George Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020 just a few blocks from my house. The 3rd Minneapolis Precinct was set on fire just a few blocks away in the other direction. My family lived right in the middle of it all: the helicopters, the explosions, the fires and the smoke. This lasted for days.
I was enraged and heartbroken over the callous ending to George Floyd’s life. I knew that the police had to be abolished. I didn’t need them to protect my family and they certainly weren’t protecting anyone else’s.
Since his murder, the Minneapolis City Council has voted to disband the police department. Minneapolis Public Schools divested from the police. The University of Minnesota divested. Minneapolis Parks, Walker Art Center and First Avenue have also pulled their money from the hands of the MPD.
This is a huge deal. In the history of our city, this has never happened before. Public institutions in Minneapolis have never been this quick to terminate police contracts in favor of utilizing new safety measures. It’s an exciting time of possibility.
You know who isn’t excited? People who see police as the only barrier between themselves and harm. The idea that people cannot survive without police is real — it has been so ingrained in our collective consciousness that we simply cannot imagine another way.
I see proof of this every single day when I log onto Facebook. There will be a news article about a shooting and, inevitably, the keyboard warriors will appear, all saying the same thing:
“I bet you want more police now!!”
“You mean the social workers sent in weren’t able to deescalate the situation?”
“It’s because the police are not allowed to do their jobs!”
These are comments that I see and hear over and over again. They are the go-to talking points of people who are locked into the idea that police are here to save us. I wish I had time to respond to every one of these comments, but alas, I have shit to do. And these people should read a book.
Anyway, I decided to list the bare minimum for those who just need a little push or harbor some confusion. This isn’t a deep philosophical discussion about race or an analytical discussion of social problems. I’ll save that for another day.
Without further adieu, here are some facts for you to chew on:
- According to FBI data (Pewresearch.org, 10/17/2019), most violent crimes are not reported to police and, in fact, 54% of the violent crimes that are reported are not solved. The most common reasons cited for not reporting these crimes is that police “would not or could not do anything to help” or that the crime is “a personal issue or too trivial to report.” Re-read the italicized words.
- In 2017, the murder rate in the United States was 5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. In 2018, the robbery rate was 86.2 cases per 100,000 and rape cases were 30.9 per 100,000 people. Aggravated assault cases amounted to 246.8 cases per 100,000 people (Statista.com, 1/28/2020).
- I’ll repeat that in case you didn’t fully digest it: In 2017, the murder rate in the United States was FIVE cases per ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND. If you were diagnosed with a disease and knew that only 5 out of 100,000 people survived this disease, I’m sure you would assume your chances of survival were low. Your chances for being murdered are also low.
- Only .7% of rapes end up in a felony conviction (Transformharm.org, 6/2020). There are many reasons for this such as victims’ fear of testifying, but the point is to show that the police do not help rape victims. In fact, in 2019, it was found that the Minneapolis Police Department had 1,700 untested rape kits from as far back as the 1990s (Startribune.com, 11/16/2019).
- The second most filed complaint against police? Sexual assault. They are perpetrators of rape.
- Remember those murders, assaults and rapes I mentioned? Police don’t stop those from happening. Police come in after the fact and do not prevent these crimes in the first place.
- Reforming the police has not worked. In 2018, the Minneapolis Police Department’s budget increased from $184.9 million to $193.3 million. Body cameras and citizen review boards were implemented, Minneapolis Police appointed a Black chief (Startribune.com, 6/9/2020) and George Floyd still happened. Chokeholds have been banned. Eric Garner still happened. I could go on and on.
So what do we do with these kinds of facts? Here are some points to consider when you’re trying to imagine a precinct without police:
- The aim of abolishing police departments is to remove the burden of the police being social worker, mental health provider, and nurse. These jobs are not what police are qualified for and these professions need more funding. Why do they need more funding? See next bullet point.
- They need more funding to create safe communities. Use that money to send a violence prevention specialist into the community. Fund people that are well-versed in trauma-informed care and de-escalation to manage people that are unstable or having a mental health crisis. Fund housing so that people have a safe place to live and they’re not out on the street.
- Safe communities encourage people to feel like they belong. To feel like they are loved. I’m going to ask you to think about the ways that you have felt supported in life. Personally, I have felt good because I have people that love me, a wide circle of friends, a great job, I’m able to go to the doctor when I need to and I’m not starving. Did you notice that I didn’t list the police? What would be on your list?
- Using the money to fund healthcare, comprehensive education, daycare, mental health care, transportation, affordable housing and violence prevention is being proactive instead of reactive. It’s like having money to fund visits to your doctor to treat your stomach pain instead of waiting until you are scrambling to solve your colon cancer. At that point, it’s too late.
- Funding will also include having a dispatch center that you can call when you need immediate help. You won’t be left to the wolves. I promise.
- The safest communities are those that have less police and more resources. Look to your nearest suburb and you’ll know what I mean. If you’re going to suggest these neighborhoods are safer for other reasons, I’m going to ask you to check yourself.
- When people feel safe, they do not commit crimes. Let me repeat: When people feel safe, they do not commit crimes.
The bottom line is that police don’t prevent crimes from happening — they never have. The chance that you or I will experience any of these events is extremely low and, contrary to public opinion, crime rates continue to drop. Most importantly, the police don’t address the reasons why these occur in the first place. If we can use this money to address these issues on the front end, we won’t need police in the way that we use them now.
I think we can all agree that a common goal is reducing crime. We don’t need men and women with guns patrolling the streets — this does nothing to uplift our society. We need measures to eliminate the problems that cause the crime in the first place. We need to feel safe.
When we are all supported, we are all safe.