Letter to the Editor: We can change how police operate to increase accountability for violence and mistreatment

The Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar has proposed creating an elected civilian oversight board with significant powers, and the organization Campaign Zero has a list of eight key policies that have been proven to reduce police violence.

Letter+to+the+Editor%3A+We+can+change+how+police+operate+to+increase+accountability+for+violence+and+mistreatment

Morgan La Casse

Sean Ericson

This letter to the editor was written in response to a previously published column and OpEd.

I was encouraged to read Emily Eaton’s nuanced discussion of policing reform. Since Minneapolis became a flashpoint for a global movement against police brutality after the murder of George Floyd, I think a lot of the discussion about necessary change has been bogged down in talking about slogans instead of actual policies. I wholeheartedly agree with Eaton and her dad that “ACAB” is a counterproductive idea. All police officers, of course, aren’t bad people and to focus the discussion on this is to avoid the real questions of how the system of American policing operates. Personally, I also think that discussions of defunding the police have become a bit muddled. As Eaton describes, by “defund,” some people mean abolishing the police completely, while others mean redirecting some police funding to other services.

There’s a remarkable amount of evidence suggesting the benefits of a more holistic approach to confronting violence and other societal problems that doesn’t rely as heavily on policing. While there is substantial evidence that policing can reduce crime, an over-reliance upon it — combined with a long history of pervasive, system racism — leads to the kind of violence and mistreatment that we see today. It’s my view that policing is a necessary, but not sufficient, part of a holistic approach to public safety. Research indicates that a wide variety of things, from after-school activities to violence interruption to summer job programs, could reduce violence in our communities. But, as Princeton Professor Patrick Sharkey writes, “we have never made the same commitment to these groups that we make to law enforcement.” Funding these groups with the same vigor we fund police departments might sound radical, but as the data show, it is eminently reasonable.

Also, as Cody Hoerning points out, “police spend the majority of their time responding to ‘social service’ calls” that don’t have a lot to do with what we typically assume police work is about. One potential reform here is to create a new type of non-police first responder tasked with responding to addiction and mental health crises.

In addition to funding alternatives, we can also change how police operate to increase accountability for violence and mistreatment. The Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar has proposed creating an elected civilian oversight board with significant powers, and the organization Campaign Zero has a list of eight key policies that have been proven to reduce police violence.

This letter to the editor was submitted by Sean Ericson, an undergraduate student studying sociology at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

This letter has been lightly edited for style and clarity.