Community Action: Demand Leadership From State Law Enforcement Officials
Hello friends and neighbors, I stand in solidarity with those of you grieving the events in Uptown these past two weeks as well as with those of you frustrated at the lack of action by our state leaders. To be sure, there are reforms that must happen in Minneapolis, and I am running to see that these happen -- including the adoption of large-data smart policing systems that would rely on sophisticated analysis to interrupt problems as they begin, more meaningful integration of mental health professionals and community peacemakers, and building out our restorative justice network to grow our alternative models to the traditional penal system. As many of you know from speaking with me, I am also determined to partner with the Justice Department to force the police union into a negotiated court settlement should they not begin to adopt the contract changes needed for community policing and accountability reform. However, the spark that lit our most current fire came from actions by officers working on behalf of a federal task force. This underscores the fact that we have multiple levels of law enforcement at work in our city at all times, and always will. Our top law enforcement officers -- AG Ellison and Commissioner Harrington -- led a working group on deadly encounters with police and issued a roadmap to reform in Feb of 2020 that issued 28 recommendations. It's time for them to pick up this roadmap and get to work. For those of you wondering what you can do, I have drafted a sample letter (with help from several other neighbors) for you to send to our state law enforcement leaders. Please share widely among your friends and neighbors who might find this useful. Contact information for Governor Walz, AG Ellison, and Commissioner Harrington is at the top of the sample letter.
Thank you to everyone who has been in touch with me to share your thoughts and experiences during this current crisis. Together we will see each other through.
Governor Walz (10,000 word limit via website--this letter is under 5,000 words: https://mn.gov/governor/contact/
Attorney General Ellison: email@example.com
Commissioner Harrington (email to executive aid): Lynnaia.Jacobson@state.mn.us
Dear Governor Walz, Commissioner Harrington, and Attorney General Ellison,
As a resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota I am reaching out to you as my state law enforcement leadership regarding the increasingly tense and dangerous atmosphere within the city. I am calling on you to stand up and fulfil your responsibility to ensure the safety of all residents of the state of Minnesota and to immediately act to implement changes that will result in substantive policing reform.
Winston Smith was killed in Uptown Minneapolis on June 3rd by officers as part of a Federal Task Force in the issuance of a warrant for arrest. Regardless of the determination of justification, which is ongoing, Smith’s killing has reinvigorated the urgency of community demands for policing reform in the state of Minnesota. Smith’s death has also further traumatized our already strained communities, and highlighted the still unmet demands for police reform following the murder of George Floyd. While I remain committed to pushing for police reform in the city of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota, I and my fellow city residents are living in what increasingly feels like a battle zone. This is evidenced by the tragic killing of Deona Knajdek on June 13th by the driver who sped into the protestors occupying parts of Uptown, as well as the recurring damage to local businesses. As an area resident who is also aligned with the community demands for policing reform, I recognize that while the the City of Minneapolis needs to do its part, the time is now for state leadership to step up and fulfill their obligations to its citizens.
[Insert any personal experiences with crime or violence that you want to share here, including any personal feelings you may have about what it is like to live in Minneapolis currently.]
Therefore, I am calling on you, my state law enforcement leadership, to stand up and recognize your responsibility to ensure the safety of all residents of the state of Minnesota. Without demonstrative state leadership on these issues, the focus of the conversation has unfortunately moved away from policing reform to the abolition of policing entirely. The abolition of policing is neither viable nor legal in the state of Minnesota. State leaders should be out front on this issue and speaking authentically about the challenges of community public safety and policing as well as presenting state-driven proposals for improvements and reform. In this particularly critical moment, the community needs you to acknowledge the reality of the situation in Minneapolis and to commit to acting swiftly to uphold your sworn duty to protect its citizens when they need you the most.
Furthermore, I am calling on you and the broader state leadership to immediately support and implement the policing reform recommendations made by the 2020 Working Group on Police-Involved Deadly Force Encounters, led by Attorney General Keith Ellison and Commissioner John Harrington (a process that includes law enforcement leadership, criminal justice reform experts, and victims’ families). I am asking you to begin implementing these recommendations today because I stand in solidarity with protestors who are rightfully refusing to accept the conditions of brutality and the over-policing of our communities of color, particularly young Black and Native men. [Insert any statements of solidarity or support for policing reform, including experiences of peacefully protesting.]
Many of the 28 recommendations issued by the working group do not require changes to state statute and can instead be implemented from the state executive branch and the POST Board. For example, there are two items in these recommendations that would directly impact the current situation in our city:
a) the creation of an independent internal investigation unit that specializes in the deadly use of force by law enforcement officers;
b) the creation of a review board that looks at each use of deadly force and determines what if any policy changes could have altered the outcome.
In conclusion, I ask that as my state law enforcement leaders you ensure there is adequate public safety in Minneapolis while moving swiftly to address policing reform using your 2020 roadmap. I stand with you as we return our focus on getting the work done.
[Insert your name and address here]