MPD chief reaches out to the community
Ms. Birdell Beeks was shot and killed Thursday, May 26, 2016, as she waited in her car with her granddaughter at a stoplight at 21st and Penn Ave. North, sending shock waves throughout the Twin Cities. The Star Tribune (May 29) called Beeks “a force for kindness” and “the latest example of the violence gripping North Minneapolis,” an example of how unchecked violence can hold neighborhoods “hostage” (to use City Council President Barbara Johnson’s term).
The Star Tribune described Beeks as one who gave her soul and life to the Northside community she called home throughout her life. Yet she became another senseless act of violence, caught in someone else’s deadly argument.
Upon hearing of the killing, MPD Police Chief Janeé Harteau immediately rushed back from a law enforcement conference in New York City, quickly convening a meeting of her community response team on May 28. She asked us for advice and specific solution recommendations.
The chief correctly reminded us that the community also has responsibilities to make solution recommendations and to do everything possible to bring an end to the violence in our city, as we work together to bring Minneapolis back to being an enclave of peace and safety.
Groups of younger people trying to make a positive difference with significant suggestions are dismissed by older people, Black and White, fearing funding competition for their ineffectual organizations. So why not fund the willing young people to help turn around the unwilling young people?
An epidemic of shootings and killings is raging in America’s cities. The FBI reports that from January through March 2016, homicides increased nine percent in the largest 63 cities; nonfatal shootings were up 21 percent. Most sobering: Sixty percent of 10 heavily Black cities show murder spikes above 60 percent.
We have long warned in this column of serious danger signs about the future health and welfare of the Twin Cities, as Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan did long ago when he warned that breaking families and neighborhoods apart makes things worse. Black professionals and other middle class Blacks, so urgently needed in our inner cities, are giving up and leaving in what is called “Black flight.” The problem, as one Chicago resident put it, “is not the cops, it’s the people, especially this younger crowd with the guns.”
We need to follow the example of Beeks’ commitment to the peace, tranquilly and safety of our families and community. No person should have their life taken because young people are out of control, showing no regard whatsoever for the lives of others, while older people mostly show regard only for funding for more meetings.
The death of Beeks sadly reminds us of the troubling conditions sweeping across America that cut away foundational supports for important respect for all life, property, safety, and the ideal that every human being’s life matters. This is not the time for more silence. This is not the time for more meetings and plans for meetings. This is not the time for outrage for the sake of outrage.
Rather, this is the time for crafting plans and solutions, as we have pointed out in recent columns (and in over 40 solution suggestions posted on our website). We all need to commit to protecting the most innocent and vulnerable. This is the time to utilize formulas of peace and models of conflict resolution.
Birdell Beeks should be enjoying life with her children, grandchildren and loved ones. She should not be lost to another senseless act of violence. We as a society have lost a precious soul and a force for kindness. How many more lives won’t matter?