The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association broke its silence on Tuesday, saying it wants to set the record straight amid calls to disband the city’s police department.
In a lengthy statement with comments from a number of members of Minneapolis’ police department, officers placed blame on the unrest on local politicians.
“Crime won’t be wished away, and we can’t simply abolish or defund police departments. Politicians who suggest this aren’t serious about solving problems in their community,” said Rich Walker, officer and director of the Minneapolis Police Federation.
Earlier this month, members of the Minneapolis City Council voted to disband the city’s police department. The vote came after the death of George Floyd while in custody of officers, which prompted massive unrest in the city.
Councilmember Steve Fletcher said in a Twitter post that it’s time to “declare policing as we know it a thing of the past.”
“Our city needs a public safety capacity that doesn’t fear our residents,” Fletcher said. “That doesn’t need a gun at a community meeting. That considers itself part of our community. That doesn’t resort quickly to pepper spray when people are understandably angry. That doesn’t murder black men.”
The police union said it takes issue with how officers are being portrayed by politicians.
“The only way we can begin the work to rebuild relationships and strengthen communities is if politicians stop characterizing law enforcement as violent racists and demonizing the police,” Sherral Schmidt, sergeant and vice president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, said. “There is a great deal of work toward building a safer Minneapolis, but it cannot happen until politicians stop pointing fingers and bring us all together to move us forward.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who opposes disbanding the department, said he takes issue with how the union can appeal terminations of officers through arbitration.
“What's more disappointing is that the most essential change (the Minnesota legislature) could have made — preventing arbitrators from reinstating police officers who engage in egregious misconduct — was never considered,” Frey said this week.
The police union said that the arbitration is something that the city and its officers agreed to as part of a standard practice for public employees.
“The system of workplace justice – which is closely akin to our criminal justice system in many respects – requires that all public employees, even police officers, have the opportunity to contest discipline before a neutral third-party” said Schmidt.
To read the full statement, click here.