Public Safety & Police Reform
The Mayor of Minneapolis has sole responsibility for the city's police department. As such, public safety and police reform must be a top priority for the Mayor every day and not just after a community tragedy, uptick in violent crime, or the Justice Department make it a political necessity.
Over the past four years, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) has experienced a crisis of leadership from the Mayor's office that has resulted in some of the worst community-police relations the City has experienced to-date and, concurrently, a significant increase in violent crime and gun violence, with shootings more than doubling between 2014 and 2016.
Public safety and police reform do not compete with one another. Quite the opposite, they are mutually reliant. Policing is most effective when law enforcement, local partners, and community members share knowledge and collaborate on solutions. Such engagements, however, require that partners and community member trust and believe in the legitimacy of law enforcement. Building a police force imbued with these values, in turn, requires a commitment to and strategy for organizational and cultural transformation within the MPD, spanning from the Chief's office to the streets and across all department policies and practices including supervisory, operational, and oversight functions.
Public Safety & Policing is the Mayor's Job
No one is more accountable for the successes and failures of the MPD than the Mayor. Having "complete power" over the police department is more than a ceremonial distinction--it is a duty that carries with it executive and administrative responsibilities which I believe should include:
- Representing residents' interests and values. The Mayor should serve as the link between the public and the MPD, representing the needs and perspectives of the people in the administration and oversight of policing. As such, the Mayor should open meaningful opportunities for public deliberations around policing and community needs.
- Setting the strategic direction. The Mayor should provide a clear vision and framework that establishes City and MPD goals and objectives, sets priorities, defines what success looks like, and identifies big questions and grand challenges that must be addressed.
- Leading strategic management. Neither the causes nor symptoms of crime can be solved through policing alone. Virtually all public services--housing, employment, education, transportation, health (especially mental health), and others--contribute to demand for policing, both positive and negative. The Mayor should be responsible for improving the coordination of public service investments and efforts across city departments to maximize effectiveness, minimize duplication, and best allocate resources (especially because the Mayor is also responsible for the City's budget).
- Facilitating structured engagements. Local communities, businesses, and non-profit organizations are all sources of knowledge, insights, and tools for preventing and controlling crime. Engaging with local partners, including the Downtown Improvement District and Minneapolis Downtown Council, is the best way for MPD to augment policing capacity and resolve crime without the need for arrests. The Mayor should exercise leadership in facilitating the systematic mapping of stakeholder relationships and develop a structured plan and timeline for engagement.
- Focusing on implementation. We've seen over the last 4 years that reforms and policies are of no consequence if poorly implemented. For example, requiring that police wear body cameras does little if there is no requirement that those cameras be turned on. The Mayor must ensure that public safety and police reform efforts are well-designed and robust; implemented with sufficient resources, training, and oversight; and audited on an on-going basis.
These are the responsibilities for which I will be accountable as Mayor of Minneapolis.
Policing Reforms & Improvements
- Implement an enhanced beat cop system. To be more than just a catchphrase, community policing requires a restructuring of when, how, and by whom policing decisions are made. Playing pickup basketball with the neighborhood kids is not sufficient to build trust and partnership between police officers and communities if those officers are bound by top-down protocols that interfere with their ability to tailor their public safety and law enforcement approach to the unique circumstances, issues, and people of a given neighborhood. Assigning an officer to patrol a particular beat is not the same as empowering that officer to organize and represent that beat through developing relationships with its residents, businesses, and visitors. Policing works best when officers are as invested in their beat as those who live and work there. I support assigning officers beats that are narrower and that are consistently at the same time and in the same place. I want residents and local businesses to know, for example, that their police officer on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from 4 to 10 PM is Officer Jill, as well as where to find her and maybe even what her number is. I want residents and businesses to develop relationships with the officers that serve them. In addition to assigning officers to specific neighborhoods and blocks, police policy and practice should enable those officers the discretion to work with residents and businesses to identify when, where, and what type of policing activity is best suited to addressing specific problems and problem areas. What works on Hennepin Ave. downtown may be different than what is needed in Loring Park.
- Increase the number of officers living in Minneapolis. Currently, only about 8% of MPD's officers live in Minneapolis. Living in Minneapolis enhances officers' relationships with the people and communities they serve and gives them a vested interest in policing and public safety outcomes. I support incentivizing officers to live in the city. One way to do this is by working with area landlords to obtain reasonable rent reductions for tenants who are MPD officers. The landlord benefits because they have an officer on the premises, the officer benefits with a break in rent, and the city benefits because we officers that live in and care about our communities.
- Implement standards of accountability and peer intervention. MPD should provide training for and implement policy to require that all officers intervene when observing a fellow officer engaging or about to engage in misconduct, abuse, or other unethical behavior. Officers who retaliate against colleagues who report such behavior should be disciplined and charged.
- Implement comprehensive use-of-force reforms. We must implement the use-of-force reforms that the MPD rejected and that Mayor Hodges declined to implement less than a month before Justine Damond was shot, including requiring officers to exhaust reasonable alternatives before the use of deadly force is a permissible option, deterring officers from shooting at moving vehicles, and holding officers accountable for taking actions that unnecessarily place themselves, suspects, or bystanders in deadly force situations. Use-of-force policy violations must be met with strong disciplinary action, including dismissal, when warranted.
- Reform de-escalation and implicit bias trainings. Currently, officers complete a one-off seminar at the start of their careers. These trainings should instead take place continuously throughout their time on the force.
- Expand crisis intervention training. I will commit to finding funding to achieve the goal of having 100% of MPD officers trained in crisis intervention with additional funding for CIT refresher courses.
- Strengthen body camera policies. Body cameras only work if they are turned on. The city should amend its policies to require that body cameras be activated earlier and remain activated longer. We should also institute a rebuttable presumption of misconduct for failure to turn on a body camera when required.
- Implement standardized mental health services and support for officers. MPD should provide direct outreach, resources, and support for officers to obtain mental health evaluations, treatment, and care in a discreet and confidential manner.
- Provide training to improve police interactions with transgender individuals. Transgender Minneapolitans are arrested at a rate disproportionate to their share of the population, a disparity that is further compounded for trans people of color. When interacting with police, transgender people are frequently subjected to misgendering, profiled as sex workers, or otherwise subject to bias. As Mayor, I will improve and expand the trainings that teach our police how to treat transgender people with respect and how to recognize their own implicit biases towards LGBTQIA individuals.
- Make police stations a hub for community activity, not a fortress against it. Rather than fortify police stations against perceived threats from their surrounding communities, future investments in building, updating, or replacing police stations should require the integration of community spaces and amenities such as rooms where residents can hold neighborhood meetings and green space where they can recreate. As a public facility, a police station should invite the type of interaction that the police seek to have with their community.
- Convert vacant lots into green space, parklets, or multi-use public spaces. Vacant lots are frequently used to hide and transfer illegal guns and often become hot-spots for loitering. Converting them into spaces with great foot traffic and public use reduces the opportunity for such activities.
- Improve night time illumination in high-crime areas. The city should partner with housing developments and businesses to improve lighting on both municipal and private properties.
- Improve MPD protocols for evidence collection, especially for crimes involving guns. Ensuring the integrity of evidence collection enables convictions for serious gun crimes to stick and helps remove illegal guns from the streets.
- Improve identification and tracking of illegally owned guns. Violent crimes are very often committed using illegally obtained guns, the majority of which come from a small number of sources. Identifying those sources can both help shut down the flow of illegal guns and track down illegal guns already in circulation.
- Develop a public-private network of security cameras. MPD should work with local businesses to develop and implement a memorandum of understanding and related policy to link together public and private security cameras into a network that can be accessed by law enforcement during emergencies.
- Create municipal summer employment for at-risk youth. The city should collaborate with the Parks Board, Hennepin County, and other units of government to provide these targeted opportunities.
- Train and deploy street outreach workers to deescalate conflicts and fights before they turn violent.
- Stagger bar closing times to reduce rush of crowds emptying onto the streets.
- Incorporate additional valet zones, cab stands, and ride-share pickup areas outside of bars and nightclubs to aid egress from crowds at bar close.
- Address public safety as an urban planning issue. There is an important overlap between public safety, policing, and virtually all other aspects of urban life and the ability of city residents to thrive—housing, employment, education, health, economic investment, municipal funding and services, community development and strength, and more. The largest contributing factors to crime are lack of affordable housing, livable wages, walkable streets, adequate green space, and other fundamental necessities that are principal responsibilities of municipal government and urban planning to provide. Concurrently, decades of excessive policing targeted disproportionately at low-income communities of color has persistently eroded the livability of these communities, devastated their property values, and driven out their local businesses. Police reform and safety are necessary, but not sufficient to restore these communities. Municipal decision-making about land use, zoning, growth and density, affordable housing, transportation and transit, energy and environmental planning, and economic development must also be reformed such that enhancing public safety by eliminating contributing factors for its need is always a critical objective.
- Steer urban improvements toward high-crime areas of downtown, not away. Density, walkability, adequate street lighting, and even landscaping are all elements of urban design that have been empirically shown to reduce crime both by reducing the opportunity to engage in criminal activity and by increasing the enjoyment and pride that residents take in inhabiting the space and reducing their willingness to vandalize it. To read more ideas for addressing crime in downtown Minneapolis, refer to my Eight-and-a-Half Block Plan.
- Restore funding for Crime Prevention Specialists. Several years ago, Minneapolis drastically cut funding for Crime Prevention Specialists that work with neighborhoods to develop local strategies for preventing violent crime, sex trafficking, and robberies. While there have been several opportunities to restore funding for crime prevention specialists in the Mayor's budget, it has not happened. A reactionary approach to crime is more costly than prevention both in terms of financial burdens on the city and, more importantly, irreparable harm to victims, communities, businesses, and, also, perpetrators. Restoring funding for crime-prevention specialists must be a top priority.
- Implement substantial bail reform. Nearly 34% of Americans who are charged with crimes have their time in jail unjustly prolonged simply because they can't afford to pay their bail. This damages livelihoods, families, and perpetuates the cycle of poverty and community displacement that pushes people back into the criminal justice system and denies them the second chance they deserve. City resources should be used to support victims of Hennepin County's out-dated and overly punitive bail system. Minneapolis should offer funding and technical support to organizations like Minnesota Freedom Fund, which pays the bail bond for those who cannot afford to do so. We should also develop a program to connect Minneapolitans subject to bail they can't afford to free or affordable legal counsel.
- Restore justice around the decriminalization of marijuana. While marijuana use among white and black populations is roughly the same, black men have been 5 to 10 times more likely to be arrested and convicted for possession. These disparities exacerbate the equity gap by leaving people of color with criminal records that can disqualify them for jobs, loans, housing, and benefits. In 2016, I sponsored an ordinance that decriminalized marijuana possession. As Mayor, I will advocate for providing resources to help residents of color with prior criminal convictions for possession pursue expungements.
- Increase funding to support needs of youth returning from incarceration. Minneapolis should be using some of its public safety budget to fund after-school programming and trauma-focused mental health therapy for our adolescent school-based clinics for kids coming out of the juvenile justice system.