*TW – Trigger Warning – Mental Health Crisis discussed in the article and the video.*
We continue our examination of the MPD 150 Performance Review and Report by listening to 2 people tell us stories of their own lived experiences. One is a memory of living police-free and the other a sad tale of ill-trained cops responding to an attempted suicide in downtown Minneapolis. Both underscore the real benefit to a community of having access to means of solving problems and responding the crises that do not result in armed paramilitaries being first on the scene. We have been conditioned to think that police were as inevitable as sunset. We have been taught to look to the uniformed gunslinger for security; to allay our fear. If not police, then the military making the world safe for our democracy and capital, or any random action star. Good thing we have Ricardo Levins-Morales to remind us that other ways of living exist in the modern human world.
It may be easy to draw distinctions and explain all the ways that a poor barrio in the mountains of Puerto Rico does not represent a growing city in the prairies of heartland America, but I prefer to ponder the ways that it does. Mainly, I think, Ricardo’s story is one of scale and consolidation of power. Directly applying the solutions of his childhood neighbors to similar issues in the city of Minneapolis would best be accomplished at the neighborhood and social community levels. That implies Minneapolis Parks. The idea of mobilizing the park system to provide brick-and-mortar infrastructure for alternative first responder units stems from Ricardo at the Forum on Equity and Policing in Minneapolis Parks and Devin Hogan. Both advocated for developing Urban Park Rangers in our #1 parks and it seems reasonable to envision a future where the kind of police alternatives discussed by MPD 150 are located in every neighborhood park. Distinction with the community-based police-free problem solving used in Ricardo’s childhood home town would be obviated by local staffing, control, and programming at the potential neighborhood park social resource centers. Is it possible? Minneapolis is uniquely positioned to find out.
The more critical question may be whether we can afford to maintain to a status quo that does not appear to be working very well. That is, if the goal is to build and empower healthy communities within our cities, towns, state, nation, and world. Listen to the story told by Arianna Nason, an eye witness to the mismatch between policing and response to mental health emergencies as it played out in downtown Minneapolis one cold autumn evening last year. Ask yourself to imagine a more humane response and see if it includes people with guns wearing body armor and puzzled about how to proceed. I don’t know anything about police training, but I would be very surprised if any of it suggests taunting people that are suffering in anguish. I urge those with video of this incident to consider using it to help bring more light to the actions of that particular officer.