As the Minneapolis City Council works to remove the charter mandate for the Police Department, other city leaders are taking important steps to reform policing now.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo signaled change was coming last month when he stepped away from negotiations with the Police Officers Federation, saying the union has traditionally stood “in the way of progress.”
In an agreement with the Minnesota Human Rights Department, the chief, mayor and council banned their officers from using chokeholds and neck restraints. That court-approved deal came 11 days after George Floyd was pinned down on the pavement by Minneapolis cops in a deadly encounter recorded on video and seen around the world.
And this week, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Arradondo announced tighter rules on how body camera videos are reviewed — a move they say will provide more transparency and accountability. The new rules went into effect Tuesday.
Those are the most recent actions city leaders have taken in response to legitimate calls for sweeping changes to law enforcement practices. They’re right to pursue needed reforms — and they are promising to do more.
Concurrently, a coalition of business groups is calling for a solid set of “guiding principles” for a new and improved approach to Minneapolis public safety. In a recent letter, the Downtown Improvement District, Minneapolis Regional Chamber, Downtown Council, and Minneapolis Building Owners and Managers Association acknowledged that MPD reinvention is necessary and urged immediate and lasting change in MPD culture — including ridding the department of bad cops.
The group rightly favors reforming — not dismantling — the department. Its principles make clear that trained, sworn personnel must be available in appropriate numbers to provide first responder services and “address threats to citizens, businesses and properties.” And while the status quo is not acceptable, they say, neither is chaotic change or transition that excludes law enforcement.
The business leaders want clear and increased authority for the mayor and chief. To that end, they recommend the council maintain the current city charter provision that calls for the mayor to oversee the MPD, not the mayor plus a City Council of 13 individuals. As the Editorial Board has argued before, managing the department by committee would be a disaster.
Recognizing that law enforcement is essential but cannot alone provide for community safety, the business leaders expressed support for strategies such as expanded use of co-responders, downtown ambassadors and homeless, housing and mental health services. The group wisely seeks to have every sector of the city involved in creating the new public safety vision for Minneapolis.
Along with community input, the changes being made by Arradondo and Frey — along with the recommendations from businesses invested in the city’s future — can help Minneapolis reinvent policing.