Today we discussed the vow of the majority of the Minneapolis City Council to “dismantle” the police department as well as some historical comparisons to such radical actions. That effort was led in part by Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender who appeared today on CNN. When CNN’s Alisyn Camerota asked about those who are concerned about their personal safety, Bender said that such concerns “comes from a place of privilege” and that people are now experiencing the reality of life for African Americans. While not explored further by CNN, there is at least a possibility that the fear of a home intruder is not “coming from a place of privilege” but a place of self-preservation.
Camerota asked “Do you understand that the word, dismantle, or police-free also makes some people nervous, for instance? What if in the middle of [the] night, my home is broken into? Who do I call?” Bender’s response was:
“I mean, I hear that loud and clear from a lot of my neighbors. And I know — and myself, too, and I know that that comes from a place of privilege. Because for those of us for whom the system is working, I think we need to step back and imagine what it would feel like to already live in that reality where calling the police may mean more harm is done.”
Bender went on to detail how the police department could be removed from a variety of incidents from mental health calls, for some domestic violence calls, for health-related issues.” She did not address the primary question and Camerota did not press her to answer. There are some very good ideas for reform, including the possible use of non-police resources. However, none of that involves “dismantling” the department as opposed to addressing such insular reforms for reform as the Mayor has suggested.
Bender attended the same rally where Mayor Jacob Frey was booed for not agreeing to dismantle the police. The organizers and supporters chanted “no more cops.”
Bender however has been fueling such calls at the rally and on social media.
Bender notably did not respond when asked point bank whether she wanted to get rid of the the police: “So what are you trying to do?” Are you hoping by dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department that you will be getting rid of the police department?”
Bender responded: “I think in Minneapolis, watching George Floyd’s death, and the four — the actions of the four police officers that were involved has been a huge wake-up call for so many in Minneapolis to see what many already knew, which is that our police department is not keeping every member of our community safe.”
The city council now appears to have a veto proof majority to dismantle the police department. Other jurisdictions are considering similar moves and Los Angeles just announced a major cut in funding. Again, the silence of other politicians is perfectly deafening as they try to avoid any public criticism or conflict with the most radical elements of this movement.
What I find odd is that the fear of being without police is a form of privilege but it is still viewed by Bender as somehow beneficial because it makes non-African Americans experience fear. Wouldn’t it be better (indeed a form of leadership) to seek to remove the fear from the African-American community rather than making the fear universal? It is likely solving the greater threat of fire in one community by telling another community to go without fire protection. You achieve equity but hardly the equity that you would want. That however was not part of this interview.
There is also no idea what is meant by a “transformative new model of public safety.” That might be a useful detail to work out before vowing to dismantle the police department. People just may need police rather than platitudes before Bender “imagines” her new “vision.”
What is left is uncontested jargon where any questions or doubts are dismissed as admissions of privilege.