Community Solutions, Not More Cops, for Public Safety in St Paul

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Dear Mayor Carter, Chief Axtell, and St. Paul City Council Members,

As our cities mourn the deaths of residents from fatal encounters with police, another disturbing canine attack on an innocent bystander, and the potentially dangerous police response to a false report targeting black youth , we ask you to oppose any new funding for more St. Paul police officers. We believe St. Paul can be a leader in advancing a true “community-first” approach to public safety. Expanding the police force would take our city in the wrong direction, squandering scarce public resources and further embedding punishment and incarceration over true community solutions.

We are a citywide collaboration of individuals and organizations working to advance police accountability, community-defined safety, and racial justice. While we acknowledge the efforts of the St. Paul Police Department to enhance community engagement, revise use of force policies, and promote transparency, we oppose allocating any additional funding to hire more police in St. Paul, and ask the city to build safety through investments in youth and communities.

The Department has advanced a 21st Century Policing vision. Among other pillars, 21st Century Policing requires law enforcement to co-partner with communities to develop and implement strategies for safety beyond traditional and failed approaches. We know we cannot arrest or imprison our way to safety, and we put communities and police in impossible situations when do not invest in alternatives. To create true and lasting public safety, we must invest in programs and infrastructure that enhance our community outcomes, not expand failed punitive approaches which perpetuate the human casualties and fiscal waste of a broken system.

We don’t need to add police to engage with communities or promote safety.

  • SPPD already has the largest slice of the general funding pie. Since 2006 SPPD’s budget has grown $12.9 million and they’ve added 63 new police officer positions, while budgets and staffing have been slashed for other departments that address housing, jobs, programing for youth, transportation, and public libraries. The city has cut about 40% of recreation centers that were operating in 2000 (from 42 to 24) and of the 18 recreation centers closed since 2000, nearly 2/3 served youth from our poorest neighborhoods
  • SPPD has a concerning track record when it comes to racial disparities and use of force and must prioritize accountability and addressing these fatal flaws;
  • St. Paul already has more officers than comparable cities, and additional officers are not justified by either population or crime;
  • Our communities are engaged and ready to find solutions that move away from failed models that disenfranchise communities of color, and instead embrace strategies like restorative justice and strengths-based programs that harness community expertise, cultivate relationships and improve wellness.

Read more supporting data here.

There is a better way. St. Paul residents are eager to address traditional issues of “crime” in new ways that go beyond standard police crackdowns, show of force, and arrests and incarceration. We are ready to work together to develop a vision that:

  • invests in youth and builds on community strengths;
  • keeps kids and families together in community;
  • elevates the role of communities of color and low-income communities in healing and making decisions that impact their lives;
  • expands diversion opportunities away from arrest, booking and incarceration;
  • creates a “restorative city” that builds community and respond to harm;
  • provides lasting pathways away from crime;
  • and reduces the harmful impacts of policing, punishment and imprisonment.

We, the undersigned organizations, urge you to reject the hiring of additional police officers and work with community leaders to identify and resource true community safety initiatives.

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Organizations:
Advocates for St. Paul Youth and Families
American Friends Service Committee
ANEW BAM
Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Association
Black Lives Matter Minnesota
CAIR-Minnesota
Center for School Change
Circles for Peace Movement
Communities United Against Police Brutality
Foster Alum MN
Frogtown Neighborhood Association
Hmong Americans for Justice
InEquality
ISAIAH
James Dewitt Yancey Foundation MN
Jewish Community Action
Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing
Minnesota Freedom Fund
NAACP Minneapolis
NAACP Saint Paul
The New North
Omega Zulu’s Twin Cities (Zulu Union)
Saint Anthony Park District Council
Saint Paul Federation of Teachers
Saint Paul Accountability and Advocacy Network
Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood
Showing Up for Racial Justice MN
S.T.A.N.D UP for Education Justice
Take Action Minnesota
Up LIFT MN
We Rise
West Side Community Organization
WomenUnited.org MN

Sign on to this letter as an organization or individual here.

Click here to download a PDF of this letter.