Reimagining public safety: From Ithaca to Minneapolis

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The new report proposes solutions to police violence. It examines the long history of misconduct by police officers in America and violence thatdisproportionately affects Black people.

Police killed at least 1,134 people in 2021, even though Blacks make up only 13% of the U.S. populace, according to Mapping Police Violence a non-profit group that tracks police shootings.

The report “All Safe: Transforming public Safety” highlights a series of recommendations to improve policing in metropolitan areas and reduce the amount of police violence. This plan examines specific cities like Ithaca, N.Y. and Brooklyn Center and makes recommendations for other cities.


span style=”font weight: 400 I think the new things we saw after George Floyd’s murder was quite remarkable. The general public was more aware of this issue than the elected officials. They also seemed to be willing to do something about it.” Niaz Kasravi (the editor of this report) said that the Avalan Institute is a data-driven social justice institution.

After the nationwide protests and calls for change following the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Tony McDade was filmed in Tallahassee Florida.


People For the American Way gathered a team of advocates, experts, and former police officers to create a report that would be a guide for elected officials on how to address police accountability and stop police violence.


span style=”font weight: 400 It’s difficult to reach consensus on this issue. It’s difficult to move. I have worked on a variety of criminal justice issues, but policing is the most difficult. It requires long-term investment, commitment, and strategy. Kasravi agreed.


Recommendations


This report described a four-pronged approach for reducing violence in the police force, with a focus on restructuring, holding accountable, removing, and recruiting.


Brooklyn Center is one of the cities in the report that is currently restructuring its police department.


The City Council approved the Daunte and Kobe Dimock–Heisler Community Safety Prevention Resolution Act in 2021 after Daunte was killed in a manslaughter attack. Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott stated that the act establishes a community oversight body and a civilian complaint review panel to address complaints about policing.


Brooklyn Center has added unarmed responders to its community response team, in addition to its oversight and complaint review boards. The city has now hired staff to manage the program, and secured funding for the hiring of responders.


Elliott stated that only 22% of 911 calls from Brooklyn Center Police Department are related to crime. The program’s implementation committee and consultants identified 30 types of 911 calls that could be handled by a community response team member.


span style=”font weight: 400 The approach we are taking at Brooklyn Center is to expand the options available to the community when people call and say they need them,” Elliott stated.


Elliott predicts that the hiring process for these positions will occur in the fall.


Ithaca, public safety model


Former Mayor SvanteMyrick has proposed a new model for public safety in Ithaca. Kasravi believes this model is ideal and replaces the police force by a Department of Public Safety.


The restructuring divides the department into two teams: a team consisting of unarmed and armed responders. Kasravi stated that the unarmed responders will respond to nonviolent mental issues, domestic disputes and issues regarding homelessness.


According to the report, approximately one-third to one half of 911 calls in Ithaca could be handled by non-armed responders.


span style=”font weight: 400 When they looked at it, they realized it was a win on all fronts (using non-armed responders) as it lowers the chance of being attacked by police officers. Kasravi stated. It treats residents with more compassion by taking care of their mental and physical needs. It decreases stress on officers so that they can concentrate on what they are trained to do. It builds trust with residents and communities and saves money. It also makes it easier to spend those resources .”


These recommendations were informed from data about policing practices like force use, statistics on police accountability and demographic data on victims of police violence.


According to Kasravi, while there are some records, more information is needed about police killings.


span style=”font weight: 400 It’s a mixed bag because at some point you’re like, “We know this is happening.” Kasravi stated.

Ithaca Public Safety Model will cost $1.15million more than the $12.5 million currently spent on the police department. It is currently working to get funding approval and a budget for unarmed response. According to the Ithaca Journal, the Common Council will vote on July’s plan for the Department of Community Safety.


Unarmed responders are people who have expertise in social work, mental health, and backgrounds in de-escalation.


Ithaca


Kasravi believes that the Ithaca model will be the real deal.


Kasravi stated that span style=”font weight: 400 I, myself, have been doing this for a while, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen.” We now realize that this may not be politically feasible in every city, as every city has its own political realities and the needs of the community.


She said that cities who are not ready to adopt the Ithaca model should focus on the other recommendations like accountability, recruiting more qualified officers and removing unfit officers.


Other cities like Berkeley, California and Eugene (Oregon) have followed the recommendations and created community responder programs as well as separate departments for low-level traffic offenses.


Minneapolis saw a push for a restructure of the Police Department. This was to create a Department of Public Safety.


Kasravi stated that the Minneapolis effort was heroic and timely. “I believe that if we look at Ithaca and Minneapolis we can draw some lessons learned and things which could help the next round .”

She believes that the public safety department could have been better described and operated by a more detailed plan. She said that misinformation and unanswered questions in the Minneapolis restructure push may have discouraged many people from voting.


Kasravi stated that the Ithaca foundations were built over a long period of time. They also didn’t have to deal with the high-profile shootings and murders to which Minneapolis was subject. They were, I believe, in a different moment. Both were at the same moment in national history, but their local moments were very different. Their political sensibilities are also a bit different.


Kasravi stated that such efforts must be successful if there is a strategy to counter misinformation that focuses on data.


What can this mean for the Twin Cities?


The topic of police work in the Twin Cities has been a hot topic. Multiple instances of police brutality have been captured on camera over the past two decades, which has attracted national attention. Kasravi stated, “But, so many more things happen that don’t get documented.”


Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center have made some progress in holding police officers accountable. This is evident with the cases of Derek Chauvin, Kim Potter and others. But there’s still more to be done. Many incidents of police misconduct are not captured on video, so they don’t receive the same attention. Kasravi stated that there is still the need to hold those responsible.


span style=”font weight: 400 I think it’s been a little bit of an two steps forward, one back in many aspects,” she stated. “Because it has been so prominently highlighted, we have seen more officers involved in misconduct being held accountable than ever before. It doesn’t seem to be a match for the severity of this problem.


Kasravi stated that things like police union contracts have laws that protect officers from accountability.


They limit the time that a claim can take place. Kasravi stated that they provide officers with unfair access to information about claims and evidence, before they give their testimony or version of events. There are still many barriers between where we are and where we need to go in terms of accountability.


Elliott believes that there is still no true accountability for the public safety system, despite the national attention Brooklyn Center has received and Minneapolis’ accountability in recent years.


span style=”font weight: 400 The report discusses accountability and the issues surrounding body camera footage. Elliott stated that the report deals with the question of removing officers who aren’t upholding their oaths to serve and protect the community.

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