On June 9, the blog article entitled “Defund The Police”: A Tale of Two Cities, A Tale Of Two Mayors, The Crossroads They Both Face And What It Means To Their Political Futures” was published. It was a lengthy read but had a higher than normal spike of “reads and shares”. A lot has happened since. Below is a “cliffs notes” version of the article followed by news links to recent events:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us … “
Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities
Minneapolis and Albuquerque are a tale of two cities. A tale of two young, highly educated, up and coming, charismatic, progressive, Democrat Mayors. Two Mayors essentially coming from white privilege backgrounds.
Both cities are the largest cities in their states with large minority populations, one African American the other Hispanic. Both cities have police departments roughly the same size. Both cities are dealing with deadly force killings by the police, one city with an extensive history of it and the other with a recent killing. Both cities are dealing with protests, sometimes peaceful, sometime violent, sparked by the killing of African American George Floyd by the police.
The first Mayor, Jacob Frey, 38, had the murder of George Floyd occur in his city. The second Mayor, Tim Keller, 41, is dealing with a police department struggling to implement sweeping federal court mandated reforms relating to “excessive use of force” and “deadly force” after a finding of a “culture of aggression”. Both Mayors consider themselves civil rights advocates, condemn racism, want inclusion and racial equality. It’s doubtful both Mayors have ever experienced police racism. Both Mayors are walking a tight rope while juggling police relations and protests over the murder of African American George Floyd. Both are being confronted with cries to “defund the police” and to do more to deal with racism.
Mayor Frey attended a June 6 Minneapolis protest advocating the abolishment of the Minneapolis Police Department. Looming above Frey was an African American woman with a microphone who asked Frey if he would commit, on the spot, to defunding the police department shouting to the Mayor, “It is a yes or no.” Mayor Frey took the microphone, and said in a barely audible voice muffled by a face mask: “I do not support the full abolition of the police.” Protesters booed him loudly chanting “Go home, Jacob, go home!” and “Shame! Shame!” Frey then turned and left.
Mayor Keller has spoken at protests events, but has not been met with the hostility Mayor Frey has endured, until recently. At a vigil for George Floyd, Keller took to the podium and began by saying “I can’t breathe” quoting George Floyd. As Keller continued, he was heckled with the chant and the slogan “defund the police”. Based on the surprise look on his face, Keller was puzzled why he was being interrupted. The chant was coming from young protesters in the back that had attended a rally the night before. Undeterred, Keller ignored the hecklers, proclaimed his “Office of Equity and Inclusion” and police reforms are working. Keller left after being questioned about defunding APD.
Some people will no doubt say politicians invited to appear at protests to speak is a good thing and leadership. It’s not governing. It makes it very difficult for elected officials to make the hard and necessary decisions and encourages pandering. Now is not the time for politicians to try and say what they have done in the past, how good they are doing on the job and what they are trying to do to solve problems.
What is happening in both cities is the protesters movement, their moment in time. Both Mayors need to listen to the concerns of the minorities that they are not a part of but nonetheless represent as Mayor of their respective cities. Attend the protest, listen to what is being proposed, confer, not confront protesters and then move for substantive change.
The link to the full blog article is here:
ALBUQUERQUE MAYOR TIM KELLER AND THE CITY COUNCIL
On Friday, June 13, Albuquerque City Council President Davis announced that he and the city council have come up with their own plan to overall the Albuquerque Police Department. Davis does not think the council’s reform plan will mean fewer police officers for the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). Davis said police officers should not be responding to many calls involving a mental health crisis, homelessness and other behavioral health-related issues.
The Davis proposal would change multiple levels of the department, from reorganizing the police budget and officers’ jobs on the street to emphasizing behavioral health assistance and studies to determine the best route for community engagement. Davis said he believes the city can rededicate $1 million of APD’s $207 million budget to community organizations and social services. Davis is also suggesting a 24/7 dispatch line for calls regarding the homeless that would be answered by those in a public health role and not by the APD reducing APD’s volume of 911 emergency calls.
Davis also announced that the council will meet with the community in July to gain input into possible changes to APD’s budget, police operations and other avenues where funds could be placed to better the community.
On June 14, Mayor Tim Keller announced plans to create a new Public Safety Department that would send trained professionals to respond to certain calls for help in place of armed officers. The Albuquerque Community Safety Department would have social workers, housing and homelessness specialists and violence prevention and diversion program experts who would be dispatched to homelessness and “down-and-out” calls as well as behavioral health crises. The new department would connect people in need with services to help address any underlying issues. The department personnel would be dispatched through the city’s 911 emergency call system. The intent is to free up the first responders who typically have to deal with down-and-out and behavioral health calls.
The link to a full front-page journal article is here:
The day after the Mayor Keller’s announcement that he would like to create a Public Safety Department involving behavioral health, homelessness, addiction and other social issues, it was reported that very few details had been worked out and the new department is still in the planning process. According to the Keller Administration, the city has some of the groundwork laid out through existing programs but that a lot of the details still need to be worked out. The Keller Administration said rough estimates suggest the new Community Safety Department will need 32 people for each its 6 area commands, staffed around the clock, to respond to tens of thousands of calls a year. The Keller Administration intends to submit a final fiscal year budget in August for City Council budget hearing.
Mayor Tim Keller, despite the change in the national conversation and calls for police departments to be defunded, said his goal is still adding 100 police officers every four years to the point APD is fully funded with 1,200 sworn police. It is projected APD will have 985 sworn police officers after the graduation of the July APD Academy class.
MAYOR KELLER ADVISOR INVOLVED WITH JUNE 15 ONATE PROTEST
Another controversy is emerging across the country from the protests over the killing of African American George Floyd by a Minneapolis Police Officer. The controversy is the appropriateness of monuments or statues erected across the country to individuals or causes viewed as representing the oppression of African Americans, slavery and racism.
On June 15, a man was shot in Old Town over the “La Jornada” (The Journey) sculpture in front of the Albuquerque Museum. The shooting occurred during a protest for the removal of the figure of Juan de Onate de Salazar in the sculpture. Ornate is the European and Spanish explorer who came to New Mexico . Onate is extremely controversial, especially with New Mexico Native Americans, and is known for the 1599 Acoma Massacre. Mayor Keller is now dealing with the after-math controversy over APD’s handling of the protest.
An interesting aspect of the June 15 protest is that one of Mayor Keller’s political campaign consultants, Neri Olguin, attended the protest. In 2017, Tim Keller was the only candidate for Mayor who had a measured finance committee called “ABQ FORWARD TOGETHER” formed on his behalf to support his run for Mayor. Neri Olguin is identified on the City Clerk’s web site as the chairperson for “ABQ FORWARD TOGETHER” whose purpose was “to support Tim Keller’s bid for Mayor”. Neri Olguin is with “Olguin Campaigns and Communications” and its web site lists as former clients the “2008 Tim Keller for State Senate (Primary)” and “Tim Keller for State Senate District 17 (General, 2012)”. The September 22, 2017 Campaign Finance report for “ABQ FORWARD TOGETHER” reflects that it it raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Keller, even though he was a public financed candidate.
Olguin’s FACEBOOK page reveals that she attended the June 15 protest and she claims on her FACEBOOK page the protesters were the peaceful ones at the event. Confidential sources have disclosed that Olguin was involved with the planning of the protest. There is no information available as to if Olguin has contacted Mayor Keller about APD’s handling of the incident. Olguin was also involved with the recent city council campaign of Isaac Benton for re-election with Benton now highly critical of APD’s handling of its response to the protest and demanding an inquiry.
MINNEAPOLIS MAYOR JACOB FREY AND THE CITY COUNCIL
On Jun 15, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a resolution intending to disband their police department and create a new model of public safety in response to the death of George Floyd. The resolution states the council will start the year-long process of research and community engagement to discover a replacement. the Minneapolis 2020 budget allocated $193 million to its police department, which the resolution said was more than double the amount allocated for affordable housing and violence prevention. the city’s total adopted budget was about $1.5 billion.
A key element of the Minneapolis City Council plan is the creation of a “Future of Community Safety Work Group” tasked with coming up with “strategies for building this new model for cultivating community safety.”
According to the text of the resolution, those strategies could include:
• Intermediate policy changes, investments and partnerships that center a public health approach to community safety and support alternatives to policing
• Research and engagement to inform the potential creation of a new City Department of Community Safety with a holistic approach to community safety, including a review and analysis of relevant existing models and programs and practices that could be applied in Minneapolis
• Recommendations that advance the work of the 911 working group and other strategies for transitioning work of the Minneapolis Police Department to alternative, more appropriate responses to community requests for help and identifying the resources needed to perform this work in City departments, other agencies, and/or community partners while the work of creating a new public safety system is in progress
• Recommendations for additional community safety strategies that build upon existing work across our city enterprise that approaches public safety through a public health lens.
You can review the full text of the resolution here:
After the vote, Mayor Jacob Frey said he had not changed his opposition to ending the Minneapolis Police Depertment and said:
“I remain opposed to abolishing the Police Department. … We should unite behind deep structural reform and transformative public safety changes in partnership with community and under Chief Arradondo’s leadership. Minneapolis residents deserve clarity in purpose and deliberate planning as we move forward.”
Mayor Frey announced the formation of three Public Safety Transformation task forces. The groups are expected to include “national partners, local systems, and community partners” who will deliver recommendations to the mayor. The national subgroup will study practices used by other cities, while the local subgroup will be asked to develop plans for implementing any changes. Mayor Frey had this to say:
“Undertaking significant, structural change to how we do public safety will demand the best ideas not just from local government but from community and national experts as well. By considering best practices and policy recommendations from across the country, centering community in the conversation, and thinking big about solutions beyond policing, we’re setting the stage for deliberate and lasting change for the people of Minneapolis.”
MEANING OF “DEFUND THE POLICE”
Disbanding entire police departments has happened before in the United States cities. In 2012, with crime rampant in Camden, New Jersey, the city disbanded its entire police department and replaced it with a new force that covered Camden County. Compton, California, took the same step in 2000, shifting its policing to Los Angeles County. Like it or not, the same thing could easily happen here in Albuquerque.
The “defund the police” movement can be defined in simple terms as meaning taking funding away from police forces and invest or reallocate those funds into social programs to address the real causes of crime.
Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement put it this way:
“It’s not just about taking away money from the police, it’s about reinvesting those dollars into [minority] communities. Communities that have been deeply divested from, communities that, some have never felt the impact of having true resources. And so we have to reconsider what we’re resourcing. I’ve been saying we have an economy of punishment over an economy of care.”
Advocates of “Defund the Police” insist that it is not about eliminating police departments or stripping police agencies of all of their money. What they do say is that it is time for the country to address systemic problems in policing in America and spend more on what communities across the United States need such as housing, education and economic development and job growth.
In Minneapolis the group MPD150 says it is “working towards a police-free Minneapolis,” and the group wrote on its website:
Defund the Police is more about strategically reallocating resources, funding, and responsibility away from police and toward community-based models of safety, support, and prevention. The people who respond to crises in our community should be the people who are best-equipped to deal with those crises, [not the police]”
United States Representative Karen Bass, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said part of the “defund the police” movement is really about how money is spent and had this to say in an interview with CNN:
“Now, I don’t believe that you should disband police departments. … But I do think that, in cities, in states, we need to look at how we are spending the resources and invest more in our communities. … Maybe this is an opportunity to re-envision public safety,”
Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza asked during an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press said:
“Why can’t we look at how it is that we reorganize our priorities, so people don’t have to be in the streets during a national pandemic?”.
Activists acknowledge that to “defund the police” will be a long and drawn out process, predominantly because law enforcement in general are supported by their communities. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city would move funding from the NYPD to youth initiatives and social services, while keeping the city safe, but he didn’t give details. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed to cut as much as $150 million that was part of a planned increase in the police department’s budget.
Links to news sources and related news coverage are here: