With every budget year, there are factions in Minneapolis that call for more police, in the mistaken belief that more police equals more safety. It’s never true, but they tend to get their way. As we can rather clearly see this year, the police are a destabilizing, violent institution that has grown over-confident in their untouchability.
Five decades ago, police departments operated under the authority of city governments, most notably serving as enforcers for corrupt political machines. That was then. With the decline of the machines in the ’70s, the police emerged as the most powerful section of municipal governments, more influenced by Homeland Security, regional fusion centers, and a police equipment industry aggressively pushing the latest in weapons and surveillance systems.
While politicians turn over every few years, the police have built an enduring base of support, unwavering in its belief that more cops mean more safety. As a result, their numbers, budgets, and clout have steadily increased over the years, as racial and economic inequality have grown.
Elected backers of police expansion like Minneapolis City Council members Linea Palmisano, Lisa Goodman, and Alondra Cano seem to believe they would be supporting a community-oriented police department spearheaded by Chief Medaria Arrodondo. That department is a mirage. They would be better off investing in a unicorn park. Reformist chiefs have at best a fleeting impact on their departments, their effort—what former Minneapolis Police chief Tony Bouza called his “futile attempt to reform the police”—erased within a year or two of their departure.
That’s changing. Right now, Minneapolis City Council members consider disbanding the police. I doubt it will be as radical as it should be — they’ll probably just end up stripping them of some functions and putting them in the hands of more responsible organizations — but it’s a first step.
Now the council members are listening to a city that is wounded, angry, fed up with decades of violence disproportionately visited upon black and brown residents. Various private and public bodies – from First Avenue to Minneapolis Public Schools – have essentially cut ties with the police department. Council members are trying to figure out what their next move is.
Their discussion is starting to sound a little more like what groups like Reclaim the Block and the Black Visions Collective have been saying for years. On Tuesday, Fletcher published a lengthy Twitter thread saying the police department was “irredeemably beyond reform,” and a “protection racket” that slows down responses as political payback.
“Several of us on the council are working on finding out what it would take to disband the Minneapolis Police Department and start fresh with a community-oriented, nonviolent public safety and outreach capacity,” he wrote.
You can peruse that thread in its entirety here.
Please, please make it happen. Remove this malignant force from our cities. All the money spent on cops and their toys and the prison system that feeds on police action would be far more effective if spent on correcting the root source of much of our crime: poverty.