As people ask me questions about the BET and about my campaign, I will share some of the most interesting or common questions along with my answers. Previous Q & As: Part 1
Q. What do you believe is the most pressing capital issue facing the city?
A. Police misconduct and its related liability and harm.
The total cost of police misconduct for the City of Minneapolis is incalculable. It goes beyond City finances to trauma and loss of confidence in public safety institutions and democratic government—each of which have their own financial and economic impact that is difficult to quantify, so it is common to pretend that they don’t have a cost.
But even if we exclusively focus on direct fiscal consequences for the City, they are massive and without justification. Since 2011, the City has spent nearly $63 million settling police misconduct lawsuits and claims and has been averaging approximately $5.7 million dollars every year. This is an annual City expenditure to compensate victims of police violence and abuse of government power, activities that the City has no legitimate business perpetrating. And in 2020, police misconduct precipitated over $100 million in direct public and private loss in Minneapolis, on the order of $500 million in the region, and a sum orders of magnitude larger in lost economic opportunity and public well-being.
Focusing solely on misconduct settlement amounts: that is all money that could have been used for affirmative city priorities instead of compensating for harm that the City caused, and continues to cause. For example, one estimate of the cost of city-wide sidewalk snow clearing—of significant value to every resident and visitor, and an issue of critical importance to people with limited mobility—is in the range of $4.5 to $6 million per year. This is something the city could do for its residents, but instead the City must fund its massive, unjustified police misconduct liability expense, year after year.
Q. Transformational change (reform) in the Police Department will cost money. So rather than defunding the department, it would require more funding while doing this change. How would you see paying for this?
A. Meaningful and systematic transformation of the City’s public safety systems and institutions is likely to be among the City’s necessary functions and activities going forward, for the reasons discussed above. Like all things that require funding, they must be paid for through one or more of the City’s available revenue sources. I imagine that more than one source of funding could be used, and that property taxes would probably be among them.
But the question, as posed, appears to disregard the possibility of reallocating funds already budgeted for the Police Department. This would allow costs to be paid without requiring increased revenue. The Police Department has significant current staffing vacancies, yet the city continues to fund the Department as though those vacancies don’t exist. That is a ready source of current funding that would require no additional revenue and could be put to use building functioning public safety institutions in Minneapolis that citizens can trust.
The bottom line is that we will pay for this transformation because we must—the status quo is unsustainable.