism will require all of us working hand-in-hand.”
What is it about the culture of politics in Minneapolis that failed time and time again to address what is now labeled “systemic racism” in the city’s Police Department?
Blaming the police union is, no pun intended, a cop-out.
Blaming Republicans isn’t an option as there isn’t an elected Republican in the city as far as the eye can see.
With their city in ruins from lawbreakers who burned it down, the same elected officials whose failed leadership did nothing to eliminate the racism they now lament have seized upon the solution: to disband their Police Department.
Mayor Frey didn’t condemn rioting and looting in his city when he should have but encouraged people intent on looting and burning to wear face masks and stand 6 feet apart from one another.
When a couple of news conferences professing his love for Minneapolis and delivering stern stares at the camera failed to stop the violence, he abandoned the police headquarters in the Third Precinct.
He left citizens and businesses alone to fend for themselves amid marauding mobs who claimed their prize by burning it down and the neighborhood along with it.
The members of the Minneapolis City Council didn’t step up either to protect their citizens. Now they purport to have the best interests of their city in mind with the idea that defunding and dismantling the Police Department is really a better way to ensure public safety.
The lawless always want less law.
Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender claims that calling police during an emergency is an act of “privilege.”
On the contrary, the first responsibility of government is to protect its citizens — all its citizens.
Minneapolis failed George Floyd. The City Council now wants to double-down on that failure of responsibility by dismantling their Police Department.
Every American citizen is owed the right — not the privilege — of being able to call for police assistance in an emergency.
How can it be that the serious reform we need to overcome racial inequality and inequity and institutional and systemic racism has been reduced to this?
The people of Minneapolis have every right to ask their elected officials who are promoting eliminating the Police Department why this solution is better than all the other solutions they’ve offered up for decades that didn’t stop racism, violence and bad cops who failed their city.
Why didn’t they protect the people of Minneapolis?
Why didn’t they protect good cops from bad cops?
Why didn’t they stop their city from burning?
Mayors Frey, Rybak and Hodges and the City Council all claim they were impotent because the police union was too strong for them.
If that is true then the remedy isn’t to defund and disband the Police Department.
It’s time to defund and disband the current elected leadership at Minneapolis City Hall and find people with the courage and conviction to protect all of the people of Minneapolis, all of the time, everywhere in the city.
Norm Coleman represented Minnesota in the U.S. Senate from 2002 to 2009. He was mayor of St. Paul from 1994 to 2002.