Safety Engagement Meeting
Here are the answers from Council member Jeremy Schroeder from the Crime and Safety Portion of the Annual Meeting on 11/17
Please situate the recent rise in crime within a systems context. In other words how might this relatively recent increase in crime be related to the complex contexts created by the confluence of 1) the economic, social and health crises stemming from the covid-19 pandemic; and 2) the uprising following George Floyd’s murder, which many see as directly related to both a long history of police violence against black and brown bodies AND the particular context of covid?
We certainly can’t overstate the impact that the isolation, heavy financial, physical and mental burden and constant unpredictability these seven months of COVID have had on our city. Many cities around the country have had an uptick in crime and many authorities reasonably have cited COVID as a major factor in this. Additionally, the killing of George was horrific and it wasn’t the first time that the public has experienced a loss of trust in the MPD. From lost rape kits to the killing of residents, many in our city have seen that our current public safety system is broken and one that simply wasn’t designed to prevent crime or keep them safe, especially in these unprecedented times. These elements create a sort of perfect storm for the rise in crime we’ve seen this summer.
Many people testifying at yesterday’s City Council hearing on the budget spoke to their personal fears about the rise in crime and asked for more police as a way to protect them personally, without recognizing that increased policing does not solve the problem at its root (nor does it account for the value of community, or the balance of the good of the many with that of the individual, for that matter). In other words, I heard an almost universal inability to recognize that more police does not address the problems that are behind the recent rise in crime (eg poverty, a history of unequal investment in different parts of the city with historical roots to legalized discrimination/slavery), never mind doing nothing to change a broken system that punishes and murders black and brown bodies at an unconscionably high rate. How was your recent decision to vote against more police funding informed by this sensibility? And what is the alternative vision for spending that you had in mind when you cast that vote?
One big issue I have with the proposal to pay a half a million dollars to hire outside police officers for six weeks is that the money comes out of the City’s emergency/contingency fund. If the City wouldn’t tap into this fund with the huge needs of small business owners as well as the immediate need for more shelter over the last few months, it is difficult for me to imagine how it’s responsible to spend down those essential rainy day funds to add to the MPD’s $180,000,000-plus budget for a few weeks of extra patrols (which, by the way, other jurisdictions are actually unable to provide). Neither my colleagues nor the public has heard from the Chief a plan or strategy on how he would use the officers and why he does not have the money for them already in the MPD’s historically large budget. Being that I’ve been asking for those details since July, I am not hopeful about getting them. Additionally, both agencies who were supposed to provide officers through this proposal hadn’t been consulted. Hennepin County isn’t sure if they can provide any officers, let alone 20-40 and Metro Transit said it wouldn’t be able to provide officers: https://www.startribune.com/minneapolis-city-council-narrowly-oks-plan-to-bring-in-outside-police/573066922/ We, along with other cities in the nation, are under extreme financial stress due to COVID-19 and will very likely need more aid in the upcoming months. I’m not opposed to hiring outside officers while MPD does the work to address its multiple issues, but spending half a million dollars out of the contingency/emergency fund without a plan, or strategy, or any accountability is irresponsible. Finally, to your point, yes, simply increasing the number of officers does nothing to solve the systemic and historic issues embedded in our public safety system. We have increased the MPD’s budget in the past and have not seen the systemic change our community needs and is demanding.
Worker “slowdowns” are an old union tactic that some have likened to what is happening around police response times (or responses at all) that have created a vacuum in which crime can — and will in our current criminal justice system where “bad” individuals are solely responsible for social phenomena like crime — continue to happen. How do you imagine changing from this system to the just one we are leaning into? Can you sketch out a roadmap for us to wrap our heads around?
As I have said many times before, the people of Minneapolis deserve better than a one-size-fits-all public safety system. Our community deserves a specialized, dynamic public safety system that is able to meet our needs in a way that the current system is not. There are a lot of outside factors that contribute to transforming our public safety system and I’m hopeful that making progress on all of these factors can help get us there. A good place to start learning more is on the City’s community safety website: https://www.minneapolismn.gov/community-safety/. The website has updates on the Mayor and City Council as well as on the Minnesota Department of Human Rights lawsuit against MPD alleging racial discrimination. How I see this coming together is based on changes to oversight of the MPD. The Mayor and Chief currently have exclusive authority over MPD policy and it is up to them to institute new policies. This is written in our City Charter (which is like our constitution) and it is different from every other department, including other emergency response departments like the Fire Department. While the mayor and chief have begun exploring and implementing policies, it’s clear we need more significant changes and accountability for MPD. More oversight tends to bring more accountability. The City Council does get to vote on the City budget and I intend to continue to increase funding for proven programs to reduce crime, like violence interrupters, and also increase programs that are the root causes of crime by ensuring everyone’s basic needs are met. Finally, if the Mayor and City Council are not proactive enough in making these changes to ensure our police department is doing the essential work to keep every single person in Minneapolis safe, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights will likely force changes within MPD. We can’t afford to wait for that, so we need to take meaningful action now and on an ongoing basis to ensure our system is actually working for all of us.
How do you respond to people who call the council publicity-seeking “latte liberals” for their public decision to defund the police this past summer?
I think it’s important to move beyond name-calling and focus on the issues. Before the murder of George Floyd, the City’s focus was to make MPD more accountable, transparent, and focused on situations that traditional law enforcement officers are trained for: responding to violent crime. The murder of George Floyd and the resulting community outcry were harsh wake-up calls that the City’s best efforts were both moving too slow and also not preventing the worst forms of police misconduct. Since that time, I have been committed to doing everything within my power to make sure no one else loses their life at the hands of the police.
Assuming this is a politically motivated police slowdown designed to affect the election and the budget decision (ie by creating a vacuum in which crime increases and people vote their fears, not their values), what is your advice around what citizens can do — if anything — to influence the mayor? The police? to get back to work? Or to help others see the circumstances from another point of view?
The best way for people to be involved is to stay engaged in our ongoing work to make the City work better for everybody – and to hold elected leaders accountable for delivering results. I appreciate these questions and being pushed on where I stand. Come to public hearings and speak up, write and email all your elected officials. Having your voice heard is one the most important ways to help create the outcomes you wish to see. At the end of the day, we represent you, and while I may not always make choices that perfectly align with yours, I assure you I’m listening to what you’re saying. Our next public hearings on the 2021 budget are this Wednesday, December 2 at 6:05 p.m. and Wednesday, December 9 at 6:05 p.m. Folks can also email written comments to email@example.com or directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll be included in the public record.
If we are moving toward a different type of criminal justice system where, for lack of a better term, the police are “defunded,” how do we keep people safe and decrease crime in the meantime?
This transformation will not be an on/off switch, but a change as alternative responses are staffed up and law enforcement is more focused on responding to violent crime. This includes shifting some functions, like responses to theft reports and parking issues, to other capable City departments – a step that will free up officers to focus on more serious issues.
It was clear hearing from the members of the police department that they need additional Beat Officers and Precinct. Question -- Will you support the police budget for additional Beat Officers and what is your position on a new Precinct?
I do support the two recruit classes in the Mayor’s budget, and it is up to the Mayor and Chief on how they will use those officers. On the precinct, I think the 3rd precinct needs a permanent home and I’ve encouraged City staff and the Chief to also look at alternatives, such as a precinct office as well as substations, for providing the best service to the 3rd precinct. One of the issues with the placement of the old 3rd precinct office was that it was far away from south Minneapolis and that contributed to the long response times and having a substation at some of the fire stations or other locations down here would improve that.
You stated that Violence Interruption/ Prevention has been around for a decade. My question is that if this is true why are we still seeing an increase in crime, why are we putting more money into them if we are seeing a crime increase, as it appears they are not effective.
For over the last decade, the City’s violence prevention work has be funding at an extremely low rate which has only allowed for very focused programs, funding programs like violence interrupters downtown during the summer months or post violence outreach at hospitals. Those efforts have been ramping up and more money has been devoted to those programs so that they can expand their reach.
You said that you must see a return on every dollar spent. Can you please explain how you are approving staff to the office of Transgender Colition (I think thats the name), when the city is suffering financial hardship due to covid, what is the return on this and how is this a priority during these times of budget cuts ?
The return on this is having all residents of the City feel welcomed. This work is part of the City’s outreach to all communities to make sure City policies are reflecting the needs of everyone.
For Jeremy- You stood on the platform in Powderhorn Park and took a pledge, that according to the organizers was very clearly laid out, to defund and dismantle the police department. How do you plan to do this?
The City Council will continue to look at and invest in public safety strategies that keep everyone in the City safe. This work will likely take many budget cycles.