Medcalf: Minneapolis election result looks like start, not end, of fight for police reform


On Tuesday night, the social media buzz surrounding the Minneapolis charter amendment vote that would have replaced the current police structure with a Department of Public Safety resembled the chaos that is common on Sundays during the NFL season.

Gossip on both sides of the issue suggested that the result – around 56% of votes were against the measure that would also have removed a minimum staffing requirement for police officers – would give a clear winner.

But I wonder: has anyone really won?

Mayor Jacob Frey and the local police believe they won, it seems. But the world views their city as a murder scene, and the results of an ongoing federal investigation could reveal systemic problems and additional misconduct within the police department.

It is also important to consider if anyone lost on Tuesday. If the pursuit of police reform is the collective aspiration, then Tuesday should be described as a catalyst for a community that demands more of the police in the town where George Floyd was assassinated.

Some of the city’s residents, concerned about police efforts to tackle crime in Minneapolis’ most violent pockets and pledge to end brutality against unarmed blacks, told police a vote of no confidence on Tuesday.

They also promised to continue their fight.

That’s why Tuesday appears to be the beginning, not the end, of a movement that will persist long after the election. The hard work continues. It must.

“I absolutely wouldn’t call it a loss,” said JaNae ‘Bates, communications director for Yes 4 Minneapolis, which supported the amendment. “I have been in electoral politics for quite some time, and while this is definitely a zero-sum game when it comes to elections, the reality is that this campaign has spent over a year making some really dramatic changes in the way people think about police and public safety, namely that we don’t confuse the two as often as we used to and recognize that public safety and police are not one and the same. frankly.”

To ignore this point of view is to reject the diverse push to create systemic change and avert another tragedy. Tuesday’s vote offered validation to those who believe that structural upheaval is the only path to real reform.

However, people from all walks of life have questioned the validity of the Department of Public Safety’s vision and longed for more definitive answers about its structure. The concept is full of unknowns and this has affected the level of support for the initiative. But the modern font is also a concept widely accepted as irreplaceable and historically resistant to alternative models.

“It’s a conversation reset,” said DA Bullock, filmmaker and activist for Reclaim the Block, who messaged his 14,000 followers on Twitter in support of the amendment. “We’ve come this far, and a lot of good information has come out about the boundaries of the Minneapolis Police Department that we really need to look at as a community. We have to take into account that we never really got high – Quality public safety in North Minneapolis, regardless of staffing level. For me, this is the part where we have to be like, “What are we doing about this?”

Other industries lack the security policing that it has always enjoyed, despite its documented calamity.

After the TWA Flight 800 crash in 1996 in Long Island, New York, after a fuel tank exploded and the 230 people on board died, commercial aircraft were redesigned to avoid similar disasters in flight. Our grocery stores are removing food from our shelves for a handful of cases of Salmonella tied to bags of spinach. Automakers are en masse recalling vehicles for minor faults in seat belts or air bags that could leave drivers vulnerable.

We are actually quite reactive, radical and demanding when we believe that our security has been compromised, even if this condition is the result of a mistake. Why are the police, anchored by officers trained to protect and serve, any different?

I don’t think anyone has all the answers on police reform, but I hope that no matter how people voted on Tuesday they will stay engaged.

Each year, Phil Stinson, professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University, tracks 1,100 to 1,300 police arrests across the country for unlawful homicides, drunk driving, sex crimes and other acts. Stinson, a former police officer, said he wondered if law enforcement could be reformed without changing specific behaviors and biases that disproportionately impact people of color.

But the months and years ahead in Minneapolis, he said, could serve as a roadmap for other municipalities that may aim to reimagine the police.

“There is no winner as a result of Tuesday’s vote, in my opinion,” he said. “People on all sides of these problems need to go back and find solutions. What we need to do is figure out, for the next one to three generations, what do we want the police to look like? That’s just the start. If nothing else, that started the dialogue. And that’s really important. “

In the aftermath of Floyd’s murder last year, many Minneapolis residents have said they want to see monumental changes in local policing. They walked for the changes. They posted signs on their lawns to support them. They also shared posts on Facebook about the issues.

However, it is still unclear whether these efforts were genuine.

Myron Medcalf is a local columnist for the Star Tribune and a national writer and radio host for ESPN. His column appears in print on Sundays twice a month and also online.

[email protected]

Twitter: @MedcalfByESPN


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