Don’t get them wrong, the plaintiffs argue, they want thoughtful and deep police reform. But they want both a better police force and enough police officers to protect their kids and their streets — not either the present unreformed police or a disbanded police department and an uncertain replacement.
The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported on Aug. 1 that since the killing of George Floyd in late May, the city’s police force is down at least 100 officers, more than 10 percent of the force, “straining department resources amid a wave of violence.” The department, the newspaper added, is budgeted for 888 officers this year, but could lose as much as a third of its work force by year’s end — through resignations, firings and medical leave for post-traumatic stress from the violence that followed Floyd’s death.
In an Aug. 24 op-ed in The Star Tribune, Sondra and Don Samuels, two of the Black plaintiffs, explained why they are suing. I know them both, and they are deeply involved in improving their Northside neighborhood. Sondra is the chief executive of the Northside Achievement Zone, and Don, her husband, is a former City Council member, former Minneapolis school board member and chief executive of Microgrants, a local nonprofit.
“We want radical police reform, where all citizens are treated as fully human by all cops, and not just by the ‘good ones’ we all know well,” they wrote. “We support the reform moves of the mayor and chief, which include community alternatives to policing that work hand-in-hand with our police force.”
The State Legislature, they also argued, “must change arbitration rules that too often demand bad cops be rehired after being fired for abusive policing.”
But, they added: “We will not sacrifice the safety of our community in the pursuit of the City Council’s lofty goals with no plan to back them up. In the months since George Floyd’s murder, we have seen an explosion in crime and homicides. Five of us live just a few houses apart. Four of us have children in our homes. Here’s what we’ve experienced on our block alone over the last two months:
“A mother’s car was shot up with eight bullets, with her infant on board. Another car was shot four times. A bullet went through the front door and a wall of our neighbor’s home. A woman was kicked and stomped within inches of her life in the middle of the street. The drug trade has been revived in two homes, to unprecedented levels, with conflicts resulting in fights and shootouts.”