2020 sees rise in crime across country, including the Twin Cities, as cities debate police reform
It was October 2nd, around 8 pm. when junior Caroline McHugh, along with fellow junior Stella Berlin, had just returned to Berlin’s St. Paul home after dinner at a restaurant.
And it all happened so fast.
“I feel like I hear a lot about carjackings, but I never thought it was going to happen to me,” said McHugh.
“[Caroline] was going to come inside my house, when three men with guns came up to us,” said Berlin. “They took her car, all of our school stuff, our wallets and her phone. Carol tried to pepper spray but we didn’t realize they had guns. Once we realized, we ran to my door. Because they stole my keys and everything else, we were banging on the door for my mom to let us in. It happened literally right in front of my house.”
Crime has been on the rise in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. In the wake of George Floyd’s death by a police officer, race related protests, riots, and looting ensued throughout summer of 2020. A heated debate has been sparked, not only in Minnesota, but all over the country: What should we do with the police?
Over the course of the events of the summer, two main points of views began to form regarding the question. One being “defunding” and abolishing the police. The other being reforms within the current system requiring more funding.
“I think every city handles these situations differently,” said Jai Hanson, Bloomington police officer of 14 years. “I think if you want to talk about Minneapolis, where I grew up, the city council cut another eight million dollars out of the police budget. Council members really push the defunding aspect of all of this. And, it’s a catchy phrase to say ‘defund the police’. And yes. we should be defunded in certain areas. There are some calls we shouldn’t be involved in, but that’s kind of a perfect world scenario. We’re not in a perfect world. We need to have a budget where we can address the problems in Minneapolis right now, where the crime rate is skyrocketing.”
Officers responsible for Floyd’s death were criticized and charged with murder. Eventually, the entire law-enforcement system was under fire. Terms such as “All Cops are Bastards” (ACAB) revived deep rooted hatred and began widespread ideas of abolishing and defunding the police all-together.
“I feel like there definitely needs to be a reformation or a way to abolish without losing protection,” said Berlin. “There needs to be a way to protect people, but the way the system is right now is really messed up and it’s hurting a lot of people. So I feel like there definitely needs to be a big change made.”
Others feel that despite the issues within law enforcement, community policing is an essential part of protecting communities.
“I feel like there definitely needs to be more law and order going on,” said McHugh. “I feel like especially within the months of the riots, it was kind of a free for all. You could do whatever you want. And now when people say ‘get rid of the police’, after what happened to me, it puts things into perspective. If you were to get rid of the police work, what would you even do? It just doesn’t really make sense.”
As a result of the past months, according to Minneapolis crime data, there has been a rise in homicides, assaults, robberies, arson and property crimes.
According to MPR, “More people have been killed in the city in the first nine months of 2020 than those slain in all of last year.”
Additionally, over 100 officers have either decided to leave the department or take a leave of absence.
“There are a couple different reasons I [quit policing in Minneapolis],” said former Minneapolis Police Officer Steve Dykstra. “The experience of civil unrest after the George Floyd riots was not a factor. However, the way those civil unrest, riots and protests were handled by the politically appointed chief, the mayor, and the City Council was a big reason why. Just seeing how the Hennepin County attorney, the prosecutor, was handling criminal cases from our agency and others, was discouraging.”
Dykstra and Hanson along with a seeming majority of police officers and MInneapolis citizens believe that the act committed against George Floyd was both heinous and illegal. This does not, however, halt the strife between many US cities and their law enforcement. Groups included in the dispute often engage in heated arguments and protesting.
“The Black cop who helped us actually said it’s really unfortunate what’s going on,” said McHugh. “Because yes, there are killings that are going on. There’s conflict between races right now. And unfortunately, there are bad cops. But 99% of them are good, and it’s really sad because they already put themselves in so much danger, when they see people, not disrespecting them, but, not trusting them, It’s really sad because they work so hard to try to keep us safe.”
The future of policing in Minneapolis and St. Paul is unclear. Disputes over law enforcement continue on a daily basis.
“I think that both sides need to approach this with a mindset to actually listen to each other,” said Hanson. “That’s the only way we can get something done. You can support the police and be against what happened to George Floyd. I think we sometimes forget that. And police officers need to understand why committee members are upset right now, and rightfully so. Have some empathy and listen to what their concerns are.”
Despite the conflict between large groups of Americans, one thing is clear: Both sides of the “defund” and the “reform” police camps will need to come to an agreement.