Mayor Carter’s 2020 budget aims to reduce the St. Paul Police Department (SPPD) by five sworn officers, stretching an already inadequate force even thinner after years of decreasing funding. This will inevitably impact the quality of service between residents and SPPD. There will not be enough officers remaining even to serve all the urgent calls with reasonable speed, much less to be a presence in the commuity and get to know and build relationships with residents.
The national discussion surrounding law enforcement and citizens has become contentious. It’s essential/priority that residents build relationships and have an improved understanding of the role of law enforcement. We also need to listen to the voices of the community members that are living in areas with high crime incidence. Here are some steps we can take to support law enforcement while taking the steps to reduce the causes of crime.
- Acknowledge that there is trauma for some community members when encountering law enforcement. Police training must emphasize de-escalation.
- Increase community ambassadors and citizen engagement. Citizens need to have frequent friendly interactions with officers. If people’s only experience with the law is when the law hassles them, they won’t turn to the police for help when they have a problem, or be willing to talk with them about what’s going on in their neighborhood
- Police Accountability: Independent Civilian board. People need to feel that officers are held to a high standard of behavior when dealing with the public — and they need to be correct in that feeling.
- Form robust block clubs across different neighborhood clusters.
- Implement Restorative Justice models for minor offenses.
- Start more youth programs and activities, and expand job opportunities for young people.