Based on my 12 years teaching criminal justice and policing reform to future lawyers, and my 20 years as a federal prosecutor, here are my top 10 reasons to vote "No" on City Question 2 to eliminate the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).
- A "Yes" vote would lead to fewer cops and more serious crime throughout the city, especially in communities of color where violent crime already is tragically killing children and crushing families. Many violent offenders are opportunists who will take advantage of less law enforcement to prey on elderly, isolated and otherwise vulnerable victims.
- In response to more crime and fewer police, hundreds, probably thousands, of additional law-abiding Minneapolis residents would obtain handguns for personal protection and permits to carry them. This would put even more guns on the street that would lead to more shootings, intentional or accidental. Does anyone see more guns in the hands of our residents as a good thing?
- In response to more crime, fewer visitors would come into the city, causing even more shops, restaurants and other small businesses to close. What organization or business would consider holding a conference or event in a city without a police department? What suburban family would consider attending an arts or sports event in a city without a police force?
- In response to more crime, and fewer police to combat it, more taxpaying residents would move out, leaving less talent, less energy and fewer resources for those left behind. Who would the city find to replace those who depart?
- If the MPD were eliminated, without a clear plan to replace it, large employers would reconsider having their employees return to working downtown, even once the pandemic is over. Some may well relocate. Even fewer shops and restaurants would survive.
- If the MPD were eliminated, Minneapolis would face insurmountable challenges in retaining experienced law enforcement personnel, whose numbers already have sunk too low. Do we really want even fewer cops available to respond to the shootings, robberies and carjackings occurring throughout the city? Do you want to be the person to call 911 in time of dire personal need only to hear that no cop or "peace officer" is available to respond?
- If a "Yes" vote prevailed and the MPD were eliminated, the city would face tremendous difficulty in recruiting qualified "peace officers," who, if they are deemed "necessary," would have to answer to 13 different City Council members. Given their "defund the police" pledges and the events of the past year, some of these members are clearly anti-law enforcement and lacking in sound judgment, and even common sense. Ask yourself if such people deserve your vote.
- If the MPD were eliminated, without a clear plan to replace it, our communities of color would suffer even greater harm from gang members and other offenders, creating even more disparity among races and socio-economic groups. Some City Council members already have shown that they will use taxpayer funds to hire private security to protect themselves, and some wealthy people would hire such private security. But the great majority of city residents cannot afford that expense and too often would be left wanting for protection.
- If the MPD were eliminated, the city might well see a growth of armed "vigilantes" who would take the law into their own hands, as has happened elsewhere, creating an "every person for themselves" environment. Is this the Minneapolis any of us want to live in?
- If the MPD were eliminated, the city might never recover from what could turn into a true public safety catastrophe. At a minimum, it would halt the progress that has been made in reforming the MPD. Minneapolis almost certainly would lose Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who has been leading those necessary reforms, and who has the support of most residents. Where would the city find someone with his track record and insight in how to best change the culture of the MPD?
Why not give the chief a chance to finish what he has started before disbanding our MPD?
Vote no on City Question 2. It may be the most important vote you ever will cast as a Minneapolis resident.
Hank Shea is a senior distinguished fellow at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the district of Minnesota.