My heart is heavy with grief today along with many of you at this outcome that yet again displays the extent to which persistent systemic racism and White supremacy continue to infect and affect our entire society. I cry for those who care deeply for social justice and for those who demonstrate that daily by putting their lives on the line in service to justice for all.
Last week, we approved a settlement in an unprecedented case that involved a former MPD officer convicted of third-degree murder of a member of our community. This tragedy, as unfortunate as it is, happens far too often in communities of color without the same penchant for accountability and justice.
Public safety and police trust must be our utmost concern. This deeply painful incident has already instituted changes in our police department, beginning with the naming of a new police chief, body-worn cameras, a number of policy changes that we believe will lead to more accountability and more community trust.
The death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond on July 15, 2017 was a tragedy that has left our community with profound pain. We wish her family and friends solace and peace. Events like this have an impact on all of us. This hurts everyone in our community, and we are one community.
The City has reached a settlement of $18 million to be provided to the Ruszczyk family. The settlement was approved by a unanimous vote of the city council.
Additionally, the Ruszczyk family will donate $2 million to the Fund for Safe Communities at the Minneapolis Foundation. The fund is committed to addressing all forms of gun violence, centering on youth and communities most impacted. It was a priority for myself, the entire city council and the mayor that part of the settlement include funds invested to address broader issues of police violence in our communities, which we know disproportionately impacts communities of color.
This settlement, which was approved by the city council on Thursday, came about after two days of mediation of which I personally participated. While I can’t comment on what occurred during the mediation or the settlement conference that followed, I can state that foremost in my mind was getting to a place where our community could begin to heal.
As we move forward, I will continue to place the values of equity, police accountability and economic inclusion at the core of my work to ensure equitable outcomes for every person in Minneapolis. Public safety and police trust must be our top concerns.
The City does not use outside insurance for these types of claims. It will be paid from a self-insurance fund, which is the City’s internal account that covers expenses like workers compensation, general liability claims for vehicle crashes and for claims like the one announced today. This payout is significant and impactful.
In the upcoming months, City finance staff will be working with the mayor and council on the process to rebuild the reserve level over time. The City has been and continues to be fiscally sound in its budgeting and its financial reserves.
As we move forward, I am deeply concerned with the inequities in our city, the challenges that renters are experiencing, the wide gaps in wealth and income as it relates to Blacks and Whites, as well as the incessant police brutality that continues to plague Black and Brown communities.
So, for once, the judicial system worked to hold a police officer accountable and extend justice to a grieving family. All of us must work as hard as we can to ensure that if and when this type of violence happens in our community, that the same type of justice is afforded to Black, Brown and Indigenous families.
Recently, I was the honorary chairperson for the LunaFest fundraiser at The Riverview Theatre for the Minnesota Peacebuilding Institute. As I was preparing my remarks for the evening, I came across this Common Prayer by Shane Claiborne that I think may be of comfort at this moment:
“Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free.”
Andrea Jenkins is the vice president of the Minneapolis City Council.