If this doesn’t define chutzpah, nothing does. How did the Minneapolis city council react to residents’ complaints about the disappearance of police presence in their neighborhoods after the city council’s efforts to disband its law enforcement agency? Three guesses, and the first two don’t count:
The meeting was slated as a Minneapolis City Council study session on police reform.
But for much of the two-hour meeting, council members told police Chief Medaria Arradondo that their constituents are seeing and hearing street racing which sometimes results in crashes, brazen daylight carjackings, robberies, assaults and shootings. And they asked Arradondo what the department is doing about it.
“Residents are asking, ‘Where are the police’?” said Jamal Osman, newly elected council member of Ward 6. He said he’s already been inundated with complaints from residents that calls for police aren’t being answered.
“That is the only public safety option they have at the moment. MPD. They rely on MPD. And they are saying they are nowhere to be seen,” Osman said.
First off, MPR’s framing of this city council session is nonsense. The council has publicly and repeatedly rejected police reform as an option in dealing with unhappiness over the department’s performance. They have not just floated an “abolish the police” policy, they actively campaigned for a city charter change that would have allowed the council to eliminate the MPD. “Reform” isn’t even a back-up plan for the city council.
That public push for eliminating the police department, as well as accusing them of being racists, has had predictable consequences. Officers are retiring, quitting, or exiting on disability claims in record numbers ever since the council declared that they wanted to rid the city of its police force. Not surprisingly, the MPD isn’t recruiting many new prospects either, not for a force that might not exist in a year or two and whose political leadership keeps denouncing them. And needless to say, the police who are still on the job have little interest in asserting themselves or putting themselves in dangerous situations, lest they be next under the city council’s abolish-the-police bus.
Council president Lisa Bender is the author of most of this nonsense. In June, Bender declared that people who called the police about robbery and theft and who worried about crime after police abolition were just acting out of “privilege,” and yet now she’s lecturing police chief Medaria Arradondo on proper staffing levels. Arredondo kept his cool, but took a veiled shot at Bender and her colleagues in his response:
“This is not new, but it is very concerning in the current context. So, I think there are a number of possible explanations for this. I think it’s possible they are essentially campaigning … because they don’t support the council member or, in some cases, the mayor, or perhaps they think that they are making the case for more resources for the department,” said Bender, who represents the 10th Ward in south Minneapolis. “I can tell you in my ward, it is having the opposite effect. It is making people even more frustrated with the department. … How do we get this under control?”
Arradondo called her comments “troubling to hear” and promised he would address the issue with departmental supervisors. Noting that some residents feel apprehensive about calling police and that others have said they felt they were being held hostage by the current environment, Arradondo said, many people will need to make compromises while they work to reimagine public safety. That could, he said, include council members.
“That may mean you making commitments that might be uncomfortable for some of those constituents that you represent, but if your ultimate goal is to have true community safety, I will tell you right now, we have to work together in that effort,” he said.
Translation: Quit trying to dismantle my department and maybe we can staff back up to address the crime wave the city council has initiated.
At least one council member had the intellectual honesty to note the raging hypocrisy of this scene. Phillipe Cunningham still apparently backs abolition, but at least he noted that Bender et al are singing a very different tune now that crime has exploded and police presence has been reduced:
As the discussion about crime continued, Council Member Phillipe Cunningham pointed out that some of his colleagues appeared to be contradicting earlier statements in favor of ending the department.
“What I am sort of flabbergasted by is … colleagues who a very short time ago who were calling for abolition, who are now suggesting that we should be putting more funding and resources into MPD,” said Cunningham, whose ward includes North Side neighborhoods that have been among the hardest hit by the recent violence. “We know that this is not producing different outcomes.”
That’s still a clueless response, as the reduction in police presence and enforcement has quite obviously produced “different outcomes.” It’s those “different outcomes” that are prompting constituents’ complaints, after all. But at least it’s intellectually honest cluelessness.
If Minneapolis residents want effective policing and accountability, then they will have to impose it themselves at the ballot box. If anyone on this current council gets re-elected — especially the shameless hypocrite Lisa Bender — then city residents will have no one to blame but themselves.