National report highlights ‘bold’ police reforms in Brooklyn Center

MGN

A month after the April 2021 killing of Daunte Wright by a Brooklyn Center police officer after he was stopped for expired tabs and a hanging air freshener, the city council passed the Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community Safety and Violence Prevention Resolution Act. 

 Included in the new measure was the creation of a new Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, a permanent Community Safety and Violence Prevention Committee, and a civilian oversight committee for the newly created department. Last December, the Brooklyn Center City Council proposed a 2022 budget that would allocate $1.07 million for implementing the aforementioned reforms. 

Brooklyn Center and Ithaca, New York are “two city-specific models” featured in “All Safe: Transforming Public Safety,” a new comprehensive report by People For the American Way (PFAW). The group hopes the report serves as a blueprint for communities to respond to police violence and rising crime, as well as implementing its recommendations on reducing both issues.

Minneapolis was also featured in the report: Nearly 60% of city voters defeated a 2021 charter referendum that would remove the police department and replace it with a department of public safety. “Question 2” on the November 2021 ballot was a political tug of war between city council members who supported it and Mayor Jacob Frey, who was running for reelection and opposed the measure. 

Among the new report’s highlights:  

  • 28% of people killed by police in 2021 were Black; 19% were Latino.
  • Studies found that 90% of 911 calls involve situations that are nonviolent.
  • Police unions in several states have passed “police officer bills of rights” that provide extensive protection for officers who are accused of misconduct.
  • Over-policing is encouraged by police department officials to meet quotas in evaluating officer performance.
  • Police recruitment strategies attract aggressive individuals.

All Safe’s recommendations center around four key areas: restructuring public safety; holding police officers who engage in misconduct accountable; removing officers who are unfit for duty; and recruiting better and more fit officers.

 It also lauded Brooklyn Center’s public safety initiatives along with Ithaca and Berkeley, California as among “the boldest and most expansive reform.”

Highlights from the PFAW’s almost 150-page report were presented during its Big Ideas Summit in Atlanta on June 17-19, which was attended by faith leaders, civil rights advocates, mayors, and elected officials from across the country. Prior to the three-day event, the group held a virtual Black media briefing, which the MSR attended.

People For the American Way Ben Jealous

“The vision here is that you go from a police department to a public safety department” and create two divisions, explained Ben Jealous, People For the American Way president. “Half the officers…will be typical police officers [but] better trained than most you see right now in this country.  

“The other half [will] have modern police work that is actually social work, dealing with the homeless, the drug-addicted, etc…handled by social workers.”

“[This is] the most comprehensive report that we’ve been involved in,” added Dr. Niaz Kasravi, editor-in-chief of All Safe and Avalan Institute founder and director. She stressed that to actually address public safety issues in this country “there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.”

 Jealous continued, “This report we started during the summer George Floyd [was killed].  The report was created by people of color.”

“Being frank,” said Kasravi, “these are [the] most restructuring public safety models and are probably the most promising thing that I have seen in my last two decades of work in this space.”

The MSR asked Jealous to comment on the Minneapolis failed ballot measure—is the term “defund” and “defund the police,” when referring to changing how policing is done in this country, too politicized, misinformed and mischaracterized?

Courtesy of Avalan Institute Dr Kasravi

 “Our communities really do need public safety that works,” Jealous responded. “We’re talking about, frankly, an emphasis on what works for each type of situation that the police currently have to deal with.”

He also told the Black media that in many U.S. cities, such as Minneapolis, the biggest obstacle to police reform lies with police unions. “They’re absolutely [dedicated] to maintaining the status quo,” he pointed out. “In places like Minneapolis, that’s quite dangerous,” he noted, recalling when the Minnesota AFL-CIO called the Minneapolis police union a White Supremacist organization.

“That’s what we’re up against,” Jealous stressed. “The research shows that the police officer most likely to kill you isn’t the one who’s racist [but] somebody’s authoritarian.”

He continued, “I think the most worrisome thing that we’ve seen in American police departments is we’ve been overloaded with people who are authoritarians. We have to be very smart, not just about how to deploy officers but frankly how we recruit them.”

When a reporter asked about having police in schools in light of the recent elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Kasravi said, “The data show that there’s really no difference in terms of safety for schools with police compared to those without police. But it does show that police in schools have a far larger negative impact than anything else…especially for youth of color.”

Just as having more police on the streets means more public safety is a false narrative, Kasravi concluded, “I find there’s no evidence that placing more police in schools will create additional safety.”