Between May 25, following the death of George Floyd under Minneapolis police custody, and August 31, there were 40 homicides in Minneapolis—an increase of 150 percent over the median average for the previous five years.
The Powderhorn area of Minneapolis, near where George Floyd was arrested, made the news recently after some residents “informally agreed not to call police” when there is a problem. Fox 9 quoted one, a burglary victim: “I’m thinking systemically, not in the moment
anymore. I can replace all [my] stuff. [The thief] got some extra money out of it. That’s just what happens, that’s life.” She and “many of her neighbors share the feeling that police put people in danger, especially people of color.”
But the absence of the police poses a greater danger to people of color than their presence. A new paper by economists Tanaya Devi and Roland G. Fryer, Jr., finds that “Pattern-or-Practice” investigations “that were preceded by ‘viral’ incidents of deadly force have led to a large and statistically significant increase in homicides and total crime” because of “an abrupt change in the quantity of policing activity.” Evidence suggests we are seeing that in Minneapolis. MPD data show that cumulative stops fell 36 percent in the week after George Floyd’s death, and that trend has persisted. During the week between July 6 and July 12, MPD officers made just 193 stops, down 77 percent from the same week in 2019. Stops involving searches of people or their vehicles have also plummeted. MPD conducted just 20 over the week of July 12, and 11 the week before—87 and 90 percent declines, respectively, from the preceding year. One consistent finding in academic research is that more cops mean less crime. It follows that fewer cops mean more crime.
Surges in crime hurt the Black community disproportionately. Twenty percent of Minneapolis’ population is African American, but they account for at least 62 percent of the city’s homicide victims since Memorial Day. They include: Mohamedwelid Mohamud Muse, Daniel J. Mack, Jr., Brandon Jerome Salter, Marcus Lashaun Banks, Jr., Jeremy Conley, Dameon Chambers, Shateke Jamal Bruce, Diontae Rayquan Wallace, Cody Pollard, Abdihakim Mohamed Areis, Antonio Dewayne Taylor, Larry Borteh, Leneesha Helen Columbus, Carlos Lernard Rogers, Elijah Lamont Whitner, Shanette Alexandria Marable, Abdirashid Omar, Billy Campbell, William R. Baugh, Ronald Junior Smith, Serenity Shief, Charles Ray Mosby, Jr., Eddie George Gordon, and Andrew DeJon Davis.
It comes as no surprise that the city’s Black community has been pushing back on the City Council’s attemptto abolish the police. “When the City Council start talking about abolish
and dismantling law enforcement it’s destroying, it’s destroying our community right now,” said Al Flowers, a community activist, at a recent press conference. “With these calls to abolish the police and no real substantive plan to follow, those words have led some folks in our communities to believe that they have a sort of open season on their enemies,” said Alicia Smith, executive director of the Corcoran Neighborhood. “It’s time to stand up in this city,” said Lisa Clemons of A Mother’s Love. “It is time to tell council that utopia is a bunch of BS. We are not in Mayberry, we are in the wild, wild west.”
Such views appear to reflect those of the Black community at large. Last year, a poll for Fox 9 found that while 61 percent of white Minneapolis residents supported expanding the MPD, that number rose to 65 percent among people of color. While 42 percent of residents overall believed crime in Minneapolis is a serious problem, that number rose to 54 percent for people of color; while 41 percent of residents believed there is more crime in Minneapolis now than a few years ago, that number rose to 49 percent for people of color. Fifty-nine percent of people of color said they feel safer in the presence of police officers. A recent survey by the Huffington Post found that, overall, 57 percent of Americans oppose defunding the police and African Americans oppose it by a margin of 49 percent to 29 percent. Indeed, the only group favoring the measure were “self-described liberals.”
The City Council says that the MPD will be replaced by a “new transformative model for cultivating safety,” though nobody, including the councilors, knows what this means in practice. The Powderhorn resident quoted earlier on continued: “People won’t be robbed at gunpoint, because we’ll have started changing systems so people won’t feel the need to rob at gunpoint.”
While Minneapolis officials are chasing these utopian fantasies, African Americans will continue dying in disproportionate numbers. How many Black lives will be sacrificed for this?