Six-year-old Aniya Allen and 9-year-old Trinity Ottoson-Smith.
Ten-year-old LaDavionne Garrett Jr. and 12-year-old London Bean.
These are just a few of the names of the victims of gun violence this summer in Minneapolis. Three of these children died, and one is fighting for his life.
While these shootings ignited a movement, the violence continues. While for many the news is heart-wrenching, for pastors like us who serve in these communities, it's much deeper. We minister to the families and friends of victims of senseless violence. We stand with them when they grieve and lend our support as they strive to recover from the terror that comes with the violence.
And it's not just they who feel this terror. Every act of violence ripples outward, affecting how our communities feel and behave, how we interact with one another, and how we go about our daily lives.
And it's not just one community. It seems you can't open the paper without reading about violence in Uptown, downtown or on the South Side. It's a citywide epidemic.
Recently, different pastors have united to help bring the healing only community can. We initiated a movement called 21 Days of Peace that places members of the community in the middle of the most dangerous street corners.
Why is our community putting itself in "harm's way"? Because we know that even the most hardened criminal will give a little respect to people on the block they know and to members of the faith community.
We've been working closely with our police chiefs — Medaria Arradondo in Minneapolis and Todd Axtell in St. Paul — and others to make sure police become more integrated with the community and support our efforts to bring peace. When we need to call for help, they respond. And if everything is going well, they let us do our thing.
We're starting to make real progress, but we are very worried about what will happen after Nov. 2 if Minneapolis votes to replace its Police Department with something unknown.
Let us be clear: We absolutely need transformation of the police. That is what Chief Arradondo is working on. Day by day he is making real change in the MPD. He banned "warrior training," and he reduced pretextual stops. He's integrating mental health and other experts with the police. He's getting rid of police officers who do things wrong, and he's getting officers to testify against one another. He's creating respect between the police and community. That is real reform, and we need more of it.
In contrast, there is no real reform or plan in Question 2. Nothing about police accountability, training, hiring, discipline, or anything to achieve organizational change.
What proponents of the charter amendment propose, we already have. Mental health crisis teams are already being integrated with law enforcement. We have homeless outreach. We have violence prevention. We need to build on these, but we need a plan to do it, not a charter change.
Arradondo is already working his plan. All that Question 2 advocates are proposing is fewer police officers, when we need more, better ones.
As it stands, the Minneapolis police force is down by 300 officers. When we need them, they can't show up fast enough, due to the shortage. Our neighbors are patrolling our own blocks. It's a community effort to keep our streets safe, and we need reinforcements.
The violence is forcing us to a breaking point. Children and parents are afraid to go outside for fear of being caught up in the crossfire. Business people are weary of sweeping up the broken glass from drive-by shootings. Members of the clergy are exhausted from eulogizing.
We know what we need to be safe. We need more officers like Arradondo, our city's first Black police chief, who are committed to working with us. We need leaders who don't just throw out slogans but are willing to do the hard work of community-building. We need more action when it comes to investing in our businesses, our communities and our people.
For us and for other impacted communities, this debate about the police is not an intellectual exercise in "reimagining public safety" or "overcoming fear." This is life or death for our children, for our neighbors, for our loved ones, and for our entire communities.
Vote no on Question 2 so we can keep making real change happen.
Jerry McAfee is senior pastor, New Salem Missionary Baptist Church. Richard D. Howell Jr. is senior pastor, Shiloh Temple International Ministries. Runney Patterson is senior pastor, New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. Russell A. Pointe Sr. is senior pastor, Minneapolis Central Church of Christ. Stacey Smith is presiding elder of the St. Paul-Minneapolis District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Richard H. Coleman is senior pastor, Wayman AME Church. Brian Herron is senior pastor, Zion Baptist Church. The signees are members of 21 Days of Peace, a multidenominational church-led effort.