(The Center Square) – At a Saturday town hall, DFL U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar blamed Minneapolis’ surging violent crime on the city’s police who “have chosen to not fulfill their oath of office and provide the public safety they owe to the citizens.”
In a video of the event posted online, Omar blames the spike in violent crime on the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).
“The Minneapolis Police Department is the most dysfunctional police department in our state and probably in the country,” she said.
“The second part is that there has to be accountability,” Omar continued. “And someone that is actually taking responsibility for what the police does invest into. And that doesn’t exist in the moment.”
Omar supports the Nov. 2 ballot question asking Minneapolis voters if they want to replace the police department with a new public safety department focused on a “comprehensive public safety approach” that would include police officers “if necessary to fulfill the department’s responsibilities.”
“When you have a system that refuses to work for the people it’s supposed to serve, you have to go back to the drawing board,” The Star Tribune reported Omar saying. “At some point, you’ve got to walk away.”
The town hall follows the MPD seeking a $27 million raise to rebuild basic services after it lost nearly 300 officers since 2020, following the death of George Floyd in police custody.
The question has divided Minnesota’s DFL Party. Omar and Attorney General Keith Ellison support the amendment while Mayor Jacob Frey, Gov. Tim Walz, and U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, and Tina Smith, DFL, oppose the idea.
In a budget presentation last week, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo cited increased violent crime as a reason to boost MPD funding. Between Jan. 1, 2021, and Oct. 11, 2021, there have been 530 gunshot wound victims, a 137% increase from 2019’s 223 victims. The city counted 75 homicides in 2021 in that time, up 114% from 2019’s 35 homicides. Also, the 1,569 robberies counted so far in that period was a 50% increase from 2019’s 1,041.
“From a public safety standpoint and certainly as chief, I will tell you what is not acceptable is to have any more reductions right now in our sworn capacity to be responding to the incidents of gun violence, the incidence of carjackings and homicides that have occurred in our city,” Arradondo said.
He said Black residents in Minneapolis are disproportionately victimized by the rise in violent crime, adding that 87% of victims of violent crime are people of color.
Officials said officers have worked more than twice as many overtime hours so far in 2021 than they did the previous year. Arradondo said the department is down 131 patrol officers – enough people to staff an entire precinct and the lowest level he’s seen in more than 30 years, he said of the 304 sworn patrol answering emergency calls for a city of 430,000.
Minneapolis is grappling with how to simultaneously protect residents while reforming a police department known for the viral video leading to Floyd’s death.