Murders in Minneapolis have doubled this year, police point out their ranks are still depleted

It was just shy of a year ago when “defund the police” became a BLM buzz phrase that got repeated endlessly in the media. Minneapolis embraced plans to completely disband police and establish a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. But even before they could accomplish that a lot of officers simply resigned or retired on their own, leaving the city down about 200 officers. And the officers who have remained are facing more violence from criminals.

At some earlier this year, it dawned on the city council that they might need to spend some money to hire more officers. The situation has gotten so bad that even Mayor Frey came out last week and stated the obvious: “When you make big, overarching statements that we’re going to defund or abolish and dismantle the police department and get rid of all the officers, there’s an impact to that.”

Yesterday police gave city officials an update on violent crime and revealed that the number of murders in the city is now slightly more than double what it was at this time last year. In the wake of that news, City Council members are now demanding to know if police are doing enough to identify the source of the guns being used in these crimes and to collect those guns off the street. A police commander who was present at the meeting pointed out to them that police are taking fewer guns off the streets because there are fewer officers to do the work [emphasis added]:

“Are we doing much to figure out where the guns are coming from?” Ward 2 Council Member Cam Gordon asked. “Do we think there are gun dealers coming in with trunks full of guns and they’re selling them?…

In regards to the fewer guns taken off the street by the department this year, [Commander Jason] Case said one of the reasons is the number of officers on the street.

“What I can say with a high level of certainty is we are consistently recovering guns each week. Even though the numbers may be down, our staffing is down as well, as you know, so that might have some play into it,” Case said.

How is it possible these council members don’t get this at this point? Meanwhile, the most recent victim of this violence was a 6-year-old girl named Aniya Allen who was shot while eating a McDonald’s Happy Meal in the back of her mother’s car.

Mayor Frey released his plans to tackle the violence on Monday but the Mayor did not invite two members of the City Council who have been pushing the hardest to defund the police. Those council members held a separate event on Tuesday to push back on Mayor Frey’s plan:

Councilmembers Jeremiah Ellison and Phillipe Cunningham said they support parts of the mayor’s plan but do not believe it goes far enough in engaging community members on the city’s north side…

Cunningham added, “We deserve a more comprehensive plan than simply adding more police or focusing on police reforms.”…

“To be clear, we’re talking about law enforcement playing a role. That’s always been in this plan. It’s a multi-layered approach to public safety. We’re just asking for police to not be front and center as we are trying to address these problems in our community,” Cunningham said.

The sense that city leaders are squabbling while the city burns was too much for local pastor named Jerry McAfee. He confronted the two councilmembers at their own event and accused them of “creating just as much division as we got on the block.” He later told KARE 11, “To talk about reducing the police right now juvenile. You have over 600 shootings since George Floyd. Over 60 something homicides. You have to deal with the fear your constituents.

“No one has to school me on police brutality. I cut my teeth on it. I understand it. But if your constituency is under siege, your first responsibility is to bring them cool and calm and peace.” Here’s the clip starting just before the interruption:

Ezra Klein recorded a podcast for the NY Times about the political impact of crime. Klein summarized some of the argument today on Twitter and made a point not that different from what McAfee was saying in Minneapolis:

In short, the spike in violent crime in Minneapolis and elsewhere is bad news for Democrats because the public really does want law and order, especially when they see children getting shot on a regular basis. If the public becomes convinced that Democrats are pushing the very policies (Defund the Police) that are making their cities less safe, then they’ll either stay home or vote for the Republicans who are pushing back. In other words, “defund the police” isn’t just an awkward slogan that creates a PR problem for Dems, it may turn out to be a top campaign issue in 2022 as people decide it’s not just the message they don’t like but the reality.