I went to the Public Safety Community Forum that was organized by the Public Safety and Emergency Management Committee of the Minneapolis City Council on March 28, 2018 for two reasons. The first was to hear the Mayor explain why he felt it was necessary to spend upwards of $10 million on expanding the Minneapolis Police Department by 100 officers as requested by Chief Medaria Arradondo and second was to be on location when the public responded. Apparently the Star Tribune misreported the former and the people made certain that their voices were heard.
The format was designed to promote discussion by sorting the overflow crowd into tables at which 6-8 people sat around large pieces of paper, post-it notes, markers, and various squishy plastic stress relief toys. Mayor Frey, Chief “Rondo” Arradondo, as well as Council members Cano, Fletcher, Bender, Cunningham, Ellison, and Palmisano spread out to join tables for the discussion. The plan was to ask the groups 2 questions, what would you build on or change about the way Minneapolis is run, and what would a Minneapolis where all the problems had been solved look like? After the first question was revealed, the people spent 20 minutes talking at the tables, taking notes, ranking their top 3 ideas, then sharing the most important issue with the rest of the group. By the time the statements from each table were made, all of the time allotted for the event had been used, and only 1 question had been asked. Hats off to the host and facilitator, Dave Ellis. He was flexible and let people have their say. No one was cut-off, and Dave let the microphone move with the give and take, back and forth flow around the room. He did manage to squeeze in Question 2, but the bulk of the content in the series came from the public statement period for the first question.
The media coverage of the March 28 forum has been scant and slanted by emphasizing the more combative aspects while skimming over the substance, truth and wisdom brought forward by the people that stood to speak. Almost all of them had taken the Star Tribune at its word and so understood the topic of the meeting was whether adding 100 officers to the Police Department was a good idea, and if Minneapolis should spend $10 million to make it happen. Whether that particular story was accurate, or by how many the number of officers in the current MPD ranks may have been overestimated, it was clear that the motivated communities working for justice in Minneapolis would make certain their responses would be heard. I find it surprising, if not downright laughable, that a committee full of progressive, grass roots oriented, City Council Members was content to let the local newspaper set the public agenda – seemingly without realizing their mistake until the forum had officially ended. That’s how the bubble bursts.
I found a wealth of information and wisdom in the raw footage from that night. Because I would like to keep the issues roiling until they roll into the next Public Safety Community Forum on April 10, 2018 at Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis, we released 53 minutes of Raw Footage on FB before I sat down to start the serious editing. Since then, I’ve reworked it into at least 10 shorter videos; Parts. There was no predetermined number of parts, just natural breaks and complete threads. One of the main reasons for New Hughes is to provide a mechanism for accountability; Accountable 86. A short video like Part 1 fulfills that purpose because it documents the 16 specific proposals, demands, and programs that the community brought forward to the PSEM Committee in a public forum that many from the committee attended. Feel free if you’d like to send your Council Member the link, just to jar their memory or let them know what’s up. Proper use of these video clips will effectively preclude elected officials from dodging responsibility by claiming that they were unaware of constituent demands. That is what I mean by a mechanism for accountability.
I counted 16 ideas put forward from the community, Safe Zone North, Remove violent cops, Residency requirement/cultural competency, Community-led initiatives in de-escalation, restorative justice, and dismantling white supremacy, Elected civilian police accountability council, Community control of MPD, Spend money in the communities, Re-budget police to fund more school counselors, social workers, and mental health co-responders, Police alternatives, Community engagement and improved relations, as well as funding existing community-led organizations. Pretty good platform. Gets you thinking, anyway. Remember, there is another Public Safety Community Forum on April 10, 2018 at Sabathani Center in South Minneapolis. Show up. Stand up. Speak up. Which ideas resonate with you? What did we miss?
Because I so appreciated the calm that Ellis brought to the room and the humility he enacted, the second clip represents the second question for the event. Question 2 was aspirational and visionary. What would it look like after all the demands in Part 1 had been satisfied? The first response hit it out of the park for a touchdown. The night ended soon after and overtime began when the Mayor and the Chief returned from their media stints in the hall. It is good to remember where we trying to go.
A theme of the public comments was the encouragement of investment in the communities of North Minneapolis. The two men featured in Part 3 summarized that theme succinctly and in context of their observation and experience. The first young man in the clip, Tyrone Rashad Williams, was shot to death while I was making this video series. I know his Sister, Raeisha, through her work to reveal the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board and their sordid history of racial bias and retaliation. Ty’s murder was a tragedy. Stay strong. I hope it might provide a bit of succor to know that his message and demeanor in this clip gave it both titles, Call to Action and Serve & Protect. The latter, of course, plays off the police slogan, too. In that way, it reflects the second person in the clip. We’ve seen him talk about the future of the MPD. Serve and Protect. The cops don’t want that slogan, while the people at the forum embody and enact it.
By the time the discussion got around to the proposal to hire more police and spend $10 million doing it, the forum was in overtime and it took Nekima Levy-Pounds to finally put it into words. To this very moment I regret not turning camera on Council member Cano when Nekima asked her why it had not come up during the forum. She did not answer at that moment, but the piece included in Part 4 was taken from her closing remarks, which was the next time she spoke. The Chief deserves a lot of credit for staying overtime, but also for explaining why he feels that the MPD should be expanded. At times, Arradondo sounded like a few of the people in Part 1. He talks about co-responders and community navigators, while bemoaning the loss of personnel and having to take calls that others will not. Levy-Pounds description of 3-5 squads stopped for traffic violations that are the bases of the for-profit policing model, does not comport with an MPD stretched to capacity and as understaffed as Rondo implies. We’ve had our own SWAT team stand-off in the neighborhood, back in 2013. Plenty of cops that day. Not uncommon to see them prowling along Minnehaha Parkway on any given Summer day, waiting to write up a ticket or more. Keep the register ringing. No short staff then. Promo for Part 6 – James Badue-El witnessed perimeter policing in Robbinsdale and told us the story at the forum. Stay tuned.