By: Kimberly Jones and Ryan Jenkins

On October 24 an opinion piece in the Star Tribune by a group of Minneapolis pastors claims that we should “Vote no on Question 2 so we can keep making real change happen.” Where is this real change? We haven’t seen it, and neither have the thousands of Northside Black Minneapolis voters we’ve been talking to for months about Question 2, 1,400 of whom signed the petition to get the question on the ballot. As volunteers with the Barbershops and Black Congregations Cooperative, we have stood on their front porches, in the hallways of their apartment buildings, and in our parks having these conversations. Northsiders are desperate for real change, but they don’t believe it can happen unless we transform public safety in our city. And that starts with a Yes vote on Question 2.

There is a misconception being pushed by those against the charter amendment about what Black Minneapolis voters want regarding police. If you poll these voters about whether they think there should be more or fewer police, of course their answer is “more.” What the polls don’t answer is why. As Black northsiders, we can tell you exactly why—because our neighborhoods have been divested for decades. We’re talking about resources leaving our neighborhoods for generations. If someone asks if we need more resources, the answer is almost always going to be “yes.”

But some are claiming that a desire for more police cannot coexist with a desire for structural change and a vote in favor of a Department of Public Safety. This is a false choice. We do not have to choose one or the other. They can coexist and the charter amendment is the structural change that allows them to. We can have the “right” number of police, with the right training, transparency and accountability AND all the other resources that we need even more, like mental health, substance abuse programs and violence and crime prevention. It also allows the Department of Public Safety to be governed the same way all other city departments currently are—with actual citywide democratic representation and oversight, reporting to a commissioner, selected by the mayor and city council.

Contrary to what current advertisements are falsely claiming, the charter amendment does not eliminate the police—in any way, shape, or form. In fact, it is a requirement that there be police officers in the Department of Public Safety. It’s mandated by Minnesota state law that police officers are the only appropriate response to certain situations. A Department of Public Safety with police officers is also not a new thing—cities across the country are set up this way. It also doesn’t automatically eliminate the police chief. What it does do is give the mayor and city council flexibility in determining how many police officers are needed and where. It will also give them the flexibility to design a department that supports all of its personnel in doing their jobs well—police officers included.

The current model of armed police-only response isn’t working. Police violence is on the rise, 9-1-1 response times differ based on your neighborhood, and we still have not addressed the root causes of crime and violence, like poverty and inequitable access to good schools. We can’t keep unsuccessfully treating the symptoms and not the causes. Ensuring our communities have the resources they need is how we successfully treat the causes. Northsiders know this, and they see a Yes vote on Question 2 as a clear path forward. It’s time to establish a model of public safety that is more humane, includes professionals who are trained in mental health issues and crisis de-escalation, and treats all members of the community equally, regardless of race or class. That’s how we make Minneapolis safer for everyone, of all races and backgrounds and in every zip code.