Micheala Sharp: Hello and welcome to the ACLU of Minnesota virtual Q & A titled "Future of Policing". I am joined today with the ACLU policing policy advisor Paige Fernandez, the ACLU of Minnesota community engagement director Jana Kooren, and the ACLU of Minnesota organizer Eliza Darris who has been out there on the front lines tirelessly since the first day of the protests. Today we will talk a little bit, about what divestment means what is community-led policing and just answer your questions. We made an announcement earlier this week that the Minneapolis City Council had plans to disband the Minneapolis Police Department, and we got thousands and thousands of comments and we want to be responsive to those and answer your questions. So please Paige lead us in.
Paige Fernandez: Hi everyone, Paige Fernandez policing policy advisor at ACLU national I'm here today to talk about the underlying problem with policing, which is not a lack of training or a lack of accountability or lack of good procedures. It is the incredible broadening of the scope and responsibilities and power of policing that has led to so many violent and egregious uses of force. And its significant racist policing and bias policing practices, it is imperative, as a society, right now that we take steps that will actually improve safety and help communities of color, specifically black communities that have suffered from under-investment and everything except police and punitive programs for the past few centuries.
Micheala Sharp: Thank you. Thank you. And let us get more into what has been happening. Why is this moment such a major defining moment in Minneapolis? I'm going to have Jana, and Eli, take it.
Jana Kooren: So just to bring you up to speed about where we are now: George Floyd was murdered, the murder shook everyone to the core. We had to sit and watch the brutal murder, eight and a half minutes this police officer kept his knee on George Floyd's neck and Minneapolis and our communities. We have gone through this too many times. We had Jamar Clark Philando Castile. Unfortunately, too many names to say at this moment. And from there, people did what they do when they took to the streets. You saw thousands of people coming out in the middle of a pandemic to say we cannot do this anymore. So, because of the work that has been done in our community for a long time the work led by our amazing BIPOC organizers to push this movement forward.
We were able the conversation started to change. It was not just about a reform that did one small thing. It wasn't just, let's just make this one move. It was, we need to reimagine what our police department can be. And because of the long and hard work that was put in by so many people to get to this point, we are where we are now, where we had a week ago our city council members in Minneapolis gather and say we need to completely rethink policing. And so they've used a lot of different words. They've use disband defund, divest, some people using abolish. And what, what we can say so far is that none of those things are reality yet, right, we've heard commitments from the city council. We know that they want to do more, but we need to keep pushing for what that vision looks like and really define what's happening because so far all we happen. The city council said that they are committed to shaping this and redoing it. But nothing will be a reality until we keep working together.
Elizer Darris: I would say beyond just Minnesota, that Minneapolis right now is it's an eye of the storm is the epicenter of an international cry for change. And so the policing that we have been seeing the violent policing that we have been saying it's not just geographically limited to Minnesotans, Minneapolis residents in particular this as well. We've seen protests spark in Washington DC spark in Los Angeles, California spark in Madrid, Spain spark in Mexico all around and the entire world. There is an international outcry for freedom and for justice. And so, what we are dealing with right now in the eye of the storm. The eyes of the world are watching and that is reason we must get it right. This is the part of the reason we have so many to come and sit at the table and really work together to reimagine a new world. And so part of what we are seeing is a collection of internationally great minds of people who are willing to put their bodies on the line to create this new way and this new future.
Micheala Sharp: What exactly is the Minneapolis City Council proposing and how do we get to this point where the Minneapolis City Council makes an announcement in front of Black Visions Collective and says, we intend to disband the Minneapolis Police Department.
Jana Kooren: That we got here because of the brilliant work and the tirelessly hard work that the black indigenous and other communities of color who have been pushing for a reimagining of the police department for a long time. Right so Black Visions Collective, Reclaim the Block and MTD 150 have been asking for divestment or defunding of the police department for a while... They have been saying we need to stop spending all of our money on the police when we can't even fund our schools. When we can fund when we can't fund other things and when we can find alternatives that are much safer for everyone in the police and provide that sense of community service security that we all want and need. So, it is because of the years of hard work that's been put in by organizers on the ground in Minneapolis. One of the most beautiful things we have in our city and in our Twin Cities is a strong history that I'm sure we all love and appreciate, of organizing, activism, vision and change. And it's because of that, that we are able to get to the point where we are now, where you can actually hear some of the first politicians in the country to say, let's dive us and defend from the police.
Micheala Sharp: And so with that I'm going to go back and say, what is divestment. People have probably been hearing it for the first time. Could you all this lend an ear to what this is.
Jana Kooren: There is a couple different terms rights are people being used. So first, kind of just walk through those a little bit. So there's defund, which literally means take funding out of the police department. And you can look at defunding in a couple of ways. And I don't want to speak for any other groups or or activism for how they're finding defund but defund will take away funding. So there's left to zero. Some people might say defund to take down a smaller amount, divest says take the money out of the police department and invest into another community.
Micheala Sharp: Um, and, again, back on this topic of defunding and divesting. Some people just heard about this last week, how did this movement come about?
Paige Fernandez: Yeah. So no, this isn't now and I feel like it's so important for us to be saying that because as Jana, said, there have been so many amazing black lead grassroots groups black organizers black activists and advocates for decades for centuries, honestly, who have been saying police are not providing us safety. Who really been interrogating what public safety meetings, public safety for who because it's definitely not for black communities who are consistently harassed and murdered by the police. So no this this idea. I really want to uplift people like Merriam Kaaba, Angela Davis and Ruth Wilson Gilmore, who have gotten us to this point, who have been saying for years and years that these minor reforms. These band aid reforms, like have body cameras or of implicit bias training quite simply are not enough and we owe them an enormous debt because they have been thinking about this writing about this and talking about this for so long. And I'm so grateful that it's now finally in the national dialogue. But no, it is not new. And I think that's really important for people to know because people have been thinking about better solutions for years and years,
Elizer Darris: Let me jump in and also talk specifically about, Minnesota. In Minneapolis, I want to say that there's been multiple groups that have been working on this for many, many, many years. In fact, it has been almost a singular focus on some of these groups. And so just a couple come to mind. And that's Black Lives Matter Minneapolis chapter and also the St. Paul chapter and, most recently, but still have been working on this for multiple years like Black Visions Collective. And so this isn't something that just cropped out of nowhere. This isn't some spontaneous outcry from the crowd. Many of these groups have been having meetings with, other organizing activist community members have been having meetings with city council members for several years. There have been a lot of strategic planning. So this isn't something as spontaneous. It's something that's well thought out. They have practical plans for implementation. And so I just want to call out for the local activists and organizing communities that are calling for defunding the Minneapolis Police Department or divesting from the Minneapolis Police Department that no, this is nothing new. They've been activated and they've been working within this space for years. And what we're now seeing is the culmination of a lot of years of planning strategic thinking and coalition building.
Micheala Sharp: Yes, I see that the central rallying cry is to divest from policing and then invest in black and brown communities. And so the next big question that is on everyone else's mind is if the police budget is slashed what is going to happen with those savings I here of course that there'll be invested in the community. But what does that look like?
Elizer Darris: So, I mean, so there's a number of different potential alternatives to slashing the nearly $200 million budget almost a quarter of a billion-dollar budget that the city of Minneapolis Police Department collects from the overall budget. Bringing for just a few examples. There's a lot of community-based organizations. Many of these organizations, they don't have a personnel on board to figure out how to fill out RFQs to get grant money and grant dollars and send lobbyists to the capital. They're very busy out here on the streets, putting in work. Many of these organizations, we turn to in times of crisis because they are battle tested. They are known but they are not really well funded oftentimes the people who are working within these organizations are volunteers. I should go into these organizations that are already out here boots on the ground, making a difference. I'll just give a few more specific examples there could be unarmed mediation and intervention teams. We have individuals right now that work within some of the departments, just,, one or two between each city, even though like millions of people within The Twin Cities area. We have a few people that are designated to be on the intervention list in terms of gang violence. And so to be able to employ more people who have relationships, who can help to mediate between two opposing groups would be very much beneficial. You can decriminalize most nonviolent crimes like marijuana possession we can invest more and restorative justice practices. I'm a huge proponent of restorative justice practices. This is when you take someone who has been harmed, you take someone who has done the harm. You also bring the community, we all sit around and we discuss what was the harm that happened and how do we make each side whole. We invest resources into those conversations. Sometimes those are very difficult conversations as someone who has done harm. I can assure you it's a very difficult conversation to sit and talk with someone and listen to the pain and then for them to also listen to you share your story. And then for you to see humanity in one another and for you to come to an agreement and come to an understanding that is a very difficult thing because it humanizes. Oftentimes, what we see in a lot of these responses is a lack of humanity, a lack of saying that the personhood of the people involved. The reason why we see these kinds of reactions is 94% of the Minneapolis police force don't live within Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center; just a one mile over 100% of those police officers don't live in Brooklyn Center. So, these people are coming from outside of the community oftentimes, they having a very difficult time seeing the humanity of those involved and then actually investing in real mental health care to have mental health personnel respond to some of the mental health calls we don't necessarily need people to show up with guns when someone is exhibiting a mental health crisis, we can have people who are actually professionals within that realm and within that field to come and help to de-escalate situations. Although some of the ways, that money can be divested from the police department. And oftentimes, they don't want to be involved in these areas of policing anyway because they're not actual policing. They can be diverted all of them and invested and sided with the subject matter experts who should be funded to do that work anyway.
Paige Fernandez: Around the mental health aspects, right, that a large portion of the people who are murdered by police are in mental health crises and they do not need an armed response. And it's not a wild idea right these are we've seen other cities across the country who have implemented alternatives. So there's a program called CAHOOTS in Eugene, Oregon. And that is a mobile crisis service compiled of doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, people who are literally trained throughout their entire careers to deal with people in crisis. And they respond to the same 911 call. So the 911 dispatcher will not give the call to the police, but instead will give it to the mobile crisis service and I believe there's about 30% of calls like used to go to police now go to the mobile crisis circles. So one final thing I just wanted to mention, , and this is something I just want to give all the credit to MTD 150 I've been reading all their amazing resources and I think they made a really important point. About crime, not being random, crime happens when people are unable to meet their basic needs and so much of that. What I crime is behaviors and actions that have been criminalized by our government, government when it's really just people trying to meet their basic needs. So we can just invest in, basic services like equitable education in affordable housing. In health care, so much of what people engage in that's criminalized won't have to happen instead of investing on the back end when something goes wrong. We really need to be talking about investing on the front end to provide people with life affirming programs and the opportunity to thrive.
Micheala Sharp: What is the difference between community policing and this term, a community lead public safety alternatives.
Paige Fernandez: So can you be saying is kind of this failed reform that we've seen, um,, it almost makes me cringe a little bit because it was something that gained a lot of popularity in the early 2000s. And around having, police officers really form these relationships with community members, but it really just kind of a facade. I mean, you see these videos. Police officers primarily white police officers going to black communities and, for example, playing basketball with black boys in the community. Um, but then a week later, he would see those same exact officers brutalizing community members. And so I think the idea behind community policing was to foster relationships of trust between community members and police, but when we have an institution that primary task is to inflict social control or exert social control and oppression over black communities. And you can't really have community policing.
But community-led public safety alternatives means that the communities get to decide what public safety means to them, what it means to them and how they want to feel safe. And I think it's really important to talk about that because there are so many communities that police report to serve aren't really served for Hey um I think I like the idea of like sexual violence. There are so many people who have been harmed by sexual violence and the backlog on rape kits is astronomical in this country. Police don't respond when people call them in black communities when people actually want them to be there. So I think it's just really important that we shift the dialogue from trying to nurture these relationships that quite frankly aren't able to be nurtured at this point after so many years of oppression and violence and switch it to the community deciding what public safety means to them.
Elizer Darris: Yeah, community policing is basically a knee jerk reaction to the fact that,, these officers, they're not part of these communities, ,oftentimes they haven't grown up, , around us, or with us. With many of these Minnesotan police officers oftentimes drive out from two hours away literally they live two hours away and every day, they have to make a two-hour trek to come in here and police inside of Minneapolis is outrageous. And so it's a knee jerk reaction to create an artificial environment in which there is some level of relationship, but this artificial right and it has not worked. Despite, the community, trying to make it work on a reason why it doesn't work is because of that blue wall. That the community isn't really even informing how this community policing, they create the model and then they come and plop the model down on top of us and it's it's a square going into a circle. It does not work. They'll pick out, maybe the black officer who maybe didn't grow up with us. And this particular opposite be telling us how frustrated. He is working with the force. These are very difficult forces to work with. They're very anti-black anti us, they don't live with us. They're not from where we are. And so it's a knee jerk artificial response to the fact that there is no community or actual relationships. I was going to say something about community led public safety, that's the way to go. I'll tell you about me, growing up, one of the worst things you can do is tell Miss Mae Mae on me. And if you're watching this. Hey, Mrs. Mae Mae, I really appreciate it for keeping me and my brothers and everybody else in line. But Mrs. Mae Mae, I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. She was right there on the porch. She watched us, and she was like the other mother. She had permission to hold us accountable as well. And so, I might have on the other side of this may build and been hacked in one way, but then once we cross over and if and if we're in her line of sight. we striking up really quick. I'm really fast. Why, because that relationship is there their respect is there. She knew how to hold us accountable. She knew what buttons to press in order to get us back in line that community knows that people knows what we be right, we have been doing as time immemorial. And so it is time for the power to go back into the hands of the people to help to fashion and form what a safety look like for us. What does community look like for us right We don't need policing but what does this new reimagine world look like for us and we have the answers. It's just a matter of wrestling the keys from the hands of the power source and the slave patrollers and, given those keys to the people to be able to empower themselves to implement what we already know works.
Micheala Sharp: Let's imagine a world is less police. Well, what does that look like in black and brown communities and also what about predominantly white communities that have very few interactions with the police. Like, how does this shift affect these different pools?
Paige Fernandez: Yeah. Well, what I think is really interesting, and that something we've been speaking about an ACLU national in particular is just what people are calling for is already what wealthy white communities live in right this is the reality that they already live in and they do not suffer from daily harassment and interrogation from police and all their behaviors and actions are criminalized, they do not need live in constant fear of literally being murdered by the police, and they have a wealth of resources flooded into public services like education and housing and recreation. And so when people are like, what could this possibly look like it's like oh this reality already exists, y'all. It just exists in wealthy white community. This gets me so frustrated when people are trying to claim that well there's more crime in black and brown communities. No, no. No, no, no, no, just completely false. Just an absolute fallacy and there are just more police officers to arrest people for daily behaviors and actions. Right. So if you flooded white communities and you had police officers standing outside white suburban homes every day. I am sure that there would be little white boys being arrested constantly for smoking a joint or just hanging out on the sidewalk, but that is not the reality that wealthy white communities live in
Micheala Sharp: There were a lot of comments that like I'm not coming to Minneapolis anymore because it's not safe like without the police, the crime is going to skyrocket, and that it will be more dangerous . What, what do you have to say to that.
Paige Fernandez: Well, I can say, just from a national perspective and then I'll let Jen, are you I chime in, more specifically about Minneapolis, is that this is just it this is untrue. Right. Um, I think there are two specific points I want to make one is that,, there are plenty of studies plenty of studies and the Sentencing Project did a study Obama's White House Council of Economic Advisers did a study showing that further policing and incarceration does not actually have an impact on crime and actually in New York when the NYPD, a few years ago had scaled back their enforcement efforts crime declined. And the other point I want to make is that, , I think people are like, kind of doing this fear mongering thing of, oh, now there's going to be absolute chaos. If we don't have police, but I really want to make this point. In this country every year there are 10.3 million arrests made per year, only 5% of those arrests, according to the FBI, the big police and this is in from them, only 5% of those arrests are for what people are, I believe, the most concerned about what we could consider the most serious crimes and offenses. So things like rape, murder and aggravated assault the rest of the 95% of us that are made -- just petty behaviors like drug possession and crimes like loitering. It's so interesting. I really feel like I want to tell people to interrogate their state criminal laws and statutes, because what you will find in there is mind boggling I was looking into Alabama. It is literally a crime that could put you in jail for six months. If you remove a shopping cart and put it on a sidewalk that can land you in jail for six months. So again, really bringing it back to what does safety mean and what to police actually spend their time doing.
Jana Kooren: Yeah, and just focusing on Minneapolis. The ACLU has kind of done a lot of research and Minnesota about Minneapolis police so we know what they're spending their time on. Our police report showed that the top thing cops stopped people or were being arrested for were driving without a license and driving after revocation two different forms of the same thing.
Those are some of the most common things that police are spending their time doing they're also getting picked up for loitering, they're getting picked up or you. I mentioned jaywalking, right, all these things. And why are we spending time and money and extracting those resources from the community. They cost money. We estimate because we are working on this at the state level reforming your driver's license revocation. Millions of dollars are extracted from black and brown communities and other poor white communities because we're taking it out to make them pay all these ridiculous fines and fees because they don't have a license because they're getting over police and they're getting ticketed every time they do something. So then you get one ticket it spirals, it turns into more. So this is where we're spending our policing money. I have many people friends who've been victims of race. I have never known a police officer has actually been able to prevent it. Police don't do that. Police don't even respond. We have thousands of untested rape kits tens of thousands of untested rape kits sitting in Minneapolis. So this idea that the police are gone, and all of a sudden, it's going to be chaos or anarchy is just false police are spending the vast majority of their time in Minneapolis over policing for low-level stuff. So if we say you're not going to spend that time on it anymore. Why are you spending your time pulling over people and giving them a ticket because they have an expired tab? Why are you wasting police officers time arresting three young black men for hanging on a street corner for loitering? We just had a crime called lurking in Minneapolis until we work to overturn, it was looking suspicious. Who do you think looks suspicious? And so when we take away all those things. When we say we're not going to spend policing time working on all of those things. That will free up an enormous amount of resources for whatever's left of a police department. Right for those instances where you may say, We need someone to come in and intervene in the safety situation. We're working on investing and all those other resources that page and Eli talked about, because we can't take the money out of a police department and not put it anywhere else. It can't go back into the police it needs to be invest in the communities, where resources have been stripped forever or have never been there, right, or when they happen to build up they've been taken away, like we saw in Tulsa and so many other places. Or even in North Minneapolis and St. Paul one freeways were put through black communities right and so when money is taken out it's going to be reinvested in and all the programs Paige and Eli we're talking about that will make us safer and and then please just need to stop over policing for all that stuff that doesn't make us safer.
Micheala Sharp: Some folks have more reservations about this proposal to limit police because let's say oh situations like Amy Cooper, who called the police on a black man birdwatchers names Christian Cooper or apps like NextDoor that have posts calling certain people suspicious in the neighborhood?
Elizer Darris: It happens over time. This isn't, this isn't even though the reimagined nation, and we're talking about this isn't the snap your fingers and then it's done. This happens over time. , changing hearts changing minds changing behaviors, getting people to buy in, they got to see it before they can believe it. So this is going to actually happen. Over time as you, work to build community actually, what we are talking about what builds stronger community. It would have more community engagement more community connectedness, what you actually see in this day and age is that people can live right next door to one another, right across the street from one another. And I don't even know each other's names. There's no, there's no connectedness. In St. Paul one of the frustrations that I was told repeatedly as I was helping with someone's campaign, they were running for city council, many of the residents that I was door knocking was saying things like,, a lot of the Community festivals have been shut down a lot of the block parties have been defunded so we're not able to shut down the streets and then have all the neighbors, come out, and get to know each other. There's no funding for that, we're not able to, and so what this actually does is it has the potential to create more community more connectedness. More people looking out for one another, more people getting to know one another and it's just not happening right now. We're all disengaged or disentangle for in our own arm arenas. And I think they were able to start to see the potential of how something like this could look right but right now it's difficult for people to imagine it, and it's going to take time for people to buy in for people to see the reality of what actual community can look like because Facebook and,, multiple other social media platforms and this digital age of really like distance stuff and we have to come back together. This is, this is a potential opportunity to bring us back together even in a digital age. So I would just say for those people. They're just going to have to see it in and and process, seeing is believing for them to ultimately buy in, but it's not going to happen overnight. It's going to happen over time. It's going to have to be a consistent and concerted effort of community organizers of government partnering and working to really help to implement a new and brave model.
Paige Fernandez: The Amy Cooper's of the world and the BBQ Becky's - the reason that they're able to act in this manner is because policing has act as an arm of white supremacy. I think it's really important for us to name that. The reason they're able to act this way is because police have such an outsized role in society and power because they literally act as an occupying force in black communities. Amy Cooper knew exactly what she was doing. And so it's imperative that we reduce the role responsibilities and power police so that Amy Cooper’s can't call 911 and try to get the leads to show up to literally harm black community members.
Jana Kooren: And I think for for white people, as you're listening and you're watching this, right. One of the things you need to interrogate every single time you think I need to call someone right because this problem once we once we get rid of once we diminish. Once we reimagine policing. That doesn't automatically end racism. It's going to take away the arm that might be used to have white supremacy, but that doesn't mean that white people are going to become less racist that they're not doing work. So the other piece and this is a role that needs to keep happening in our society is working to end white supremacy that the white people need that we need to work on. Is, is why are we calling the police. Every single time. And why do we think someone suspicious? And why do we not think this kitchen have a lemonade stand right in front of my thing, or why do we need to, , report that license plate that's driving through, or whatever it may be. So as we are reimagining policing. We can't keep placing all the blame on the police either right they are the arm of white supremacy, but every single time that we call the police as a white person we are enabling that and we are part of it, and we are contributing to that and we need to think of our role on this, we cannot place all the blame on somebody else's feet when we are part of the problem.
Elizer Darris: And this goes for even people who call and consider themselves progressives, moderates and liberals. And so, , we can all profess out of our mouths, all of these great and glorious and wonderful political and social persuasions but just like Jana said, and I want to reiterate, I want you all to hear a black man reiterating exact there is an absolute need this is the dawn of a new era. And so what Jana said was challenge, right. Not just challenged the BBQ Becky's and I don't know all the names, but all of the names of all the other white men and women who decided to, dial 911 to police black bodies. So just like there is a need for for you all to call that behavior out and challenge it. Check it shut it down outside of you. There are instances in which thoughts, cross your mind when you see me walking down the street. Right. And so in those instances. Don't just let it flutter away and not like process and not challenge it right because that's passive right it's very Minnesota. Nice. That's what we deal with up here. You have to check that. I'm a good, do I want to do you any harm. I'm just like you. I'm trying to get to my next destination wherever I'm trying to go not probably not even thinking about you. No need for you to clutch purse. There's no need for you to think about crossing the street. There's no need for you to tense up if you are intentional and you have to question yourself why. Why am I, why am I tensing up because if I was a blond hair blue eyed guy. You wouldn't respond to react the same way, despite the fact that statistically speaking, you have a greater chance of him doing you harm than me. So this, this is some psychological stuff that needs to be talents. This is some mental stuff that needs to be challenged. This is some societal and social stuff that needs to be challenged. I can't do it because oftentimes, I'm not in the rooms in the spaces and places and with some of this dialogue is happening, but you're there. And so your voice just like Jana said couldn't should be elevated, not just outside of you, but also question and what's going on inside of you.
So yeah, we're going to get the police together. We're working on that diligently but I might have to have you all partner with us and get each other together get other white people together. This is a new era is the dawn of a new time
Micheala Sharp: Can the Minneapolis City Council defund the Minneapolis Police Department?
Jana Kooren: So, yes. And let me talk you through a little bit, the way it works. So there are some things that have to overcome and talk about. So some people have mentioned things like a veto proof majority because nine city council members made a commitment. Well, let's kind of dive into that. So, so right now, Minneapolis city charter has a certain ratio of the number of police officers that has to exist per resident in Minneapolis, in order to change that charter we need all of the city council, plus the mayor to agrees on changing that number. So the other way could happen is through an amendment on the ballot and put it in front of all the voters to reduce that number. So it has to go to one of those two avenues. Right. And I think the rough number right now can get down to is around 720 officers based on the city of Minneapolis is current population and right now we're in the 800s of officers for the Minneapolis Police Department numbers a full time officers. So you can see there's only a small number can go down currently without a change to the city charter. Now that doesn't mean money can't be pulled out in other ways, right, because we don't spend money for the police department, just on officers. So even without a city charter amendment or change you can pull out money and other ways that the police department spends its money right you don't get the newest toy, you don't get the newest whatever right that they want. But in order to get to that deep structural change and pull out a lot of resources that we are talking about right. We're not talking about just five officers being reduced. We need to have the full City Council and the mayor agree to it or it needs to be on the ballot for the Minneapolis voters to decide to reduce the number of officers per person.
Micheala Sharp: How do we know that those changes that they're making are going to have positive outcomes. How do we know that these changes are true structural change, and not just those Band-Aid solutions that we've seen time and time again?
Jana Kooren: So the first and most important way as community to be at the table every step of the way the people who are demanding and asking and bringing these changes need to be there and they need to be guiding it and saying it that can happen through participatory budgeting that can happen in a lot of ways, but the number one way is community that needs to see the table. We also need to look at the reform, the things that we're asking for making sure it's not actually going to contribute to it. We're just the ideas that we push in the past like just training, which means more money for them. Just better equipment. That means more money for them. The other things we're asking for to improve the police that are left or to make those changes are actually investing a whole bunch of new money in that department. Right. And so, but that all needs to happen with community at the table, driving the changes and holding people accountable and making sure that we have the real experts that people like.
Eli and Paige mentioned that people who know what a new system can look like, who can be the crisis response team who can be the ones who dispatch when someone's are are in need, who are living and working in that community saying you to help you there to drive and propose the solutions that we need to have and that needs to be an open and transparent process every step of the way.
Micheala Sharp: What can people do to make this vision a reality?
Paige Fernandez: Yeah, so I can just start from a national perspective. Something I've really just been trying to emphasize over the past few weeks is I want people to understand how much power they have right now in this moment. I think it's so important policing again is a hyper localized issue, the amount of control your local government officials have over the policing institutions in that specific jurisdiction is astronomical mayors and city council members really control so much of your local police department. So I really want people to come to terms with the fact that they really have a lot of power and they have the opportunity to exert power on to their local government officials and demands that we divest from police demands that we reinvest and what Jana was saying demand that that process is transparent and accountable to the communities that have historically been over police and continue to be over-policed. And I think that's also really important to note, it should not be white suburban community members who are taking over at the table, it absolutely needs to be impacted community members at that table. But again, you don't just nationally across the country. We have so much power over our local government officials, they are accountable to us and we need to demand that from them.
Elizer Darris: Vote. We need to get involved in the political discourse right and for the ACLU I coordinate the smart justice campaign here in the Twin Cities in Minnesota, but I primarily work out of the Twin Cities and and we made a determination to step into the political arena and a very intentional kind of way to engage as many people as we could around the idea that you have the power to elect your county attorney and your attorney general. This is empowering and invigorating communities to step into a political space and be heard. That's what they respect. One of the first things that they asked you is whether or not you're a constituent. Because it is the most important thing. It is an incredibly powerful thing to be constituent of an elected, you have the power to vote them out. You have the power to, step into the social media arena and let your voice be heard. I would say if you're asking how you can help to plug in and engage in this space challenge the elect, it's right, get involved in the political happenings within your hyper-local area.
The further down on the ballot the office is the closest the power they have over your life. And so, I used to see the county commissioners way down there. You see the judges way down there and way up at the top, US senators and they're great right but like when we're talking about hyper local control, the feds don't have no control right over what's happening at such a level right there. There's this separation of powers things and and the sovereignty of the states and so when we're talking about hyper local control. It's 100% true and since that's true. That means we have to be hyper elite involved in local politics. Because when we let our voices be heard. Let's not neglect that. Let's make sure we're holding them accountable in that space.
And also, let's be thought leaders. If you don't know a lot about what we're talking about today. Go and do even more research learn right and then when you're done learning, share it with your network and circles like let other people know the answer some of their questions, there's going to be plenty of people. We're going to have plenty of questions as we enter into the dawn of a new era.
Jana Kooren: Building on what Eli said right we need to keep the pressure on Minneapolis for all the residents and the people who are part of here keep the pressure on the city council, but there are 420 policing agencies in the state of Minnesota. Our work will not be done, even if we do a reimagine a beautiful new vision in Minneapolis. And so if you're living outside of Minneapolis right if you are not going to be plugged in I would start interrogating your own police department, talk with your neighbors. This work has been driven by grassroots activism. The ACLU has many beautiful things to offer with policy insights and all of this, but the heart of it has always been the people in the community driving change and you can keep that moving forward. Right. So talk about St. Paul police department right there, just as bad as Minneapolis, as, a lot of other ones we can't forget about them. Or any other city that you may live in right dive into your own police budgets, figure out where the money is. Talk to people and get folks together and start organizing in your own communities to help reimagining what policing. Looks like we can all play a role in that. And obviously volunteer and plug in with the ACLU, if you want. We have a lot of important work to do in the lead up to this election with Eli's work and a lot of our other organizers.