Minneapolis fails to defund police

September 27, 2020 • 1:30 pm

When a person or group cries “Defund the police!”, it could mean several things:

1.) Completely eliminate the budget of the police department, and hence the department itself. This is the demand that the University of Chicago’s #CareNotCops group makes for our campus police, saying they want the University Police gone by 2022.  For a case like this, the police department (PD) isn’t supposed to be replaced with another law-enforcement organization.

2.) Reduce the police budget, spending the extra money either on social-service programs or grants given to minority or crime-ridden communities.

3.) Change the method of policing, for example eliminating no-knock warrants or chokeholds.

4.) Supplement police services with social services, like having psychologists or psychiatric social workers respond to calls instead of the cops. That’s not practical, but some places have “ride along” programs where social workers go to relevant calls (domestic violence, child endangerment) with police. Other places have services in which cops refer people to social workers or other helpers after the police visit, and in still in other places police get social-work and psychological training.  Many people who argue for this don’t realize that this is already a practice in some places.

After the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, according to the New York Times article below, the Minneapolis city council voted to defund the city police department. I believe the text of the amendment is here, and does call for “the removal of the Police Department as a Charter Department.” The motion was passed by a majority of the Council, with some dissent, but what happened afterwards shows that such votes aren’t necessarily a good idea.

Click on screenshot to read:

First of all, options 1) and 2) above are generally bad moves, especially if you want to completely get rid of the police department, either replacing it with some kind of “community policing” (i.e., mob rule and possees) or getting rid of it entirely with no replacement. Both of these are boneheaded and disasterous moves.

But in Minneapolis the city council doesn’t even have the ability to get rid of the police department, so their resolution was toothless. Also, most of the citizens don’t want the police to be cut. A few quotes from the article:

In interviews this month, about two dozen elected officials, protesters and community leaders described how the City Council members’ pledge to “end policing as we know it” — a mantra to meet the city’s pain — became a case study in how quickly political winds can shift, and what happens when idealistic efforts at structural change meet the legislative process and public opposition.

The pledge is now no closer to becoming policy, with fewer vocal champions than ever. It has been rejected by the city’s mayor, a plurality of residents in recent public opinion polls, and an increasing number of community groups. Taking its place have been the types of incremental reforms that the city’s progressive politicians had denounced.

And of course the “defund the police” mantra plays right into the hands of the Republicans, for if most Americans want anything, it’s to feel that they’re safe, and cutting back on cops is not the way to do that. Perhaps if the “defunders” were more specific in what they wanted, they wouldn’t be energizing the Right so much.

At any rate, all Minneapolis has done so far is to ban chokeholds (a very good move) and “changed reporting measures for the use of force since Mr. Floyd’s killing.”

It’s striking that minorities, whom this issue is supposed to help, often object to “defunding”. (The “charter commission”  described below is a group of citizens, appointed by a judge, to consider the legal and technical ramifications of amendments like the above before they go to voters for approval.):

As the commission weighed its options, evidence mounted that the public wanted police reform, but did not support the actions of councilors or share the aims of influential activists. A poll from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune found that a plurality of residents, including 50 percent of Black people, opposed reducing the size of the police department. Councilors said they repeatedly heard criticism from business owners and residents in more affluent areas of their wards who feared for their safety, as misinformation spread that the end of the police department was imminent.

In the charter commission, however, city councilors and their activist supporters found a common enemy.

“A majority-white, unelected board of people can’t decide that they knew better than the community,” said Miski Noor, the Black Visions organizer.

The charter commission voted down the “defunding” amendment 10-5, so it won’t be on the ballot this November.

The lessons here are threefold:

First, specify exactly what you mean when you say “defund the police”. If you envision a substitute kind of police, you need to specify what form. If you are vague about that, just shut up.

Second, consider the wishes of the community. They may not WANT less policing (if that’s what you intend by “defunding”). Here the “white savior” trope can be very real.

Third, consider the consequences. Reduced policing leads to increased crime, and, as one site reports, it already has in Minneapolis—not because the police were defunded, but probably because of “reduced policing”.

“…Just months after leading an effort that would have defunded the police department, City Council members at Tuesday’s work session pushed chief Medaria Arradondo to tell them how the department is responding to the violence…More people have been killed in the city in the first nine months of 2020 than were slain in all of last year. Property crimes, like burglaries and auto thefts, are also up. Incidents of arson have increased 55 percent over the total at this point in 2019.”

Bear in mind this is coming after just a few months of reduced policing, due in part to extra demands and difficulty and probably in part due to police pulling back either out of fear or reluctance (blue flu) as also happened in Baltimore after the Freddie Gray killing and consequent protests and riots.

Of course the police aren’t perfect, and they (and the law) need some serious reform, including more training in nonviolent intervention, making it illegal to shoot fleeing weaponless suspects, reducing the penalties for victimless crimes like drug use, having more programs that have police learn from social workers and psychologists, and so on. And of course more gun control would be immensely useful in reducing crime, but in America these days that is but a pipe dream.

But defunding as the first option? I don’t think so. We need better policing, not fewer police.

h/t: Enrico

18 thoughts on “Minneapolis fails to defund police

  1. In a white community (Minnesota) the politicians panic very quickly when problems of race come up. The city council has no authority to do something so they go ahead and do something. It should be called the feast or famine council. Be sure they will take action regardless.

        1. I watched the debate between the Virginia Senate candidates yesterday. Both White. There was a question on race relations. When one of the candidates was asked about discussing relations with the Black community he responded that it is hard to talk to people when they has a rock in their hand. (Or words to that effect.) The part about the rock? Yeah. He said that in his first comment. No body had said anything about rioting, etc.

          I understand the question was about Minneapolis. NotRichmond, or Kenosha, or Louisville, or Atlanta, or Los Angeles, or New York.

          Everybody is on edge about defunding police. The conservative folks think it is a bad idea, and it is. The Liberals want to reduce funding to police departments and create some better means of addressing community needs.

          But we need to back up a few steps. What was going on in Minneapolis on May 24, 2020? How many of ‘those people’ were protesting? (‘Those people’ means, those Blsck people.)

          None until May 25.

          If we would address the cause, the effect will self correct.

          The cause is that White men write the laws that keep the Black community oppressed, socially, financially, and economically.

          White folks have this lie they hide behind called ‘equal justice under the law’, all men are created equal by the same God. In His own image.

          George Floyd is just one soul in the long history of the White slavers. Everything in our world has changed except the spirit of the slaveholders. The Blacks must be subdued and held in subjection to White society. Just one more uppity Black man, George Floyd.

          Once the streets are clear, the smoke, fire and broken glass are gone, White community returns to their commerce, schools and churches, and fine neighborhoods.

          I see a thing that bothers me: Black people worship the same God who sets the White man up as his taskmaster.

        2. Note to self: do all your editing before you hit send/enter.

          It would be good if we could talk before we start picking up rocks and pulling out guns. Deadly force shoul not be the first option.

          “I feared for my life.”
          No matter how many unarmed people are killed, whether child or old man/woman.

          When the union leader of the police department has more power than elected officials, we have a problem.

  2. The best thing would be to decriminalise soft drugs and abolish the draconian sentences that seem to be awarded for relatively minor offences. It is not difficult to conceive that someone facing 20 years incarceration might be tempted to shoot to avoid arrest, and the police knowing this will be tempted to shoot first.

    1. NO!
      Decriminalize ALL drugs – “hard” and “soft”.
      The biggest problem we have in our society is the (medically unnecessary and counter-productive) prohibition of drugs. NOT the drugs themselves.

      Opiates, for instance, are about the safest drugs in the pharmacopeia when used correctly (the deaths come because they CAN”T be used correctly in an illegal setting with prohibition). Our system is ass-backwards.

      Cocaine/stimulants: Not the best idea for your health for sure, but so much more dangerous when used ILLEGALLY. Plus the crime attendant to them BECAUSE of their prohibition.

      All of the above are only 5% more addictive than alcohol. Which we tolerate and regulate.

      Psychedelics: are harmless, non toxic, non addictive, not carcinogenic or tetratogenetic. And are even therapeutic.

      I’m not a doctor – I dropped out of medical school after 2 years, but my research, career and experience tell me it is the prohibition that is the problem.

      The problem is voters don’t understand medicine or law so we continue with this evil, racist and counter-productive WoD.
      The 1920s prohibition of alcohol taught us NOTHING!
      AND we inflict our stupid policies on other countries – ruining them.

      I’ve been researching illegal drug use for 30 years: I write articles about it and have defended people in court and Drug Court in NYC as an attorney – people whose lives have been wrecked by the WoD.

      D.A., J.D., NYC

  3. I used to be a resident of the actual city of Rochester, NY–ever heard of it? And my wife and I hope again to be residents in the near future (in a ‘burb, now). Here’s my point: I hope beyond hope for a Rochester version of Camden, NJ., when we move back to the city. That, I think, is the future of police in an urban area.

  4. The sub-title of the article uses “idealistic” when it should just say “unrealistic.” Having called for the destruction of policing, the city council last week put the chief of police on the hot seat for police unresponsiveness.

  5. Do other countries have campus police ? It’s only when I moved to the US that I learned that such things exist, and I found it quite shocking. In France where I grew up, a university campus is off limit for law enforcement. A police officer needs formal invitation by university authorities to be authorized to enter the campus. Do you have library police ? Church police ? Workplace police ? So why would you need a campus police ? Are students not there to study ?

  6. Succinct and honest, Jerry, as always.
    I don’t know how to express my frustration to see people I know, love and literally marched against crime with – Don Samuels (I worked on his campaign), Brian Herron, Lisa Clemons, all of North Minneapolis – along with Council Member Lisa Goodman, who has her head on straight, lament on the nightly news about this folly to change the charter and how Clemons especially has been passed over by the Council to take over properties “for the public good” when she has been trying to build a shelter for single mothers at that real estate.
    It’s so hard to have truly difficult conversations (as opposed to the easy “difficult conversations”) with other people I love and respect when I see how wrong this has gone, how neighbors and friends are being interviewed by the NYT about how conflicted they are 1) not wanting to call the police and 2)having an encampment (now gone) in Powerderhorn Park, and how certain parts of Minneapolis looks like Mad Max.
    All I can do is kick in money, tell people I care, and hope for the best.
    It’s so hard.

  7. From my experience, many liberals completely fail to grasp why initiatives like defunding the police will increase crime even before they are implemented. They put that down to the malice of police officers and shriek at any suggestion that it is normal or acceptable for police officers to adjust their behavior to incentives.

  8. You’re right to point out that minorities are against defunding police by large margins. They are among the hardest hit and the most scared by the antifa/BLM rioting, so they’re very much in the “law and order” column. That’s one reason Trump’s approval rating among minorities has been trending higher for several months, adding quite a bit to the upward creep in his overall national approval. Another reason is that many minorities do manual or service jobs and can’t afford to sit at home in the pandemic, so they’ll favor the Republican “back to work” stance versus the Democrats’ “indefinite lockdown.” The Democrats have also defined themselves as the “Black Lives Matter” identity politics party. But most minorities are not black and are not afflicted with “white guilt” about slavery. Many of them will be more attracted to the “we are one nation, one family” position that Trump is banging out in every single campaign speech. For more see here: https://naimisha_forest.silvrback.com/more-on-law-and-order-minorities

    1. Trump’s inactivity during the worst nationwide riots in decades cannot have endeared him to voters. Most of them are not journalists who are appalled at any suggestion to suppress these “largely peaceful” protests. On the other hand, Biden’s campaign team has been reluctant to criticize them and promised less violence if Trump is voted out of office, which sounds like extortion.

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