More Police Can Prevent Violent Crime And We Can Stop Over-Policing
Another child has been shot and killed in our city. This time a 12-year-old whose first day of 6th grade would be his last. These senseless acts are a form of terror and they are most impacting North Minneapolis, where a majority of our city residents are from historically marginalized communities. My heart goes out to the friends and family of London Bean. As someone trained in restorative justice facilitation, I know these acts of violence impact the entire community. The community of people suffering right now deserve much more than thoughts and prayers. Their screams deserve to be heard. Their pleas to invest in police staffing levels that keep them safe deserve to be acted upon. Their communities deserve to be invested in beyond policing too.
There are two truths: we need police and we need to reform policing. We cannot create the transformations we need by defunding or abolishing the police.
While the families and victims of violent crime call for more police, there are others who question whether police can really prevent this kind of violence. I respect the impulse to question assumptions so I decided to look into this. I'm grateful for the social science researchers who are questioning assumptions, too.
In May of this year an interdisciplinary group of researchers working in four separate universities across the country published their findings based on analysis they conducted on police staffing and spending in 244 cities over 38 years. A brief summary of their findings can be found at this link.
They found that more police do prevent crimes, particularly for violent crimes and crimes like robbery and car theft. In fact, they found that more police officers not only saved lives, they saved more Black lives in particular.
The crucial thing to point out is that having more police has also led to more over-policing of "quality-of-life" offenses (crimes without a clear victim-target), and this results in many more arrests of Black people (as well as their eventual imprisonment). I want to acknowledge and underscore that the pain and suffering caused by this over-policing has resulted in many distrusting those meant to protect them, and has contributed to the continued marginalization of these communities.
The researchers concluded that there are strategies to maintain a relatively high police presence (to save lives) while maintaining a relatively more relaxed approach to minor crimes that could address these racial disparities. Specifically, they suggest less emphasis on arrests for drug possession, recruiting more Black and female police officers, and "precision policing" to target gun violence. The good news is that many of these strategies are already underway by our relatively new chief, and more are being pursued right now—including a project led by Deputy Chief Amelia Huffman who is in the process of hiring nearly a third of our force. She is seeking Council approval to partner with Dr. Matt Bostrom, Director of the Center for Values-Based Initiatives, who will conduct research to discern the shared values from our communities about how they want to be served by their police. If approved, he would then guide the city in our historic opportunity to rebuild our police force. You can see Deputy Chief Huffman present the proposal to City Council at this link.
As your Ward 10 City Council member I will approach the issue of policing and public safety by relying on criminal justice expertise and by insisting on citywide, inclusive processes that bring all our diverse communities along as we reform our policing and public safety systems. Transformation does not happen by ignoring the people who have long been ignored, even if you believe you are acting in their best interests. In addition to this insistence on real and transformative inclusivity, I will operate from an investment and a restorative mindset. We must invest in the kind of policing and public safety system that serves us better. We must restore trust in our systems, we must restore trust in each other, and we must restore the dignity of every member of our community.