Minneapolis city council: Safety for me — but not for thee

Violence is on the rise in Minneapolis

Since George Floyd died in the custody of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day, 12 people have been murdered in the city. In the same period for the years 2008 to 2019, the average number of homicides was just 5.5.

Violent crime is on the rise in Minneapolis, as research suggests it would be. WCCO reports:

Five people were shot and one man was stabbed within eight hours between late Saturday night and early Sunday morning in Minneapolis, according to police.

Three people were shot in two different shootings Saturday in Minneapolis, and two people were shot in north Minneapolis Friday.

The Star Tribune reports:

Gunfire erupted in broad daylight next to a north Minneapolis park as dozens of kids played last Monday, injuring four people. Barely 90 minutes later, bullets tore through four more victims at a notorious intersection along West Broadway, apparently in retaliation for the earlier shooting. All told, 10 were wounded in four separate shootings that day — all before the sun went down.

The bloodshed came one day after gunmen unleashed more than 70 rounds on a crowded Uptown street, continuing a spate of violence that has killed eight and injured at least 118 people since Memorial Day.

So far this year, ShotSpotter activations and 911 calls about gunshots in Minneapolis have more than doubled from a year ago, according to a Star Tribune analysis of police data. Out of 3,218 such shots-fired calls this year, nearly half have been filed since George Floyd was killed on May 25.

Through Tuesday, 190 people had been shot across Minneapolis. That’s up 47% from this time last year and significantly higher than the five-year average for the same time span, according to MPD data.

The city council has voted to abolish the police…

While violence rockets in Minneapolis, the city council is moving ahead with its plan to ‘defund’ the police department. The Star Tribune reports:

Less than three weeks after they promised to begin work on “ending” the Minneapolis Police Department, some City Council members pushed forward a new vision for law enforcement Friday that could still include officers on the streets.

The council voted unanimously to advance a proposal that would create a new Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. Within that, the city could create a division that includes “licensed peace officers,” though it would not be required to do so.

It’s unclear how many, if any, officers would continue to be employed by the city if the proposal passes.

Council Member Cam Gordon said it’s consistent with the pledge from council members to fundamentally alter local policing in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis officers.

“Those things that we called the police department are gone,” Gordon said. “Certainly, there is a provision in here that would allow this council or future councils to maintain a Division of Law Enforcement Services, but I think what we need to do is have that possibility there and talk to people about what the future should look like.”

This all sounds rather vague. The council members pushing these measures have previously talked about adopting a “new transformative model for cultivating safety”, but details of what this actually involves remain scarce.

…but they will be getting personal security guards

We do, though, now have a clearer idea of what this will mean for the city council members themselves. KSTP reports:

The City of Minneapolis confirmed it has paid $4,500 a day for private security for three city council members. 

The total cost for the security guards provided by Aegis and BelCom was around $63,000 over the past three weeks.

A city spokesperson said they are not using the Minneapolis Police Department for security because the Minneapolis police are needed to protect the community. [Emphasis added]

Fox 9 added:

The three council members who have the security detail – Andrea Jenkins (Ward 8), and Phillipe Cunningham (Ward 4), and Alondra Cano (Ward 9)– have been outspoken proponents of defunding the Minneapolis Police Department.  

Councilmember Phillipe Cunningham declined to discuss the security measures.  

“I don’t feel comfortable publicly discussing the death threats against me or the level of security I currently have protecting me from those threats,” said Cunningham in a text message.  

Cunningham added that the security is temporary.  

Councilmember Andrea Jenkins said she has been asking for security since she was sworn in.  She said current threats have come in the form of emails, letters, and posts to social media.  

“My concern is the large number of white nationalist(s) in our city and other threatening communications I’ve been receiving,” wrote Jenkins in an email. 

Councilmember Cano did not return messages seeking comment. 

A spokesperson for Minneapolis Police told FOX 9 the department does not have any recent police reports of threats against city council members.  It is possible a report could have been filed confidentially. 

Jenkins said she has not reported the threats to Minneapolis Police because she has been preoccupied with the dual crisis of the “global pandemic and global uprising” over the killing of George Floyd. 

George Orwell’s Minneapolis

As I’ve written before, libertarians should be careful what they wish for: I seriously doubt that the city council’s “new transformative model for cultivating safety” involves replacing the police department with an extensively armed citizenry maintaining its own law and order.

But neither had I seen it taking this turn quite so quickly. City council members cruising around the city behind a wall of taxpayer funded private security guards while the population is thrown to the criminals is like something out of the occupation of Iraq. Will Blackwater be submitting a tender?

Some suggest that Minneapolis police officers should live in the neighborhoods they police so that they will have to live, day in, day out, with the results of their work. The city’s council members have no such intention. They will use your money to insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions. I’m reminded of the situation on the farm after the revolution in George Orwell’s famous novel: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.