This weekend, nine of the 13 members of the Minneapolis City Council announced they plan to vote to defund and dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a community-based public safety department, which is basically a system where unarmed social workers and medical personnel respond to 911 calls for help.
Yesterday, the city council president Lisa Bender appeared on CNN to respond to concerns about this new public safety model for community law enforcement and was asked by CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota “What if in the middle of the night my home is broken into. Who do I call?”
Bender responds not by answering the question, but by pivoting to her politically correct talking points saying, “Yes, I hear that loud and clear from a lot of my neighbors. And I know — and myself, too, and I know that that comes from a place of privilege, because for those of us for whom the system is working I think we need to step back and imagine what it would feel like to already live with that reality where calling the police may mean more harm is done.”
So, instead of doing the difficult work of making the police department better and tackling the actual problems within the Minneapolis police force and the city’s police union (as well as other knotty issues like qualified immunity), Bender and her colleagues on the council want to make the city more dangerous for everyone, including those she thinks she’s trying to help—the black community.
Yet, that’s exactly the worst thing you can do. Jason Riley, writing in the WSJ last week, details how police presence actually helps the black community and that when police activity is reduced, people of color suffer the worst outcomes. Riley writes:
In 2016 Mr. Fryer released a study of racial differences in police use of deadly force. To the surprise of the author, as well as many in the media and on the left who take racist law enforcement as a given, he found no evidence of bias in police shootings. His conclusions have been echoed by researchers at the University of Maryland and Michigan State University, who in a paper released last year wrote: “We didn’t find evidence for anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparity in police use of force across all shootings, and, if anything, found anti-White disparities when controlling for race-specific crime.”
Mr. Fryer said in an interview that the new paper is an extension of his earlier research. Although it seemed clear to him that racial disparities in police shootings stemmed primarily from racial disparities in criminal behavior, police departments continued to be investigated, and he suspected these investigations weren’t having the intended effect. In fact, he noticed what he suspected was a pattern that warranted further study. After surveying more than two dozen federal and state probes of police departments across the country, the pattern became clear. When police were investigated following incidents of deadly force that had gone viral, police activity declined and violent crime spiked. It happened in Ferguson, Mo., after Michael Brown was shot by an officer. It happened in Chicago after a cop gunned down Laquan McDonald. And it occurred in Baltimore after Freddie Gray died in police custody.
Mr. Fryer stressed that it isn’t the investigations themselves that are the problem so much as the circumstances under which they are launched. Investigations that weren’t prompted by well-publicized events resulted in little change in police behavior and violent crime. “But when I look at cities in which the investigation was preceded by a viral event,” he said, “homicide goes up considerably. Total crime goes up considerably.” What happens, he said, is that police effectively pull back. They don’t stop doing their jobs, but they become less proactive and curb their interactions with civilians. In Chicago, there was a 90% drop in police-civilian contacts immediately after the announcement of an investigation, and “Baltimore literally went to zero” after a probe was announced there, he said. In cities where these contacts fell the most, homicides increased the most. Sadly, the decision to launch department-wide state and federal inquiries into the deaths of Brown, McDonald and Gray resulted in numerous additional deaths. Mr. Fryer said that because of changes in police behavior following investigations in these and other cities, “my estimates show that we lost a thousand more lives, most of them black as well, because of an increase in homicides.” The protesters and their political allies insist that policing is the problem, but when police pull back, black communities are hit hardest.
While Bender and the city council might be well meaning in their calls to defund and dismantle the Minneapolis police force, they need to consider the harms that might come from this—a more dangerous city for all citizens and a much more vulnerable black community left without the protections they need and deserve.
It’s also important to know that the Minneapolis City Council also discourages citizens protecting themselves. In February 2018, just after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, all 13 members of the City Council voted in favor of a resolution asserting the city’s commitment to gun control and its opposition to state pre-emption of local gun control laws. The resolution also stated the council’s opposition to federal conceal and carry reciprocity laws, and support for stricter gun laws generally and a statewide ban on the sale of “assault weapons,” which includes handguns that are favored by women.
So going back to Camerota’s question to council president Bender: What are people supposed to do if someone is breaking into their homes? Without a police force, are they to put confidence in an unarmed social worker talking to the assailant? Are women who leave abusive husbands supposed to rely on this same unarmed social worker to convince their abuser to leave them alone? What if a drug deal goes bad? Are innocent people living in dangerous neighborhoods supposed to rely on unarmed drug counselors to convince drug dealers to stop their bad behavior?
Of course not. These “community-based public safety departments” are the sort of childish, fevered dreams of unserious people. Minneapolis needs real reform and serious conversations by serious people about how their police force does business and how it can do a better job serving the people.