Political leaders turning to pro-active policing to address crime — imagine if they had acknowledged its value a few years earlier

Increased crime in Minnesota in recent years is the direct result of the defund the police movement. Those inclined to commit crime and create chaos saw an open door and walked right in. They have enjoyed several years of police on the defensive, and a system unwilling to apply consequences to criminal behavior. Law-abiding citizens have paid the price.

One area hit especially hard by this reality has been at the University of Minnesota. Most recently several students were injured during multiple attacks at off campus housing and frat houses as roving groups of thugs shot fireworks at and physically assaulted students celebrating Halloween. See Star Tribune report here

These events come on the heels of multiple high-profile crimes of violence over the past year around the university, that prompted the formation of a parent/citizen group demanding more from University and Minneapolis political leaders, and calling out their “take a knee” approach to crime.

The University has held several public safety meetings this year which have been attended by angry students and parents. Center of the American Experiment has written about crime at the university on multiple occasions — read some of these here, here and here.

Having spoken with leadership at the University of Minnesota Police Department, it’s clear to me the problem isn’t a lack of effort by the UMPD. They have staffed up within the context of universal staffing shortages, created sustained overtime positions to address the near campus issues at Dinkytown, and partnered with other local law enforcement such as the Hennepin County Sheriff to improve visibility and responsiveness. U of M President Gabel has even quietly rescinded her moratorium on partnering with MPD on public safety issues. (The MPD remains hobbled in this partnership, given its own staffing crisis – down nearly 300 officers since 2020. MPD staffing issues are even more apparent at the university where city property patrolled by the MPD’s 2nd Pct, and university property patrolled by UMPD, are intermingled. The difference in service causes confusion and frustration by students, their parents, and the public, who just want “the police,” regardless of the address).

No, the problem isn’t the police, it’s the atmosphere of lawlessness that was allowed to take hold across our state following the death of George Floyd. The anti-police, defund the police, and police reform movement was supported and amplified by political leaders who failed to see that their actions opened the door to brazen lawlessness. Those inclined to criminal behavior have taken full advantage. 

Shutting that door isn’t easy once it’s breached. While the door hasn’t been shut yet, there are promising signs of change on the horizon — precisely because political leadership is finally acknowledging the value of pro-active law enforcement.

Minneapolis appears to be getting its public safety act together with the recent reorganization of its public safety systems, and the naming of Community Safety Commissioner Cedric Alexander and new Chief of Police Brian O’Hara. I can say that those I’ve spoken with in the Minneapolis Police Department are cautiously optimistic for the first time since 2020. Time will tell if these structural changes and personnel additions will have long term success. It’s in our collective best interest that Minneapolis does succeed – no mater where we live in Minnesota.

It’s interesting and encouraging to note that U of M and Minneapolis political leadership have valued proactive law enforcement as the basis with which to begin reestablishing public safety. Multiple sustained pro-active initiatives have begun in Minneapolis under the umbrella of Operation Endeavor, and officials announced some promising downward trends this past week — see report here. Minneapolis has a long way to recover, but progress is welcomed.

The U of M has also unveiled Operation Gopher Guardian, which utilizes a significant proactive police presence as its foundation. Chief Matt Clark led from the front this past weekend as he was out patrolling the U with his officers. The first weekend proved to be a success at keeping the thugs from feeling emboldened.

Who knew proactive law enforcement had such a proven track record? The real question of course is who didn’t, or better yet, who did but still jumped on the defund bandwagon when it was politically advantageous? Those folks have a lot to answer for.

Nothing helps close the door on crime faster than political leadership being resolute advocates for pro-active law enforcement. When officers know they have support from above to be cops, they step up. When they do, brazen criminals step back, and law-abiding citizens throughout our state benefit.

It’s frustrating to look back on the past two years knowing that so many of our problems were self-inflicted. We need to learn from the past two years and never again let activists set the course for public safety in Minnesota.

The results of next week’s elections will have a huge impact on whether the momentum towards law and order continues, or fades.