By Tim Cushing
We can disagree (vehemently and at length) about the most effective means of societal change. But we’ve seen a blend of tactics that no one unanimously agrees are helpful or harmful, but are still pushing legislators and other government officials towards meaningful change.
Maybe we’ll never fully understand what motivates society as a whole. (And yet we live in one.) Let’s celebrate the steps forward — especially one that have occurred despite certain government officials (including our President) declaring almost any anti-government action to be stupid, criminal, and useless.
No one asked for cops in schools. At least, very few students did. Maybe some parents did. To be sure, a whole lot of school administrators did because it meant they could offload every disciplinary problem — no matter how small — to cops trained to handle serious criminal acts rather than underage acts of defiance. It made things easier for administrators who used this void they’d created in their own responsibility to enact a number of “zero tolerance” policies that relieved them of the pressure of using common sense and restraint when dealing with troublesome students. The end result was objectively awful.
Now, with law enforcement agencies having proven themselves objectively awful by badly reacting to a cop-created problem, Minnesota schools are deciding to kick cops to the curb.
The city’s public school board unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday night that will end the district’s contract with the Minneapolis police department to use officers to provide school security. The Minneapolis superintendent said he would begin work on an alternative plan to keep the district’s more than 35,000 students safe in the coming school year.
“We cannot continue to be in partnership with an organization that has the culture of violence and racism that the Minneapolis police department has historically demonstrated,” Nelson Inz, one of the school board members, said. “We have to stand in solidarity with our black students.”
Hopefully this will spring a sizable leak in the school-to-prison pipeline, allowing the tax dollars no longer required for the receiving end to be routed to the future of America and those tasked with teaching them.
But it’s not just minors being protected from cops. It’s also a number of adults.
In a statement Wednesday evening, University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel announced changes in the school’s relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department.
U of M will no longer contract with MPD for additional law enforcement support needed for large events. This includes football games.
The school will also no longer use MPD for specialized services such as K-9 Explosive detection units.
As extraneous cop opportunities dry up, so should their funding. This will make it easier for legislators to remove police from situations where their dubious expertise has done more to harm than to help. What used to be just a libertarian fever dream is now a few steps closer to reality. Members of the Minneapolis City Council are actually considering at least a partial dismantling of the city’s police force.
Several members of the Minneapolis City Council this week have expressed support for drastic overhauls to the way the city handles law enforcement, ranging from calls to defund the department, to suggestions that social workers, medics or mental health professionals should be sent to some calls currently handled by police.
Council member Jeremiah Ellison, son of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison — who is leading the case against the officers involved in Floyd’s death — took a more radical approach.
“We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department. And when we’re done, we’re not simply gonna glue it back together. We are going to dramatically rethink how we approach public safety and emergency response. It’s really past due,” Ellison wrote on Twitter Thursday.
Council President Lisa Bender joined Ellison’s call to dismantle the department.
“We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety,” Bender wrote on Twitter Thursday.
The police likely won’t be disbanded, no matter who’s vowing to do what. And the Council — at this point – isn’t threatening to deprive the PD of its funding until it gets its problems sorted out. But the state’s Department of Human Rights has sued the PD, demanding a host of changes and a partial blockade on certain enforcement activities until the PD agrees to its demands for increased accountability. This is nothing new for the Minneapolis PD, which was hit with similar demands by the DOJ back in 2003. It appears the federal effort didn’t actually result in better officers so more drastic reforms are in the works.
While legislators may not be able to dismantle the PD and rebuild it from the ground up, they are taking steps to steer cops away from situations they’ve proven they can’t handle, like welfare checks and calls relating to mental health issues. Too often when cops are faced with situations they don’t completely comprehend, they respond with force, mostly of the “deadly” variety. If these reforms are pushed through, calls like these will turn EMS units and mental health professionals into first responders, giving these at-risk residents a better chance of surviving their encounter with the government.
Things are changing. This is good news. But let’s not be dismissive of all the bad news that led us to this point — including demonstrations (violent and otherwise) that demonstrated law enforcement’s inability to properly serve the public they owe their jobs to.