The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers reveals its true colors

For decades, many on the left have argued the need for U.S. police departments to repair a sense of trust and credibility with the communities they serve. One way to accomplish this, they have said, is to recruit and hire more people of color to ensure departments more closely reflect the communities they serve. 

While police leaders know that a good officer isn’t defined by his or her skin color, the profession has largely supported the move toward ensuring more diversity to improve trust and credibility. A great deal of progress has been made across the country and here in Minnesota. 

In my 33 years of service in Hennepin County, I personally witnessed a huge transformation in law enforcement demographics, in both race and gender. What once was a profession largely dominated by white males in the ’80s and ’90s has turned into arguably the most diverse and progressive profession there is. 

The incoming Hennepin County Sheriff is an African American female, and the sitting Chief Deputy is too. Many of the area departments, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington, Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, and the Metro Transit Police, have or have had African American chiefs in recent years. Many more have been run by female chiefs.  

The rank and file are more diverse too. The number of African American, Somalian, Hmong, and Hispanic officers is continually increasing, and the profession and our communities are better for it.

The Minneapolis Police Department has put forward one of the more comprehensive efforts to improve diversity in recruitment.  Much of the plan came from the Community Safety Work Group, which developed recommendations to improve public safety in Minneapolis.  The group was chaired by Nekima Levy Armstrong, a leading advocate for police reform, and a diverse group of 21 other community leaders committed to seeing Minneapolis rebound.

The group’s efforts were put forward in a June 2022 report. In it, the group recommended a goal of increasing sworn staff to 888 (from about 560 currently), and to do so by “building a pipeline of future candidates who live in the city of Minneapolis.” One of the key strategies proposed was to “create a K-12 public safety career pathway program” partnering with the Minneapolis Public School system to support “career fairs, field trips, and mentorship opportunities, to expose children to careers in public safety.”

Based on this comprehensive recommendation, the city formulated the Minneapolis PEACE Recruitment Program, and budgeted $740,000 over 2023/2024 to create this pathway for students of color to become police officers. 

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar requested federal funding to support the program in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee stating, “This project provides a pipeline for improving pathways of growth in policing. It also provides opportunities for job growth, advancement in education, positive impact in diverse communities, and reduces crime while keeping citizens safe.”

Who could argue against this proposal put forward by a diverse group of leaders, chaired by the area’s lead voice in police reform, championed by Mayor Frey, funded by the Minneapolis City Council, and supported by our senior democratic senator? 

The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT59) could — and did.  You can’t make this up.

In a resolution dated December 16, 2022, MFT59 made several bizarre, yet revealing statements about its position, such as:

  • The PEACE plan “runs counter to the needs and safety of our youth and community.”
  • The Minneapolis Police Department has engaged in “racist killings.”
  • Participating in the PEACE plan would require Minneapolis youth “to put themselves and fellow community members in harm’s way.”
  • Funding for PEACE should be instead put towards “opioid addiction treatment services, ongoing funding for youth healthcare services, climate preparedness, and housing services”….and other “social programs that get at the root of disrupting the school to prison pipeline.”
  • PEACE is an initiative “to recruit Minneapolis youth to intern with law enforcement and assimilate into this oppressive and unaccountable institution.”
  • And finally, what is likely the most telling position of MFT59, Minneapolis should instead “be funding programs that encourage our youth to become educators…”

The police profession has worked hard over the past 30 years to become one of the most diverse professions in operation today. Police leaders and the rank-and-file support this diversification and understand the transformation is beneficial to establishing and maintaining trust and credibility. 

Minneapolis’s efforts in this area are commendable, and the PEACE Recruitment Plan will ultimately be a significant step towards rebuilding the Minneapolis Police Department, and in restoring public safety to the city.

MFT59’s effort to oppose this police recruitment effort is unwise, out of touch with its base, and ultimately self-serving. It reveals a blatant hypocrisy that exists within the teacher’s union leadership that puts its priorities above that of its students and the community.

Defund who……?