I am horrified and outraged by the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers last night. Police violence is a plague in our country and in Minnesota, and the damage it has caused in the black community is sickening. Black lives matter.
People of color and those from indigenous communities have experienced systemic racism and unjust treatment in the United States for centuries, and we must reject George Floyd’s death as being just more of the same story. According to the Star Tribune, 193 Minnesotans died after a physical confrontation with law enforcement in the last 20 years. Of those, 49 people, a full 25 percent, were black. This is important to note because black people make up only about 7 percent of Minnesota’s population, and the article covers just a short time period that doesn’t include the awful death numbers across the previous decades and especially in the early-to-mid-1900s.
It is beyond time to make needed policy changes, especially regarding police hiring, training, and accountability to the communities they are paid by taxpayers to serve. Some police departments have taken some positive steps toward eradicating brutality and discrimination from their ranks, but it’s clear that we must act from the outside if we want concrete, systemic change in policing in Minnesota.
As a minimum first step, the legislature must pass into law the 28 reforms recommended in February 2020 by Attorney General Ellison and Department of Public Safety Commissioner Harrington, and should also explore solutions that involve gradually reallocating money from police budgets to fund more mental health service providers, social workers, and victim and survivor advocates, as well as to fund the important social services that meet Minnesotans’ basic needs.