City Council Vice Preisdent Linea Palmisano hosted a public safety conversation on March 21 at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church. The next morning, we offered for people to share their thoughts about the conversation. We are publishing the responses in full because of the thoughtfulness in what people wrote.
Todd Schuman, Fulton resident and spokesperson for Justice for Justine, writes:
“City Council Vice President Palmisano acknowledged up front that there is a racial disparity in public safety, both in terms of which groups are more often the victim of crimes and which groups are more often victims of police violence, over-incarceration, etc. This is a crucial point and I appreciate that she brought it up.
Several residents related their painful and traumatic experiences as crime victims and pleaded for elected officials to devote more resources to law enforcement. The stories were difficult to listen to, and no one should have to suffer as they did. I hear and empathize with the stories of the crime victims and do not want to discount their experiences at all.
Missing from this conversation, however, was the point glossed over at the beginning of the session - that communities of color are disproportionately harmed by the very remedy the residents at last night's meeting were calling for. Few Ward 13 residents have been victims of police violence, but that does not mean they don't exist elsewhere in the city. Had they been present at last night's event, they could have shared equally heartfelt and harrowing stories of being harassed and brutalized by Minneapolis police officers.
Sadly, all we heard was a one-sided picture of the problem. Given the demographics of our ward, one could easily leave last night's event thinking that more cops will solve our city's violence problem. They won't. They'll simply concentrate the violence in another part of the city where we don't have to see it.
As a Ward 13 resident, I refuse to allow my public safety to come at the expense of someone who lives outside of my ward. I will continue to advocate on behalf of both parties - that of crime victims and police violence victims - and strive for a public safety system that ensures the well-being of all Minneapolis residents.”
Sheila, an Armatage resident, writes:
“I was in-person at Linea Palmisano’s public safety meeting on March 21. The presentation from the Behavioral Crisis Response team and Canopy was very helpful. However the other presentations had very little specific or detailed information that was shared. There was little to no acknowledgment that our current systems are failing and actually having the opposite effect of harming our communities of color. Only a tiny fraction of the questions were answered. Linea Palmisano could not answer how spending more money or having more police officers was going to actually improve public safety. I felt it was a big disappointment and one-sided.”
Jan Unstad, an Armatage resident, writes:
"I was at the meeting last night and the biggest new takeaway I had was from the county folks regarding corrections. The majority of their information on procedures and policy was new to me, although I follow these issues closely. And I’m still reeling from the statements on all the data systems not speaking at all to each other although it’s government and I should have expected that. But it helps to explain to me why so many instances of people with multiple pending cases continue to be released seemingly without consideration of all the cases. I thought it was really helpful to have both Arneson and Johnson there." Jan's perspective was also shared in this story.
Cecelia Caspram, a Lynnhurst resident, writes:
“We heard from several neighbors who have experienced crime and violence, and anyone with a heart could feel just how much pain and suffering there was in the room. Especially upon waking with fresh eyes today, I can so clearly see how linked that pain and suffering is to the pain and suffering of our neighbors elsewhere in the community.
The people who are choosing to rob someone are humans too. Some kind of pain and/or suffering is driving them to this behavior. And they are then inflicting their pain and suffering on others. How do we change the reality of passed-on suffering without addressing the well-being of the whole? As long as suffering exists somewhere in our community, it will continue to be passed on. We are all connected. We will all continue to suffer.
Violence does not just exist in a person-to-person format. Violence happens systemically too. When people experience systemic violence like living in a community that makes it impossible for them to find and sustain safe and stable housing, or to make enough money to support themselves and their families without stressing that the bottom might fall out at any moment, or to access food that is nourishing and healthy fuel for their bodies–that is profoundly jarring to their sense of well-being. They lose any sense of safety or peace. They will respond like any human who experiences violence. Violence begets violence. Hurt people hurt people.
Humans can’t live in peace when seeds of violence are the only seeds being scattered around them. If we want a safe and peaceful city, we need to build an equitable, well-integrated, well-resourced city committed to the well-being of every person living here. That is how we scatter seeds of peace.
Safety in our city has nothing to do with policing. In fact, based on stories shared last night, and so many others that we all know well (like that of George Floyd’s murder), we can see how policing makes our city less safe.
If we want the crime and violence here in Minneapolis to change, we need to change how we are approaching it. We cannot approach it with a punitive and/or carceral mindset. We cannot approach it as though anyone with a gun, or even a tough-on-crime mindset, will ever have the answer. These approaches only perpetuate violence. We need to approach it as humans helping other humans meet their needs — as humans helping other humans heal. Only then will we all have a chance to be safe.”
Kristen Simmons-Ingle, a Fulton resident, asked questions during the conversation and wrote to us after:
"For an event that was identified as a public safety forum, I left the meeting with very little information about what actually keeps us safe. I heard testimony from people who experienced violence by other community members. I also heard people testify about the harm caused by MPD. I heard about unarmed response units that reduce the cause of harm caused by police interaction. And I heard the Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation talk about the harm caused by institutionalizing youth. The systems of safety presented at the meeting are not really preventing crime nor are they keeping us safe. Why do we continue to pump money into these carceral systems and hold them up as our protectors?
I asked the last questions of the night about our city’s minimum MPD staffing numbers and the narrative being driven by MPD about the need for more resourcing by a department with ballooning expenses. I also referenced a recently released, city-commissioned assessment report that identified that alternatives to police are a viable route and could reduce the MPD workload by up to 17% or more and would require fewer officers on patrol. I also asked if we implement alternatives and MPD’s workload is reduced, are you expecting us to pay for both services even if we reduce the workload of MPD? I am not sure we got a clear answer from Council Vice President Palmisano. Although, I think she may have implied that we are willing to pay for all of this no matter the cost. What will the true cost be? Especially if we've established MPD and the carceral system don't actually keep us safe and are actively causing us harm? What other needed city government supports will lose funding if we push more and more of our budget into policing?"