Yesterday, the Washington Post took a moment off from Trump bashing and Biden promoting to run an actual news story on its front page. The story had a surprisingly (for the Post) honest and direct headline: “Minneapolis violence surges as police officers leave department in droves.”
Here are some excerpts from Holly Bailey’s report:
The sound of gunfire has become so familiar across North Minneapolis that Cathy Spann worries she has grown numb to it.
Day and night, the bullets zip through this predominantly Black neighborhood, hitting cars and homes and people. The scores of victims have included a 7-year-old boy, wounded in a drive-by shooting; a woman who took a bullet that came through her living room wall while she was watching television with her family; and a 17-year-old girl shot in the head and killed.
Spann, a longtime community activist who works for the Jordan Area Community Council, cannot recall another time when things were this bad — not even when the city was branded “Murderapolis,” during a spike in violence in the mid-1990s. The police are not as much a presence as they used to be, Spann said, noting that sometimes when neighbors call 911, officers are delayed in responding or don’t come at all.
“If you want to talk about pandemics, we’re dealing with a pandemic of violence,” Spann said on a recent afternoon, just as word came of two more nearby shootings. “We’re under siege. You wake up and go to bed in fear because you don’t know what’s going to happen next. . . . And our city has failed to protect us.”
The numbers support this assessment:
Homicides in Minneapolis are up 50 percent, with nearly 75 people killed across the city so far this year. More than 500 people have been shot, the highest number in more than a decade and twice as many as in 2019. And there have been more than 4,600 violent crimes — including hundreds of carjackings and robberies — a five-year high.
Most of the violence has happened since Floyd’s killing on Memorial Day, and some experts attribute it in part to the lingering anger over the slaying and the effects of the coronavirus, including job losses and the closure of community centers and other public spaces.
With that last passage, the Post finally strikes a false note. Jobs had been lost and community centers closed months before Floyd’s death. And the suggestion that Blacks are terrorizing other Blacks due to anger over Floyd’s death is ludicrous.
The cause of the spike in violent crime, as Spann recognizes, is the reduced presence of police officers. More than 100 officers have left the force so far this year. That’s more than double the number in a typical year. The department has about 735 sworn officers — down from the city’s budgeted 888 positions.
At a recent city council meeting, one resident of South Minneapolis blamed the crime wave, including bullets sprayed into her living room, on the council for pursuing what she described as a “sociology experiment that obviously doesn’t work.” She and others called for a surge of law enforcement into the city.
Even the left-wing mayor and city council are beginning to understand the problem. Last week, the council voted 7-6 to allocate nearly $500,000 for the police department to temporarily hire officers from neighboring law enforcement agencies to help patrol city streets from Nov. 15 until the end of the year.
Why officers from other jurisdictions would want to come to Fort Apache Minneapolis even temporarily is not clear. And those who come will be far less qualified for the work than those who have left. They won’t know the communities they will be asked to police.
To make matters worse, a lawyer who represents police officers says he has met with 100 additional officers who are thinking about leaving the force. Some cite mental exhaustion and fear of further unrest, including protests linked to the trial of the four former police officers charged with killing Floyd, which is scheduled for March.
It’s unrealistic for the city government that’s responsible for the crime spike through non-stop demonization of the police to come to grips with the problem. That’s why Spann has reached out to state officials and federal prosecutors to ask what law enforcement agencies can do for them.
But the real remedy won’t come until there is regime change in Minneapolis.