MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Do you believe that we could ever have a city without police?
That's the question a local voter guide asked city council candidates, with seven of them answering yes--including two incumbents.
Then, according to Newton's third law of election-cycle comments, came the equal and opposite response--with civic and business leaders calling the answers "divisive" and "dangerous" at an afternoon press conference.
“They gave a reckless, pandering response,” said Minneapolis Downtown Council president Steve Cramer. “One that illustrates clearly the risk our entire community faces if we elect council members who will lurch so far so fast out of the mainstream on a topic of this importance to our city.”
Cramer went so far as to say the candidates are in line with an actual movement to get rid of the police department.
“I frankly think that those folks that answered that question, in the way they did, are pandering to that very fringe movement,” Cramer said.
Also calling the answers irresponsible are homeless youth advocates who say the group's collaboration with police saves lives--saying officers saved nine young lives in the last three days alone.
“Nine of those youth would have OD'd and died if the police had not intervened," said YouthLink Executive Director Dr. Heather Huseby."They came to us, and alerted us to a very highly toxic drug that is now permeating young people on the streets of Minneapolis.”
Ward 10 Council member Lisa Bender and Ward 9 Council member Alondra Cano were the two incumbents to answer yes. Candidates Phillipe Cunningham (Ward 4), Jeremiah Ellison (Ward 5), Janne Flisrand (Ward 7), Ginger Jentzen (Ward 3) and Jeremy Schroeder (Ward 11) also answered yes.
The question was one of 17 in a voter guide from the nonprofit "Voices for Racial Justice," published at ThisIsMpls.com in collaboration with Pollen Midwest and Rhymesayers Entertainment. The voter guide “seeks to raise awareness of the election in communities that don't usually vote.”
When asked, “What would you do, as an elected official, to bring us closer to police abolition?” Cano responded, “As the social safety net has disintegrated we have asked police to become social workers, to address mental illness, addiction, and hopelessness.”
Cano said the city must review the police budget and find other opportunities to address human services, mental health response and violence intervention. Read Cano’s complete questionnaire here.
Bender responded to the same question by saying, “To support safety without policing, we need significant investment in education, housing and work to eliminate employment inequities.”
Read Bender’s complete questionnaire here.
VJ smith of MAD DADS says the "yes" answers take the conversation in the wrong direction.
“Separation is not going to do that, but unity is going to be the main factor and collaboration is gonna be the thing that makes it happen,” Smith said.
When asked about her "yes" response, Council member Bender said, "I can imagine a city far into the future that uses alternatives to public safety without police,” but also made it clear she too supports collaboration between police and social service groups.
Council member Cam Gordon responded “no” to the police question, but thought Thursday’s news conference and outrage was making a mountain out of a mole hill. He also said they were all playing politics, and possibly supported opposing candidates.
Fox 9 did not hear back from any of the candidates to provide a comment.