What Can People-centered Community Safety Look Like?

Change the charter. Change the future.

Minnesotans are united in standing up to defend Black lives. We know that no matter the color of our skin or where we live, everyone deserves to be safe.

We’ve been reaching out to community members in Minneapolis and throughout the state to find out what public safety really means. Across the board, one thing is clear: the change we need requires more than reform.

As a statewide, multi-racial organization, TakeAction Minnesota is following the lead of Black-led groups like Black Visions and Reclaim the Block in calling on the Minneapolis City Council, Mayor Frey, and the City Charter Commission to let us vote to amend the Minneapolis City Charter.

The Charter blocks our ability to make wise investments and create better policy related to community safety. We deserve greater public oversight and accountability over the policies that affects our lives, and public services we pay for.

Take action to help us #ChangeTheCharter. Contact Mayor Frey and your City Councilor TODAY. Tell them to let us vote on a City Charter amendment to establish a department of community safety and violence prevention in 2020.

Here is what some of our neighbors in Minneapolis have to say about public safety:

“We need to push as hard as we can and be bold. We need a new system that reflects the needs of our community. We have to bring people together to talk about this honestly and have the follow-through to make sure it happens. Divesting from the police and investing in our community makes better sense than anything else.” –Frank Brown, Minneapolis; TakeAction Minnesota Board of Directors and Justice4All leader

“There’s’ a misconception that if we spend less on police, we’re somehow removing safety. That’s not true. We will always need a community protection model – but not the model we have today, which traditionally does not affirm or value the lives of Black and brown people.

George Floyd’s murder is top of mind right now, but this is about Trayvon, Tamir, Breonna. It’s about all the Black bodies who, in the minds of the police state, didn’t have the same right to live as other folks. After 400 years of being terrorized by police, we need to articulate the pain Black folks have had in this country, not just for the recent years when the spotlight on police brutality forced upon us with video cameras. It’s been happening whether we see it or not.

Police are the foot soldiers of mass incarceration. Until you change that culture, mass incarceration will be a plague on Black and brown communities. And if it’s a plague on Black and brown communities, it will be a plague on American society. If we don’t make real systemic changes, the people will keep rising up. We can sit at the front of the bus now. We don’t necessarily suffer the same ways that we did during open Jim Crow. What we’re in now is just secret Jim Crow – it’s about keeping Black and brown people poor, and it’s reinforced by the police state.” – Londel French, Minneapolis Park Board Commissioner, and TakeAction Minnesota Justice4All leader

We need systems that work better for all people, not just white people… I want a safe and equitable community. I don’t think that we can have safe communities when we have a criminal justice system that targets, institutionalizes, and murders our Black neighbors.” – Melissa, Minneapolis

“True safety comes from fully investing in resources like education, housing, and mental health resources. We need to restore funding to true investment in the community and away from further militarization of my community.” – Maddie, Minneapolis

American policing is an institution deeply rooted in the history of slave patrols. And it is still clearly targeting disproportionate numbers of Black and brown Americans with the current mode of enforcement. This is blatantly unjust, harmful to us all, and must stop now.” – Malcom, Minneapolis

Everyone should be able to feel safe in their community, and not have to worry about whether they should call 911 for help for fear they will experience greater harm at the hands of emergency services.” – Simona, Minneapolis

And from around the state:

If history has taught us anything, it’s shown that the people with the most to lose can ignore the suffering of others for far, far too long. I’m unwilling to accept that anymore. Reform will not get us where we need to go. It never has. It is crucial that we check our instincts about what police and public safety really mean. Why is it our first instinct to call someone who shows up fully armed and covered in gear that reeks of violence? How does that make you feel safe? What have you been conditioned to believe that that should make you feel safe? Imagine a world where we can have mental health professionals in our schools and communities, with community-led resources? How does that change how we view ourselves, each other, and the community around us?

If I know my neighbors are not going to call the cops on me because I walked in front of their house suspiciously, I’m going to engage with them. I’m going to feel comfortable in my own space. If students know that they are understood and safe, and that they are not going to be suspended or tackled by a Student Resource Officer – that changes how we present ourselves, and the authenticity with which we live. That to me is what re-imagining public safety in our world feels like. And it feels really, really amazing. – Halla Henderson, St. Paul; TakeAction Minnesota Political Committee

“This comes down to believing that the Minneapolis City Council is acting out of real consideration for the community as a whole. While they may not have all the answers at this time, the community will be working with them to shape a peace force that works for everyone. We can trust each other as community members to be honest and talk through what we’re afraid of. We can do more than react out of fear and shoot down ideas because we’re afraid of something different. I see a future where the community as a whole has real say in how they are protected and kept safe; where individual needs matter and everyone isn’t being painted with the same brush, and approached the same way because that’s the only training that exists. This is new for everyone. This is something different for everyone. We’re going to have to hold hands and jump here, because what is currently in existence is killing us.”Yolanda Roth, New Hope; TakeAction Minnesota Movement Political Leadership Cohort

“What’s happening right now has not worked for 401 years and continues not to work. Now, that has shown up for the world to see. Keeping things the way they are is not working. It’s killing us. We need to change our criminal justice system all the way through – not just police reform. We need more services that address mental health, and on-the-ground services led by people of color, working with people of color. We need to dismantle the systems designed to keep us out. At the end of the day we’re all in this together. If one person is hurt, we’re all hurt. We have to get our hearts and our minds right.” -Kissy Coakley, Minnetonka City Councilor and TakeAction Minnesota Justice4All leader

Police departments aren’t designed to solve people’s real social, economic, and mental health problems. I believe we should take that money and put it towards infrastructure that help people to solve those problems: education, housing, health care – both physical and mental, universal basic income, and community centers.” – Amy, Maple Grove

“We have to be willing to fund programs of community care.  We have to invest in peaceful, effective, caring responses to the needs of communities. We will have no real safety until everyone is safe. We will have no real freedom until everyone is free.” – Joan, Eden Prairie

No one should be afraid of public safety. Reallocating funds to critical services that police cannot offer, such as mental health services, social work, drug treatment, etc. is a critical step towards quelling this fear.” – Erin, Winona

We also asked people to imagine what safe communities could look like for them:

Communities that are not transient, where schools are strong and safe and streets and sidewalks are full of elders, children, and trees – not mattresses. Where people struggling with addiction and violence are offered support to find safer ways to be in community with their neighbors.” – Theresa, Duluth

“Heavy investment in social services including social workers, mental health crisis support, free healthcare for all people, adequate food and housing for all people.” – Jeffrey, St. Paul

“I believe we could create a community rooted in restorative justice and supporting people in trouble instead of criminalizing them. I believe the vision should start with asking how we can support our most marginalized communities. If we start with them first, the model will likely work for everyone. If we start with our most affluent and privileged, it will work for few.” – Betsy, St. Paul

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