We know you have questions about the future of policing in Minnesota. We have the expertise to answer those questions, and we're finding new ways to get you the information you need.

We've been collecting questions from supporters like you via email and social media, and we answered those questions in at our virtual round table Future of Policing. This FAQ page gathers the most frequently asked questions and provides answers from our experts right here.

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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What is the difference between demands to “defund the police” and to “divest from police?”

Q.What is the difference between demands to “defund the police” and to “divest from police?”
A.

What is the difference between demands to “defund the police” and to “divest from police?”

A movement is growing to transform the status quo of modern policing, and the ACLU of Minnesota is in solidarity with Black-led organizations that are at the helm. Black, Brown and Indigenous communities are being physically, psychologically, spiritually and economically devastated by over-policing. Police are murdering members of those communities at terrifying rates. 

One out of every 1,000 Black men in the United States can expect to be killed by police during their lives, and piecemeal reforms have failed to prevent more deaths. In response to the tragedy of modern policing, people are rising up to demand a future with fewer police.

Whether folks frame their demands as “defunding” or “divesting” from police, those within this movement are united in the belief that police are not the right solution to every challenge our communities face. Instead, we want to shrink enormous police budgets — in Minneapolis alone, the police budget is nearly $200 million, or one-third of the city’s total expenditures — and instead fund community services other than police to help solve problems in our neighborhoods.

Shouldn’t we try some smaller reforms first, before we jump to divestment?

Q.Shouldn’t we try some smaller reforms first, before we jump to divestment?
A.

Shouldn’t we try some smaller reforms first, before we jump to divestment?

Let’s face it ⁠— policing reforms have not done enough to save Black, Brown and Indigenous lives from being snuffed out by police violence. If they had, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Philando Castile, Jamar Clark and countless others would still be alive. Body cameras, implicit bias training, civilian review boards, and restrictions on police uses of force are not working.

Why? Because the underlying problem with policing isn’t a lack of training, or a lack of accountability, or a lack of good procedures about use of force. It’s the racism at the foundation of modern policing and the associated broadening of the scope and power of law enforcement that leads to so many egregious uses of force against Black, Brown and Indigenous people.

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If we cut police budgets, where will the savings go?

Q.If we cut police budgets, where will the savings go?
A.

If we cut police budgets, where will the savings go?

Black, Brown and Indigenous communities suffer from centuries of severe underinvestment in restorative justice, mental health, housing, education, parks, and other social and community services that are routinely funded in white neighborhoods. In many communities where these services are not funded, the only services that are widely available and adequately funded are the police and punitive programs.

Those of us calling to divest from police don’t just want to punish police for bad behavior. We want to stop funneling all our resources into over-policing, so we can reinvest the money into our communities. This way, we can give more people access to services that are proven to reduce crime and resolve conflict without violence. That means funding things that strengthen communities such as housing, mental health services and educational supports. It also means funding services other than police so that when people need help, they can call a person qualified and trained to solve the problem without further harm.

 

If we cut police budgets, who will answer when I call 911?

Q.If we cut police budgets, who will answer when I call 911?
A.

If we cut police budgets, who will answer when I call 911?

Right now, in many communities, police departments are the only adequately funded service available to deal with non-criminal situations like homelessness, behavioral issues in schools, mental health crises, “wellness” checks and neighbor disputes. When police respond ⁠— especially if the person in question is Black, Brown, Indigenous and/or disabled ⁠— they too often respond with violence, leading police to kill the person rather than help them. 

It’s pretty simple: We think that when people call 911, operators should be able to dispatch the right person for the problem⁠ ⁠— not just an officer with a gun. With savings from reduced police budgets, we could fund community-based alternatives like:

  • Mediation and intervention professionals to de-escalate conflict in situations such as  neighbor disputes, intimate partner violence and gang violence;
  • Psychologists and behavioral health specialists to support children in our schools;
  • Existing community-led organizations that are known and trusted by people to provide services, but which currently don’t have the resources to expand their outreach;
  • Spaces and facilitators for restorative justice conversations when someone in the community does harm or is harmed.

In short, budget savings could fund responders who have relationships with the communities they serve and whose professional training prepares them to respond to crisis situations without violence, in ways that affirm the lives and humanity of people in the community.

Will replacing police with community programs and services make me and my family less safe?

Q.Will replacing police with community programs and services make me and my family less safe?
A.

Will replacing police with community programs and services make me and my family less safe?

Many of us have a distorted idea of how police spend their time. The truth is, policing is not like what is depicted on Law & Order. Officers make very few felony arrests, and they fail to solve the majority of serious crimes. Arrest data bears this out. Nationally, only 5% of all arrests are for violent crimes ⁠— the other 95% are for petty behaviors like drug possession, loitering and driving without a license. In Minneapolis, like many places, police have a poor track record at solving even the violent crime that does occur, clearing only 22% of rapes and 56% of homicides in 2019. 

To reimagine policing, many of us first need to reimagine safety and where it comes from. That means decriminalizing many currently criminalized behaviors that do not cause harm to others. It also means diverting resources to non-punitive interventions like restorative justice when harm is done. Not only would this approach reduce or eliminate dangerous interactions with police, it would also free up time for police to do their jobs: investigating and solving violent felony crimes.

What is "community policing" versus “community-led public safety alternatives?”

Q.What is "community policing" versus “community-led public safety alternatives?”
A.

Is “community policing” the same thing as “community-led public safety alternatives?”

No. “Community policing” is a policing reform widely implemented in the late 1990s with the ostensible goal of building trust between police and Black, Brown and Indigenous communities. It requires police, many of whom do not live in the areas they “serve,” to patrol the same neighborhoods for long, sustained periods during their careers in order to build relationships with the community. The problem is that the atmosphere facilitated by community policing is artificial, and it has not stopped officers from brutalizing the same people with whom they have supposed relationships. Whatever intentions drove the reform, the reality is that community policing has long been a facade for over-policing and police violence. 

“Community-led public safety,” on the other hand, is not a reform to be foisted on communities without their input. Instead, it begins with conversations about what safety means and looks like to the community. It’s about diverting resources away from the failed project of building bonds between people and an institution designed to punish and control them, and instead investing in services that build bonds within the community itself and provide real safety to its members.

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What does a world with less police look like?

Q.What does a world with less police look like?
A.

How will divestment from police impact daily life in white communities where there is not a large police presence?

One of the beauties of the movement to divest from policing is that we already have a model for how this would look: middle class and wealthy white communities. People living in these areas don’t fear police violence because, even though white people engage in criminalized behavior at about the same rate as Black people, white people’s neighborhoods aren't over-policed. That means they will have far fewer police interactions over their lifetimes. If white people do interact with police, they are more likely to receive the benefit of the doubt and less likely to be perceived as threatening. When people in wealthy white neighborhoods experience conflict or cause harm, there are often non-punitive services available to divert them away from police intervention and incarceration.

Shrinking the role that police play in our daily lives won’t change the status quo in middle class and wealthy white communities. It will simply extend those norms to everyone else.

Did the movement to divest from policing begin in response to the murder of George Floyd?

Q.Did the movement to divest from policing begin in response to the murder of George Floyd?
A.

Did the movement to divest from policing begin in response to the murder of George Floyd?

The movement to defund police is not new. It belongs to generations of Black activists who have insisted for decades -- even centuries -- that police are not equivalent to safety, especially for Black, Brown and Indigenous communities. We uplift the leaders of this Black-led movement, like Meriame Kaba, Angela Davis and Ruth Wilson Gilmore, who have paved the way for us to have a serious conversation about divestment, and not simply about more Band-Aid reforms. 

In the Twin Cities, we also uplift Black organizers and Black-led organizations like Black Lives Matter in Minneapolis and St. Paul, along with Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block, who are leading the local movement to divest from police. Their demands are not spontaneous. They are the result of years of organizing and strategic planning, and they have practical plans for the implementation of their vision.

What about false 911 calls?

Q.What about false 911 calls?
A.

Won’t “community-led public safety alternatives” further empower white people (very often white women) to harass Black people in public spaces?

Just before Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd, a white New York woman named Amy Cooper was in the news for calling police on Christian Cooper (no relation), a Black bird watcher who had asked Amy to leash her dog in a public park. Understandably, we’ve heard from people worried that “community-led public safety alternatives” will wind up empowering, rather than addressing, the white vigilantism that is too often a precursor to dangerous police interactions.

This is important to hear: Amy Cooper and other white people are only able to threaten Black and Brown people in this way because of the ties between policing and white supremacy. The first police departments were slave patrols, and for centuries the police have been refining their tools for surveilling and suppressing Black, Brown and Indigenous people. When a white woman summons police to discipline a Black man for asking her to follow the rules in a public park, she is calling the police because she knows they will respond with force, in a way that reinforces her power and privilege. While shrinking police will not end racism, it will reduce the power of police to enforce white supremacy. That means that white people will no longer have the option of summoning armed forces to harass and brutalize their Black, Brown and Indigenous neighbors.

 

Can the Minneapolis City Council really dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department?

Q.Can the Minneapolis City Council really dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department?
A.

Can the Minneapolis City Council really dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department?

Yes, but with a caveat. Right now, the Minneapolis city charter dictates a ratio of police officers to residents, and this city-charter mandated ratio prevents the City Council from taking any action that dramatically reduces the size of the police force -- something experts and activists alike see as essential to creating the opportunity for deep, systemic change. 

The Minneapolis city charter can only be changed by a unanimous vote of the council and the mayor, and some of those parties remain opposed. That leaves two options: The Council can decide to cut other parts of the police budget, or voters can decide to reduce the number of officers through a ballot amendment.

 

Will divesting from the police create real change?

Q.Will divesting from the police create real change?
A.

How can we know that defunding or divesting from police will create real, systemic change, rather than provide another Band-Aid solution?

In order to have real, systemic change, the members of the community must be at the table making decisions about what safety should look like in their neighborhoods. The people who are in the streets demanding these changes must be in the room, guiding and implementing policy and holding their elected leaders accountable to a shared vision. When community members are at the table, there is more transparency for the entire community. That’s a good thing.

We also need to rethink our criteria for evaluating potential police reforms. Many reforms that have been popular across the political spectrum lead to increased investments in police departments, rather than increasing resourcing for communities. When we ask for a change to policing, we must make sure that the change is not something like providing more equipment or more training, which will pad police budgets without providing different results.

 

 

Will divesting from policing cause crime to increase?

Q.Will divesting from policing cause crime to increase?
A.

Will divesting from policing cause crime to increase?

No. Multiple studies show that increased rates of policing and incarceration do not have an impact on crime. In some places like New York City, scalebacks of policing and arrests have been correlated with lower rates of crime. Here’s the thing ⁠— police spend a great deal of time over-policing Black, Brown and Indigenous communities and punishing people who engage in criminalized behavior, but they are not great at preventing or solving crimes. Nationally, about 95% of all arrests are for petty behaviors like jaywalking, loitering, drug possession and driving with a suspended license ⁠—  criminalized behaviors that don’t harm others in the community. Meanwhile, last year in Minneapolis, police solved 56% of homicides and just 22% of reported rapes, even as they padded their budget and put more officers on the streets. 

While these low-level arrests don’t make anyone any safer, they do extract incredible amounts of revenue from over-policed Black, Brown and Indigenous neighborhoods. Over-policing and other exploitative policies governing fines and civil forfeiture allow police departments to strip wealth from these communities on a massive scale and weaponize those resources against the people. That makes many of us less safe, because each police interaction creates another opportunity for one of our neighbors or family members to be killed by police.