We are the original group of eight residents of the Jordan and Hawthorne neighborhoods of Minneapolis who have filed suit against the City Council and mayor, alleging inadequate police numbers and inadequate protection. This strong move, in this difficult and confusing time, means different things to different people. For this reason, it is important to make our position clear.
First, our position is “both/and.” The City Council’s view is “either/or.”
Let us explain. We operate on these premises:
We want radical police reform, where all citizens are treated as fully human by all cops, and not just by the “good ones” we all know well.
Police union president Bob Kroll has to go. He is a throwback — a barrier to the concessions necessary for healed relationships with the community, and he is known for protecting abusive racist cops.
The mayor is on the right side in refusing to disband the police department and wants to work with the chief to transform it. We support the reform moves of the mayor and chief, which include community alternatives to policing that work hand-in-hand with our police force. African Americans, especially, desire a relationship with our cops of mutual respect, support and accountability. We support the chief’s deliberate actions to create a transformed culture within the department. We want them both to do more.
We want legislative changes that require all or the majority of police officers to live in the city they serve. It is not healthy for an 80% white, 92% nonresident, predominantly conservative force to police a diverse, urban and liberal community.
In addition, the Legislature must change arbitration rules that too often demand bad cops be rehired after being fired for abusive policing.
We hate the explosion of the prison industrial complex and the disparate incarceration of Black people, and we want changes in the entire criminal justice system that stops, searches, charges, convicts and sentences inequitably at each step.
And finally, through focused investments, we want our city to have real racial equity in housing, jobs, income, education and health.
Now here is our “and”:
Most urgently, our neighbors and families must be safe. We will not sacrifice the safety of our community in the pursuit of the City Council’s lofty goals with no plan to back them up.
In the months since George Floyd’s murder, we have seen an explosion in crime and homicides. Five of us live just a few houses apart. Four of us have children in our homes. Here’s what we’ve experienced on our block alone over the last two months:
A mother’s car was shot up with eight bullets, with her infant on board. Another car was shot four times.
A bullet went through the front door and a wall of our neighbor’s home.
A woman was kicked and stomped within inches of her life in the middle of the street.
The drug trade has been revived in two homes, to unprecedented levels, with conflicts resulting in fights and shootouts.
A former Airbnb is now a weekend party house, at which a girl was shot two weekends ago.
Neighbors are leaving their Northside homes to stay with relatives to keep their children safe.
Neighbors have put their house up for sale and others are considering it for the first time.
All of this happening on the same block. The thousands of other incidents of crime and violence across our city are causing people who love Minneapolis to leave or consider leaving.
The council’s abolish and defund plans lead to too few cops which leads to too few taxpayers.
The bottom line is, by charter the council must maintain a per capita force in the mid-700s of active duty officers. While this is not enough for our needs, we worry that the council’s naive intent is to take us well below this number. And we are not having it. If the leadership of the city cannot muster the wisdom to keep us safe, it must muster the compliance to obey the law that is designed to do so.
Sondra Samuels is CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone. Don Samuels is a former City Council member, former Minneapolis school board member and CEO of Microgrants. This article is also submitted on behalf of co-plaintiffs and Northside residents: Aimee Lundberg, Jon Lundberg, Juliee Oden, Audua Pugh, Cathy Spann and Georgianna Yantos.