​Community control over police is the way forward

MGN MPD Chief Medaria Arrando

The murder of Amir Locke is the consequence of decades of City officials passing on the problem of police violence and racial profiling—which is endemic within the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD)—to the next mayor and city council.   

Since 1979, the City of Minneapolis has been governed by the Democratic Farmer-Labor party (DFL), so the blame falls squarely on its party officials. The decades of ineffective reforms, including those under Mayor Jacob Frey, beg the question: Can the MPD be reformed?  

As in past years, the newly elected Minneapolis City Council is DFL-controlled. It should not be allowed to pass the buck to the mayor. Downtown business leaders and the city’s DFL state legislators should also not get a pass. 

City and State officials are attempting to cast Amir Locke’s murder as a debate about no-knock warrants. If they succeed in hiding behind protocols and legalities, Minneapolis will once again find itself waiting for the next death at the hands of police—deaths that disproportionately fall on communities of color.  

The killing of Locke exhibited, once again, policing practices that show a callous disregard for public safety. The militarist SWAT team protocols of the MPD have no place in our city. 

 Public pressure and protests are the only means to force the council and mayor to act. Thus, Minneapolis residents, city council members, downtown business leaders, and state legislators should join in making the following demands: 

  1. Demand the mayor immediately fire MPD officer Mark Hanneman, who shot and killed Amir, and fire Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman. Her actions in the days following the murder are patterned after the lies, excuses and rationalizations our city has heard over and over. 
  2. Pass a resolution calling on Frey to fire all officers who have killed the unarmed. Like Chauvin, they are a danger to our community. It is disgraceful that they are still on the force. This would send a firm message to the Minneapolis Police Federation that the council will no longer tolerate the Federation protecting officers unfit to police our communities.  
  3. Support the establishment of a representative, community-led citizens review of all MPD officers’ records to determine their fitness to serve our communities.  
  4. Demand that all cases of police killings be reopened. 

Traditional policing practices and protocols have not created safe communities. In recent years, community organizations and activists have proposed a litany of constructive proposals that fall under the idea of “safety beyond policing.” 

However, current and past City administrations have only given lip service to their recommendations. Let us hope that discussions of the working group on police reform appointed by Frey in late 2021 will result in effective action to both make our communities safer and end the brutality and misconduct by the MPD we witness.  

This writer has long supported community control of the police, a demand that arose in Black communities during the 1960s that calls for democratic oversight of law enforcement. Currently, People of Color, who pay taxes to hire the officers that patrol their communities, are not safe from the officers the city hires.  

The City of Minneapolis has nearly 800 officers, yet only a handful live within the city. Most live in the suburbs and come into the city to patrol our neighborhoods. No matter how much training these officers have, even well-intentioned officers cannot possibly know enough about Black, Brown, Asian, or Native American neighborhoods to create trusting relationships. 

Therefore, one of the central demands of community control is that the police are vetted by the community they serve and that they live in the city, and preferably the community, they are going to work in. 

This vetting process would apply not only to licensed officers authorized to carry firearms, but also social workers, mental health providers, and youth organizers. 

The extension of democratic community control over police offers a way forward. It may not be possible to win in the near term; however, between now and that possible future, the vetting of police officers and public safety personnel by the communities they serve is long overdue.

Wayne Nealis is a resident of Minneapolis.