Commentary

No on question 2: Do not make a risky gamble on public safety — Opinion

September 28, 2021 8:01 am

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo details the city’s preparations for the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Everyone was rightly shocked and outraged over the murder of George Floyd, who was not the first Black man to be murdered by police. 

I was a witness to the police murder of Jamar Clark. Having that first hand experience was traumatic, but then seeing Medaria Arradondo appointed chief of police made me feel that better policing in our communities was attainable. 

Let’s be smart and intentional about how we make the changes that need to be made. Let’s come up with a plan first, and if we need to vote to change the charter, let’s vote knowing what it is we’re actually voting for. 

In 2007, when I opened my barbershop on Minneapolis’ North Side, I wanted it to be more than just a business, but also a place where people would come together and uplift one another. 

I’m happy to say that we’ve been successful in that. We’ve hosted conversations on important topics, including education, public health, and police and community relations with local leaders like the Minneapolis Public Schools superintendent, Minneapolis chief of police and the Hennepin County sheriff. 

We’ve put together panels with local business leaders to offer insight on business ownership and executives from companies and organizations to offer pointers on job interview etiquette and other tips to help our community succeed.

We’re educating our friends and neighbors about the need to get vaccinated, and we’re partnering with the Department of Health and Kelly Robinson from Black Nurses Rock on getting shots to people who need them. 

We’ve started a college scholarship program, Wilson’s Image College Scholarship, for north Minneapolis scholars, to send them to school for a better future, allowing them to pay it forward down the line. 

It’s because of all this that I’m voting no on the amendment to eliminate the police department and replace it with something else unknown.

With something else unknown — that’s what alarms me. What is it? The amendment says it will have police “if necessary.” What does that mean? Proponents of the amendment say they don’t want to defund or abolish the police, but that’s not what they’ve said previously. Do I believe what they said then? Or what they are saying now? 

Will Chief Medaria Arradondo still be around? I know the chief, he’s from the community and has been in my shop. He cares about this city and is trying to do right by us. He’s fighting for reforms to the way policing is done in Minneapolis, and he’s had success, though there is no question more needs to be done. The amendment would eliminate his position and create a new reporting structure the chief has said would be “wholly unbearable for any law enforcement officer.” Who wouldn’t find the City Council’s meddling “unbearable?” Who will be in charge? 

As a business owner, I know that if you spread out responsibility among too many people, then nobody is accountable. This City Council already spends too much time pointing fingers rather than getting anything done. 

These and other questions are unanswerable right now, and won’t be answered unless this very badly written amendment passes. So what are we being asked to replace the police with? Nobody really knows. All we have to go on is the word of people who told us one thing and are now telling us another — who tried to force language that a judge called “vague to the point of misleading” onto the ballot.

Nobody disagrees that we need significant reforms to the way we do policing in this city, and no one — least of all the Chief — denies that addressing racism in policing needs to be at the heart of those reforms.

I love my Minneapolis community, and we absolutely need better police, but as everyone on the North Side knows, we do still need them. Minneapolis can’t be treated like a “Utopia Project” where we’re imagining a city without policing when there’s real crime happening. We can’t build healthy and strong communities without safe streets. 

What would really help build up our communities is more investment. Our strength, resilience, and most of all our safety will be better served when we have adequate support for mental and physical health, for violence prevention, for housing, for small businesses and a host of other core community building blocks. 

But we can make those investments now without this charter amendment and its “wait and see what we can put together approach,” which is a risky gamble on our public safety.  

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Teto Wilson
Teto Wilson

Teto Wilson is a north Minneapolis resident and small business owner. He owns and operates Wilson's Image Barbers & Stylists, a barbershop and community hub in north Minneapolis.

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