Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA – Last month, as the world watched the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was condemned of murder George Floyd, a black man, a few miles from court, at Brooklyn Center, Minnesota police officer Kim Potter shot dead Daunte Wright, also a black man.
Potter, who claims to have confused the weapon with the Taser during his 26th year in the force, faces second degree homicide charges.
When the events following Wright’s death unfolded, Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott began work.
It began a period of weeks of community engagement through listening sessions that led to the introduction of a resolution that would review the way the city approaches the police. Elliott, a Liberian American who emigrated to the United States at age 11, filed the resolution on May 8, less than a month after Wright was shot. The following Saturday it was adopted by the city council with a 4-1 vote.
The rapid pace of police reform in the Minneapolis suburb contrasts with the situation a few miles south, where Minneapolis has been involved in a public relations effort to influence public opinion to support the police department and its budget. which has helped shape Mayor Jacob Frey’s police rhetoric.
Less than two weeks after the assassination of George Floyd, most of Minneapolis City Council called to detune the city’s police department. Since then, the council has changed its stance, from defending the police to transferring oversight from the mayor’s department to the council.
Mayor Frey has criticized the proposals of the city council and other entities aimed at reforming the police. An increase in crime has included a year-over-year increase in homicides, shootings and car shootings, several children killed or injured in the north of the city and even shootings near a memorial to the anniversary of Floyd’s death on Tuesday. In statements to the north of the city last week, Frey unveiled his office’s plan to reform the department from within, in response.
But some local activists are skeptical.
“I don’t think Minneapolis City Council really wants to [police reform]. What they want is to lead the police, so it’s a takeover, frankly, ”Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), told Al Jazeera.
On the other hand, “what the mayor and Brooklyn Center City Council are doing is really a role model – a good role model – for other communities to follow,” Gross said, calling it “impressive.” Ultimately, “they recognize that citizen security does not begin or stop at the door of the police department,” he said.
Moving away from police duties
The security and violence prevention resolution of Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler, named after Wright and another 21-year-old man who was shot by Brooklyn Center police in 2019, creates several new departments in the city to limit the participation of official armed forces in situations where they are not needed.
“Relying on our armed law enforcement officers as first agents in these situations has led to a tragic, potentially preventable escalation, damage, and loss of life for our residents, including the lives of Daunte Wright and Kobe Drimock-Heisler.” , says the resolution.
“A diversity of approaches will improve overall public safety, better address the root causes of many problems, promote racial justice, better protect vulnerable members of our community, and allocate public resources more efficiently.”
The general resolution calls for the creation of an unarmed community response department to deal with cases of medical, mental health or other social or behavioral incidents. A new unarmed civilian group, the Department of Traffic Control, will also address traffic violations without movement.
The changes also include limiting police activities, requiring them to exhaust alternatives before using deadly force, and banning the use of deadly force in certain situations.
Meanwhile, as the new departments are established, the resolution also implements a citywide “citations and summonses” policy that requires officers to issue summonses only, prohibiting custodial detentions or searches of people and vehicles. in most non-criminal situations.
Elliott, who was elected in 2018 and is the city’s first black mayor, is giving his residents recognition for the city’s police reform, along with calls for his passing from Wright’s mother and Dimock’s parents. -Heisler.
“We heard our community very loud and clear that they wanted to have more mental health resources and that they wanted to enforce unarmed traffic,” he told Al Jazeera. “We had a chance to start making those changes now, so we moved forward and drafted the resolution.”
These changes, for Elliott, have been a long time coming. “I’ve always known that we needed a transformation of public safety … to keep all members of our community safe,” he said.
“I believe our community, in its diversity, has elected leaders who have lived experience with what it means to be impacted by law enforcement,” Elliott explained. He calls the resolution “a common sense approach to public safety that everyone can achieve.”
Jim Mortenson, executive director of the Minnesota police union, Law Enforcement Labor Services, described the resolution as hasty.
“It looks like the mayor came out on his own, drafted that resolution and didn’t really argue much with those who are doing the job,” Mortenson told local CCX Media.
While Elliott said he has been working to pass some of the elements of police reforms that this resolution has brought since Floyd was assassinated last year, it was Wright’s death that brought the issue home and he managed to overcome the goal with the city council.
“The key difference was that the community mobilized and demanded change,” Elliott said of the city that saw protests for days after Wright’s death.
“Statistically there is a police killing every 18 months” at the Brooklyn Center, Elliott said of the information he requested from the police department when he took office.
“The time between Kobe’s murder and Daunte’s murder was 19 months and a week. We definitely want to put these systems in place so we can prevent future deaths. “