On June 12, after weeks of historic protest against police brutality, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously recognized that the Minneapolis Police Department threatens the safety of our city. The council acknowledged the cost, in both lives and dollars, of allowing the damage perpetrated by the police to continue. It asserted in a resolution passed that day that “no amount of reforms will prevent lethal violence and abuse by some members of the Police Department against members of our community, especially Black people and people of color.” The council promised Minneapolis residents a process of healing, reconciliation, and deep engagement with local communities to envision transformative change for a new structure of community safety.
Three months later, the City of Minneapolis has not begun any reconciliation process nor any meaningful community engagement. Instead, the city continues to push an agenda of business as usual, including a proposal to spend $4.8 million for building renovations and lease commitments to house the Third Precinct.
The killing of George Floyd is one of many atrocities in the Third Precinct’s long history of abuse (“Minneapolis’ Third Precinct served as ‘playground’ for renegade cops,” Star Tribune, June 7). Despite paying millions of dollars between 2007 and 2017 to settle misconduct lawsuits and despite renewed public outcry after George Floyd was killed by police officers, the Minneapolis Police Department and the leaders of our city continue to avoid taking responsibility for their continued support and enactment of police brutality against Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color. To heal the rift in our community, the City of Minneapolis, the City Council, and the Minneapolis Police Department must listen authentically to those targeted by police brutality and take responsibility for systemic police violence. A genuine and full process of reconciliation is necessary for the building of trust and for collaboratively envisioning a new system of safety that will truly protect all who call Minneapolis home.
Considering the Minneapolis Police Department’s history of brutality and failure to protect the lives of Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color, we oppose any investment in renovations or lease commitments for housing the Third Precinct in the Seward neighborhood or elsewhere. Offering millions of dollars for building renovations and lease commitments is premature. This proposal highlights the City of Minneapolis’ failure to engage in the authentic and inclusive process of reconciliation the City Council promised. It also shows the council’s failure to work collaboratively with the community to develop a new structure for community safety and violence prevention to replace the current Minneapolis Police Department.
The $4.8 million investment the City of Minneapolis has proposed threatens the safety of our neighborhoods. These rushed investments in the Third Precinct are wasted if community safety is the true goal of the Minneapolis City Council. For meaningful transformation of public safety, which is necessary to protect the lives of Black, Indigenous, and people of color in our city, we need to formulate a new plan for community safety. Prematurely renovating buildings and committing to multiyear leases prior to developing a well-thought-out plan will not only waste resources, it also signals that the city is not committed to the transformation of public safety that we need.
Finally, we are aware that the City Council is considering a compromise plan to invest in the building renovation and lease but include space for community organizations working on transformative justice, violence prevention, and healing. First, we know of no such community organizations who are willing to share a workspace with the police. Second, potential volunteers at such organizations will not volunteer in a building occupied by the police. Third, many people who might make use of the services provided by such organizations will not access them if it requires entering a building shared with the police. We know that the city has millions of dollars to spend on public safety. We urge the council to utilize that money to provide housing, expand access to anti-racist, culturally aware mental health services, and implement alternatives to policing and criminalization. We should not force organizations addressing these needs to accept a co-housing arrangement with the police, which will inhibit their necessary and overdue work.
We oppose any investment in building renovations or lease commitments for the Third Precinct prior to an authentic process of reconciliation, meaningful engagement with the communities who disproportionately suffer from police brutality, and the creation of a new system of community safety for our city.
Sam Taitel is a queer Black resident of Seward, martial arts instructor, and activist. Michele Braley is a Seward resident who has been involved with restorative justice for almost 20 years. Tiger Worku is the vice president of the Seward Neighborhood Group. jim saliba and Alexander Villarraga Delgado also contributed to this commentary. jim saliba is a nine-year resident of Seward and the queer, white/Arab parent of an 11-year-old son who is Black. Alexander Villarraga Delgado is a queer Latinx immigrant, COVID nurse, and transgender healthcare advocate.
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