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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
On November 7, 2017, Jacob Frey won the mayoral race in Minneapolis, bolstered in large part by a strong push for police reform in the wake of the Justine Damond shooting by a Minneapolis police officer. He quickly appointed Medaria Arrandondo as chief and worked to institute new body camera policies, and restore some degree of trust between the department and the communities it serves. After decades of distrust, strained relations, and high profile scandals, even Frey’s detractors were willing to give him a clean slate and proceed with optimism.
Any progress that has been made since that election was torched last week, both literally and figuratively. The entire world has witnessed the destruction of one of America’s largest cities by opportunistic and organized criminals, and watched as they met little to no resistance as they destroyed police precincts, gas stations, supermarkets, banks, and libraries. On Friday morning, Mayor Frey told us that the mayhem was ‘unacceptable’ but on Friday night more buildings burned and more livelihoods were lost.
We all value our First Amendment right to protest, and rational people can certainly differentiate between genuine peaceful protestors and bad actors looking to take advantage of chaotic situations, but apparently Mayor Frey didn’t trust law enforcement to be able to make those distinctions when he instructed the police to treat the protests with a gentle hand. It became abundantly clear by Wednesday night that there were scores of people who weren’t interested in fighting for justice for George Floyd but rather seemed intent on causing destruction and mayhem for reasons that are difficult to comprehend. Mayor Frey had a choice to make at that moment – enforce the laws while making every effort to protect the real protestors, or become an enabler to the destruction of his city.
Needless to say, Frey chose poorly, and we will all be paying the price for his choice for years, if not decades, to come. This city we love is now a decimated war zone. After initially denying it, we learned on Friday from Governor Walz that the decision to cede the Third Precinct building to the terroristic criminals was made early in the day and law enforcement was instructed to abandon the building. Frey called the building a ‘symbol’ and declared that ‘brick and mortar’ could never be as valuable as human life. Sure, we can agree on that, but now we have to wonder how Frey could ever credibly lead the Minneapolis Police Department after a near unconditional surrender of their home turf. In a department that already deals with low morale and the perception that the political leadership does not have their back, allowing this ‘symbol’ to burn to the ground with no resistance has to be a near fatal blow to whatever remaining morale still exists.
Every city must have a Police Department. The idea that a metropolitan area as large and robust as Minneapolis can abolish the police is foolish and should not be seriously considered by anyone. Accepting that, the only way to have an effective police force and a truly safe city is when the political and police leadership do not view each other as the enemy. Since we don’t elect our police departments, we can only hold their elected leaders accountable for the actions of law enforcement. And Mayor Frey has failed this city by failing to not only institute meaningful reforms but by showing the world that he would rather let the criminals take over the streets than support the men and women entrusted with keeping our city safe. And for that decision, the only way forward to heal these wounds is for Mayor Frey to resign from office. He simply cannot credibly lead this department going forward, and a city that has lost control of its law enforcement is an untenable and unsafe situation both for the members of the force and the citizens it’s supposed to protect and serve. There is no trust between the parties, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where that trust can be rebuilt.
The entire state of Minnesota depends on the Twin Cities to be the economic and cultural engines of the state. A failed Minneapolis eventually will lead to a failed Minnesota, and we should not sit idly by and watch one of America’s truly great cities get reduced to rubble and become another punchline for late-night comics alongside Detroit, Baltimore, and other cities that have never fully recovered from riots and chaos like what we watched happen last week. For that recovery to begin, Mayor Frey must resign and grant someone else that clean slate that we granted him.