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Anti-police Minneapolis City Council asks as crime rises: 'Where are the police?'

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo

After voting to disband its police department, members of the Minneapolis City Council found themselves in a difficult position during a recent study session on police reform.

Their constituents are suffering a rise in crime this summer, including carjackings, robberies, assaults and shootings. Council members in historically low-crime wards now say their constituents are feeling “terrorized.”

So council members asked police Chief Medaria Arradondo on Tuesday what the department is doing about it, reported Minneapolis Public Radio .

“Residents are asking, ‘Where are the police’?” said Jamal Osman, newly elected council member of Ward 6.

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He’s received a flood of complaints from residents saying calls for police aren’t being answered.

“That is the only public safety option they have at the moment. MPD. They rely on MPD. And they are saying they are nowhere to be seen,” Osman said.

In June, after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, the City Council voted to remove from the city charter the requirement to maintain a police department. It was the first step in a longer process to change the charter. The Council proposed replacing the police department with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. In August, the Minneapolis Charter Commission voted to take more time to review the plan, meaning the issue would not be on the November ballot.

MPR reported the police department’s crime data shows violent crimes such as assaults, robberies and homicides are up compared to 2019,

Arradondo told council members the department has added more officers to patrol and investigative duties and is cracking down on robberies.

But council members told the police chief that residents are hearing a different message from officers. The officers are saying they are overworked and understaffed.

Council President Lisa Bender, who led the call to disband the department, said officers are admitting they are purposefully not arresting people who are committing crimes.

Arradondo told Bender that was “troubling to hear” and promised to raise the issue with commanders and the heads of each precinct.

“We need to make sure that our communities know that we are going to be there,” said Arradondo. “That we’re going to be responsive. We’ve taken an oath to do that.”

About 100 officers have left the department or have taken leave since the beginning of 2020, which is more than double the usual number.

Council member Phillipe Cunningham supports the creation of a new community safety agency to replace the police department.

He wants to begin instituting some of the public health-based approaches to violence prevention. The council recently took more than $1 million from the police budget to hire “violence interrupters” to intervene and defuse potentially violent confrontations.

He criticized some of his colleagues for wavering on their promises to transform the city’s public safety system.

“What I am sort of flabbergasted by right now is colleagues, who a very short time ago were calling for abolition, are now suggesting we should be putting more resources and funding into MPD,” Cunningham said, according to MPR.

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