Community engagement ‘the smart way’ to move ahead
This story continues MSR’s coverage of the online “We Good” forums sponsored by the African American Leadership Forum.
“Defund,” “Dismantle” and “End the MPD” are among the oft-heard cries from police reform proponents. A police reform report released in June by Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) included a lengthy list of recommendations such as community input on police contracts, mandatory psychological testing for police, and an independent agency to handle police misconduct cases.
The Minneapolis City Council last month approved a proposal to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and replace it with a community-led public safety department. They want city voters to weigh in on the proposal in the November general election by agreeing to amend the City Charter.
The Minneapolis Charter Commission is meeting this week on the proposal. Some, including community folk and commission members, are concerned that things might be going too fast, since there is an August 21 deadline for the city council’s proposal to be on the ballot. The commission has less than 40 days to either approve the amendment, propose a new one, reject it, or ask for a 90-day extension.
The city council doesn’t have to abide by the commission’s decision, but they can’t move forward until the group’s review is completed.
“Abolish the police is a long process,” declared City Council Vice-President Andrea Jenkins during the July 1 African American Leadership Forum (AALF) virtual panel discussion. She was among the majority of council members who voted for the MPD dismantle proposal.
“This is not a Minneapolis problem,” Jenkins added, “but with police throughout the country. We need to make systemic change in the way we do public safety in our communities.”
Local attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong pointed out, “People have known for a long time that we needed [police] reform. I’ve been on this for 15 years, and plenty of people have been doing this for longer than I have.”
Levy Armstrong said that things may well be going too fast. “I am not in support of what is happening right now,” saying that more community engagement is needed that has been missing in the reform discussion thus far. “We think that is the smartest way to bring about change, and it allows people to have input into what’s happening.”
The charter commission says at least two public meetings are planned, one on July 15 and a second yet to be determined.
“We are being forced with an artificial timeline,” stressed Levy Armstrong. “Now is not the time to be in a rush.
“I absolutely want to see our police force overhauled,” she added. “I’m all for reimaging… I’m all for overhauling the system, but most importantly, I’m for the right way of doing this.”
Jenkins explained that any changes to the MPD must be approved by the city charter. “The charter actually limits us from making those changes,” she pointed out. “The city council is not determining anything.”
She said that Minneapolis citizens should have a say in not only the council proposal but also in creating a new policing model, which “has to be developed with all the stakeholders.”
Levy Armstrong added that Police Chief Medaria Arradondo must be included in any police reform. “This proposal to essentially push the chief out of a job, knowing he is the first Black chief, that is extremely problematic for me. It is racist from my perspective,” said Levy Armstrong.
“[He] needs to be part of the conversation,” said Jenkins of Arradondo. “Timing is everything. We have to use this moment to ask the community what they want. We must figure out how to keep our community safe.”
Both panelists said they want the same thing in regards to police reform. “All of us care about the well-being of our community,” said Levy Armstrong. “Everybody in our community has to have a voice on what our new public safety looks like,” said Jenkins.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.