Activists say present system has ‘failed us’

George Floyd
Photo courtesy of CAIR Activists hold press conference in front of former 3rd Precinct

They demand a complete overhaul of policing

A coalition of anti-police-violence organizations hosted a press conference on June 8 outlining actionable recommendations to address systemic issues within the Minneapolis Police Department in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.

The coalition includes Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), Minnesota’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN), Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, the Racial Justice Network (RJN), Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC), and longtime human rights activist Mel Reeves.

The demands include requiring police officers to carry their own liability insurance; restricting the use of deadly force; ending warrior training; and removing police from mental health and wellness check calls.

There is also a call to dismantle the Office of Police Conduct Review. Since its formation nearly eight years ago, the public has filed more than 2,600 complaints against the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). Only 12 have resulted in disciplinary action. Organizers instead recommend establishing a civilian oversight committee to give the community full control of the police review process.

“We are demanding that politicians enact these commonsense, evidence-based [and] implementable solutions now,” said CUAPB founder Michelle Gross. “They have no further excuses.”

Their demands, they said, are not new; rather, they are largely the same recommendations that have been ignored by elected officials for years. Gross shared the document at a roundtable with Rep. Ilhan Omar and other elected officials just last Thursday.

CUAPB, which was founded over 30 years ago, has long been “trying to raise the alarm bells for the state of Minnesota about the crisis of policing that we have right now [and] that we have always had,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, RJN founder, at the conference.

“All of those elected officials had ample opportunities to do something with the power and the positions that they have, and they have refused to do so up until now, and even then their responses are inadequate,” Levy Armstrong added.

“These are recommendations that should have long been applied,” added Reeves. “We cannot continue with this system as it is. Even in the midst of people protesting police violence, you look all over the country [and] the police are still being violent.”

“They [past elected officials] failed us,” said Gross. “No, they didn’t light the match, but they created the conditions that made people so angry that they took to the streets and they burned down this precinct.

“They created the underlying conditions that led to the death of George Floyd,” continued Gross. “Had they done anything on police accountability, had they disciplined Derek Chauvin in the 19 cases against him, had they address the three other lethal force incidents he had been involved in, he would not have been working in the police force. The blood of George Floyd is on their hands.”

The recommendations represent a “complete overhaul” of the system and require action from all levels of government within the state. This issue of police violence, they said, extends beyond
Floyd’s death.

“Minnesota has an opportunity to lead on true reform,” said Jaylani Hussein, CAIR-MN executive director, adding “band-aid solutions” are no longer acceptable. “The entire system is interconnected,” he said.

“If you talk about the city, you have to talk about the county. If you talk about the county, you have to talk about the state. If you talk about the state, you have to talk about the federal government. That is critical because all of them are protecting each other.”

In addition to the outlined recommendations, the organizations renewed their call to have State Attorney General Keith Ellison remove himself and appoint an independent special prosecutor to oversee the prosecution of the four police officers responsible for Floyd’s death. They also called for Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and his staff to be removed. “We want someone without ties to Minnesota’s law enforcement community,” Levy Armstrong told the MSR.

The protests, they said, will continue until demands are met and the current policing system is changed.

“What you saw happen these past few weeks is only an example of the power of people—and the people have taken back their power,” said Sam Martinez of the TCCJ4J. “Just because the fires have stopped doesn’t mean the fire inside people has stopped burning.”

The press conference came just days after protesters took to the streets this weekend to call for the defunding of police and the Minneapolis City Councilmembers publicly committed to exploring how to do it. While calling for community control, CUAPB’s recommendations stop shy of the same request. Gross previously acknowledged to the MSR that the call is a good sentiment, but she questioned the ability to complete such a task.

“[The city council doesn’t] have the power to do that,” said Gross. “The police are hardwired in our city charter. They are hardwired in state law. They have a requirement to have police [departments] and to have a certain number of police officers.”

But, she said, elected officials have “the power to do everything on this list.”

To view the final list of 44 recommendations, visit www.cuapb.org.