ASWAR RAHMAN'S 14-POINT POLICE REFORM PLAN
We must acknowledge that policing is a serious profession. Its subtleties and specifics aren’t always easily comprehendible by citizens outside the profession. We shouldn’t pretend to know more about medicine than the doctor. Nonetheless, we must also acknowledge that policing is a public service. It is irrevocably subject to the people of the city it serves. The doctor works, without question, at the behest of the patient.
We have every reason to be concerned with the condition of policing in Minneapolis. We have recently lost Justine. Before that, Philando. And we have lost many more before him in conditions that are well worthy of scrutiny. It is callous to call these deaths unnecessary. There is no such thing as a necessary death. In matters of loss like this, where words won’t suffice, it’s better to remain silent.
Our problem in policing isn’t limited to police-involved shootings. We have a violent crime crisis that has been building up over the past four years. In the first six months of this year alone, our city has suffered 18 homicides, 123 gunshot wounds, 267 acts of rape, 720 weapons violations, 875 robberies of persons, and 1103 cases of aggravated assault. We call the police nearly 400,000 times a year – over one thousand calls per day. Any talk of major reform that ignores this reality is ultimately useless.
We don’t need to dismantle, dismember or destroy the police force. What we need is an effective police force. A force that is professional and compassionate, disciplined and flexible, productive and accountable.
To that end I, Aswar Rahman, propose the following reforms. Some are cultural, some procedural, all to be enacted under the full authority of the Office of the Mayor of Minneapolis, empowered in our Charter with the “complete power over the establishment, maintenance, and command of the police department.”
1. REFORM REVIEW PANELS to give civilians the majority vote.
Review Panels currently consist of two officers and two civilians, with one vote each. This allows for gridlock, which favors an accused officer and undermines the unquestionable civilian authority of the police department. By reforming this system and adding one more civilian member to the review panel, the judgement of the civilian representatives will ultimately win the day.
Why not eliminate officers from the panels altogether? The sworn officers on the panels are usually high-ranking officers, and provide valuable insight to the process of policing. Removing them completely robs the civilian panelists of an important resource to fairly assess submitted complaints.
Why not keep just one officer? Two officers will better balance out each other’s views. A sole representative of the MPD on the panel may not have adequate information or, worse, provide misinformation.
The goal is to affirm civilian control of policing in our city. Receiving a majority vote on the Review Panel is crucial in guaranteeing that no complaints can be blockaded, while still retaining the advantages of police-community cooperation.
Note: This reform will require cooperation with the City Council to make changes to the charter. In the unlikely event of stiff resistance from the Council, I will create a special civilian commission solely under the auspices of the Mayor’s Office to review any and all complaints, thereby circumventing gridlock in the Office of Police Conduct Review and reaffirming full civilian authority of the police.
2. Exercise Mayoral authority to discipline and dismiss consistently unprofessional officers when traditional routes fail.
Time and time again, officers who are simply unfit for the job are kept in their positions and allowed to do more harm by the simple lack of anyone willing to take responsibility for their discipline or dismissal. In this cultural reform within city government, the Mayor will assert their chartered authority to “appoint and … discipline or discharge any employee in the department.”
3. In situations of disagreement between police and civilians, the Mayor will be an advocate of the civilians involved.
As the mechanism of our city government works by and large in favor of accused police officers, it is now necessary that the Mayor’s Office embrace its role as the representative of the people of Minneapolis. While all measures of fairness will be taken, it is crucial that the Mayor take any and all concerns and complaints of civilians at their full value.
In practice, this will mean that any and all civilian complaints will be assumed to be valid and true. The Mayor will be obligated to pursue these complaints to vindication unless the MPD can demonstrate illegitimacy of a complaint. This shifts the burden of proof on the service, not the citizen – something that is crucial towards building a more effective MPD.
4. CITY WILL partner with the University of Minnesota to make all legally shareable policing data accessible and comprehendible for all Minneapolitans.
The MPD will create a partnership with the University of Minnesota. If they are unable or unwilling, another academic institution or nonprofit will be engaged. The MPD will provide the partner with direct access to all legally shareable data. It will be the partner’s responsibility to make the data fully accessible to all members of the public. The emphasis will be towards accessibility and clarity.
Fundamental transparency, coupled with access, will ensure civilian control of the police department. Currently, the data that is publicly available is vague and designed more for statisticians rather than the average citizen. This procedural change will ensure that all people in Minneapolis have the data necessary to hold their police force accountable.
5. The Mayor’s Office will maintain a direct, confidential whistleblower route from any sworn officer to itself.
6. A new Non-Lethal Branch (NLB) will be formed in the MPD to be used for low-risk calls.
NLB officers will be dispatched to address non-violent disturbed persons calls, noise complaints, conflict resolutions, harassment, crisis interventions, suicide threats, minor vehicular accidents, public drunkenness, illegal camping, custody disputes, parking complaints and other quality of life issues. The NLB will be specially geared to handle situations that are amenable to de-escalation.
The NLB will begin as a specialized task force, not to number more than 5% of the sworn officer body. Its effectiveness will be evaluated after two years, after which the NLB will hopefully merit greater investment and personnel growth. All NLB officers will be licensed Peace Officers, and possess some level of social work training. Recruitment for the NLB, if and when necessary, will use the D.I.D. employment model to help hire from within the city.
The NLB will wear colors that distinguish it from the regular force, so as to help create a distinct identity and help further deescalate situations where they are sent. It is not uncommon for the mere presence of armed sworn officers to create greater tension – the NLB will have to simply look different to mitigate that intensification.
7. All MPD personnel in a supervisory role will receive advanced training in detecting debilitating stress or trauma in the officers they oversee.
The relationship between a sworn officer and their supervisor offers an unique chance to ensure mental wellness of all officers. Supervisors will be provided with the knowledge and resources to detect stress and trauma in their officers, and will be educated on the best routes forward to help their officers.
Policing is a tough job, and it naturally attracts tough people who may be less likely to admit or even notice damages to their mental health. We need a mechanism to ensure that all officers who take to the street in Minneapolis is in good mental health and supervisor training is necessary to that end.
8. Rotating “light work” positions will be established in each precinct, to be made available to officers experiencing debilitating stress or trauma.
Each police precinct will have a set of positions deliberately designed to provide officers a needed break from on-the-ground activities. These can be elective or officers may be assigned by their supervisors.
Without a reliable refuge from constant stress, we are only creating opportunities for mistakes and unprofessionalism. Due to the high stress nature of the work, it is important that we establish these temporary light work positions for any officers who may need it.
9. The MPD will ADOPT a doctrine of constant training.
Policing is not immune from the extreme pace of change in the modern era. The Minneapolis Police Department will adopt a policy of “constant training” for its officers. All officers, veteran and new, will begin to expect training and retraining as much a part of their job as their actual time on the ground. If this requires employing a few more officers to ensure ground presence, money will be allocated in the budget. It is crucial that our police have the finest training in the world.
In practice, this will mean that, instead of reactive training to new incidents, the professional year will already accommodate substantial amounts of training and retraining for all officers. A sizeable percentage of an officer’s work-month will be dedicated to these constant trainings, to be determined upon consultation with experts and sworn officers themselves.
It is important that we have a police department that is constantly evolving and changing. Embracing constant training allows for exponentially greater opportunities for innovation. Modern methods of de-escalation, trauma-informed interviewing and the like are given a chance to be absorbed by the force as a whole.
10. The city will end self-insurance, and require liability insurance for all officers.
The current system has the incentives all wrong. Because the city insures itself, it fights tooth and nail to prevent any legal action against officers. This violates objectivity, civilian rights, and ultimately, the effectiveness of policing in our city.
By requiring standard professional liability insurance for all officers – as required by nurses, barbers and thousands of other professions – our city will essentially move the financial risk to an insurance firm. This will allow for objective and honest exercises of justice.
The city will subsidize the starting rate of insurance for all officers. Only officers with repeated and proven violations will pay out of pocket, in proportion to the number and severity of unprofessional acts on their record.
11. Officers will be financially incentivized to live within the CITY they serve.
Whereas the average large police department in the country has 40% of its officers living in the communities they serve, Minneapolis stands at around 5%. This massive imbalance of resident officers and non-resident officers creates a culture that is very much non-resident.
Whereas a resident culture takes into account a deep, personal knowledge of the city, non-resident culture is more likely to promote an occupying mindset. This results in hostility between resident civilians and the police department at large.
State law prohibits police employment police based on residence. Therefore, the best route to moving the MPD towards a higher residency rate is a housing credit. Officers who live in the precinct they serve will receive a sizeable housing credit. Exact amounts are to be determined after consulting experts and officers themselves.
12. The MPD will launch an employment program for 15-20 year old residents of Minneapolis.
The program will run year-round. During the school year, it will be limited to after-school hours. During the summer, available hours will increase.
The long-term health of our police department relies on cultivating qualified and motivated officers from within our city, whose upbringing in the city provides them with a deep understanding of the community of Minneapolis.
Employing young Minneapolitans is a crucial investment in creating a strong pool of applicants for future recruitment.
13. Launch career awareness campaign in city's public high schools.
Besides employment, we must increase awareness of policing as a career, and open up the route to the MPD for all young people of the city.
As Mayor, I will personally speak at every one of our public high schools of Minneapolis to espouse the need of the city for great policing, and will enlist sworn officers to speak about their experiences and about the nature of policing.
Early exposure to policing as a career will pay dividends in the near future, as more young people in Minneapolis begin training to join the department, and create a strong, highly qualified pool of applicants.
14. The Mayor must take official responsibility for the condition and actions of the Minneapolis Police Department.
As it stands, it is unclear who in reality is responsible for the MPD. Blame is shifted onto individual officers. In extreme cases, the Chief of Police is pointed to as ultimately responsible. There is an answer to this: the person who – without question – is responsible for the Minneapolis Police Department is the Mayor of Minneapolis.
This last reform is cultural shift at city hall that stops the blame game and instead allows us to honestly develop better ways of policing. Failures within the MPD are necessarily failures of the Mayor. And on the other side of the coin, the functioning of a brilliant, innovative police department is a success for the Office of the Mayor.
All ideas presented are the result of thorough discussion with my team, but I take full individual responsibility as the final author of this plan.
I am sure many will disagree with me. There are flaws in this plan, as there are flaws in every plan. At the very least, we have a plan. And most will agree that this is a plan that is rational, progressive, and – just as important – actionable.
I look forward to evolving our strategy through further discussion. We do not have a perfect police department in this city, and we may always be a work in progress. But that is exciting to a person like me, because it shows how many opportunities we have to build on. All that we need is energy and boldness in our leaders, both of which I bring to you in spades.
All steps forward must be in good faith. For sustainable reform, the Mayor’s Office must engage in full, candid consultation with community groups and the MPD’s official structure itself. In case of redundancy with existing similar programs, we will combine the strengths of both the proposed and the existing.
Ultimately, we must acknowledge that the real source of public safety is a happy and prosperous citizen body. Limiting opportunity is one of the surest ways to disadvantage in our justice system. Not to mention, crime thrives in poverty.
We need to invest in early childhood care. We need to invest in expanding higher education and job training. My administration will work tirelessly on those. It is crucial to set our Police Department on the right track over the next four years. This reform plan isn’t enough to solve all the problems of our city – but it is a crucial part of the genuine progress we can bring in this coming mayoral term.
I look forward to discussing these reforms and improving this plan. I thank you all for your time here. This November, vote Aswar for Mayor.