Well, at least this reform would take place at the correct level of government — no matter how poorly thought out it might be. In the wake of the death of George Floyd, the Minneapolis city council has begun its process of reforming the police department — with a promise to “dismantle” it from more than one of its members. What will replace it? A “transformative new model of public safety,” council president Lisa Bender promises:
In the days since Floyd died, several elected officials have publicly floated various reform proposals, ranging from defunding the department immediately to taking a slower approach and sending social workers or mental health professionals to some calls that are now handled by police.
Mayor Jacob Frey has committed to “working with the community towards deep, structural reforms that address systemic racism in our laws and in policing.” Spokesman Mychal Vlatkovich said the mayor “does not support abolishing the police department.”
Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, one of the most vocal critics of the city’s response to the protests and riots that followed Floyd’s death, tweeted Thursday: “We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.”
Bender, a few hours later, issued her own tweet repeating that message and adding that they will “replace it with a transformative new model of public safety.”
What exactly is that new model? One council member offered a rather ambiguous vision of the future for law enforcement:
Tuesday, Ward 3 representative Steve Fletcher tweeted, “I don’t know yet, though several of us on the council are working on find out, what it would take to disband the MPD and start fresh with a community-oriented, non-violent public safety and outreach capacity.”
Bender offered a somewhat more specific framework on Twitter Wednesday. Are white Minneapolitans who support reform willing to part with “white supremacy” in, say, ignoring burglaries?
If you are a comfortable white person asking to dismantle the police I invite you to reflect: are you willing to stick with it? Will you be calling in three months to ask about garage break-ins? Are you willing to dismantle white supremacy in all systems, including a new system?
— Lisa Bender (@lisabendermpls) June 3, 2020
Where does one even start with this? If Minneapolis wants to decriminalize burglary, then they will need to repeal the statute controlling that crime at the state level. Until then, every Minnesotan has an expectation that the law will be enforced — and the city has a duty to enforce it, too. Also, does Bender mean to suggest that only black people burglarize? That might be one of the most racist assumptions one could make, let alone proclaim — although if you’re a progressive in Minneapolis, I guess you can get away with it.
Stephen Green writes at PJ Media that this looks like a great way to restart “white flight” from the urban cores all over again:
If I’m reading this properly, the Minneapolis City Council’s potential “transformative new model of public safety” doesn’t include things like preventing or punishing burglars. If Bender and Ellison get their way, looting — or what I’ve been calling “freelance reparations” — against “white persons” would become the new normal for Minneapolis residents.
At a time when the people of Minneapolis require the best public safety and a positive growth environment for business and jobs, Bender and her Minneapolis City Council allies would deprive them of both.
Whether any white persons will remain in Minneapolis if Bender gets her way remains to be seen. Other than Bender and other members of the nomenklatura, that is, who always receive the protection they would deny their poorer (and often darker) neighbors.
It won’t be limited to just white flight. Anyone with means would decamp from Minneapolis for the suburbs tout suite, and never come back.
This sounds so ridiculous that it’s tough to take it seriously at face value. What the city council likely wants out of this is a way to get around the police union by negating their contract so as to impose greater accountability. That seems to be the point of the “temporary restraining order” the council plans on passing, whatever that means:
If the council gives its blessing, as is expected, the order will also require approval from a judge at a hearing that is likely to be scheduled next week, according to a presentation given to the city’s Commission on Civil Rights earlier this week.
“The timeline for the impact of the [temporary restraining order] is for this weekend,” Bender said. “It’s for immediate accountability measures for the Police Department. It’s not meant to be anywhere near starting this bigger conversation.”
As nonsensical as the city council’s rhetoric might be, this is actually the place and the process for reform … generally speaking, anyway. The talk about dismantling the police department makes sense as a hardball tactic for negotiating reforms to officer review and public complaints processes. The union will fight hard against this, and that sets up a very different dynamic than that in place before, when Democrats and union leaders worked hand in hand in the Twin Cities. The conflict itself could very well be salutary in that it might break the decades-long, single-party grip on governance in Minneapolis, which might bring more accountability to the city government as well as its police department.
If Minneapolis is actually serious about dismantling law enforcement, though, they won’t like the end result. Rather than having a professional force in place to keep the peace, residents will have to take that into their own hands. Gun sales will go through the roof, and suddenly Minneapolis will have a lot more uses of lethal force on their hands, this time by frightened citizens who know help will never be on the way. Do they really expect better outcomes from that environment?