By Winston Heckt, Staff Writer
Last Tuesday, the nation was struck with a surge of progressive leadership taking office on local and federal levels, and Minnesota was a part of this surge.
Two transgender officers were elected to the Minneapolis City Council, and St. Paul elected it’s first-ever black mayor.
But pridefully progressive Minneapolis missed the progressive leadership train and elected Jacob Frey as our mayor. Frey’s policy agenda is not so different from current mayor Betsy Hodges, and in some areas, he’s less progressive. I’m not the most educated about all the goings on in Minneapolis, but this black progressive does not trust Jacob Frey — especially when it comes to police accountability and racial equity.
Frey’s campaign website lists a number of his ideas for how to implement police reform including proposals for an enhanced beat cop system, expanding crisis intervention training and strengthening body camera policies. It even goes as far as acknowledging how excessive policing disproportionately targeted low-income communities of color. However, it fails to mention Frey’s desire to increase the numbers of police patrolling downtown as well as his acceptance of campaign donation money from the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis.
Frey later returned the donation but only after receiving criticism in the week before the DFL Convention. Minneapolis City Charter 7.3(a) states: “The Mayor has complete power over the establishment, maintenance, and command of the police department. The Mayor may make all rules and regulations and may promulgate and enforce general and special orders necessary to operating the police department.” Now that Frey is in complete control of the city’s police force, I’m worried the status quo will remain intact when it comes to police brutality against people of color 10 in Minneapolis. It has become clear to me in the near three years that I’ve lived in Minneapolis since coming to Augsburg that above liberal values, above justice, white Minneapolitans value order. Frey promises to deliver on order, but will he deliver on justice?
Among his “Eight-anda-Half Block Plan” to curb crime in downtown Minneapolis, aside from increasing the number of officers on the force, there are proposals to revive truancy laws on youths, convert vacant lots in green spaces, increase night time illumination and stagger bar closing times to reduce the rush of crowds entering the streets. All of these are, in my opinion, cosmetic measures to divert and conceal crime without tackling any of the issues that cause crime in the first place.
The city could have done a lot worse than electing Jacob Frey, but I implore anyone reading this who actually cares about racial equity and police accountability to stay vigilant and call Frey on his shit. Just like we can call and write our state representatives, we have the power to call and write our mayor. If we call and write Frey and hold him accountable to his campaign promise to place a top priority on public safety and police reform, maybe he’ll actually listen.
This article first appeared in the Friday, November 17, 2017, Edition of The Echo.