Former police sergeant stresses need to get rid of bad cops

Midwest

Voters in Minneapolis will vote Tuesday on whether to defund the same police department that was at the center of protests following the May 202 death of George Floyd under an officer’s knee.

Former Los Angeles Police Sgt. Cheryl Dorsey, author of “The Confidence Chronicles: The Greatest Story Never Told,” voiced concerns about the legislation in a Monday night conversation with Joe Donlon on “The Donlon Report.”

At the LAPD, “talking about defunding meant police stations closing early, meant specialized units shutting down, and so you can’t have a city of any size without an adequate police force to patrol it,” Dorsey said.

“There is a contingency of people out there who are hoping that they would defund the police, who want fewer officers on the street so that they can victimize those of us who may be out there and unable to protect ourselves,” Dorsey said. “And so, it doesn’t make sense to me to want to defund the police.“

In Minneapolis, Ballot Proposal No. 2 asks voters whether the city charter should be amended to remove its requirement that the city have a police department with a minimum staffing level. It would be replaced with a new Department of Public Safety that would take a “comprehensive public health approach,” which “could include” police officers “if necessary, to fulfill its responsibilities for public safety.” The new department would be led by a commissioner nominated by the mayor and appointed by the council.

The Minneapolis Police Department is already down nearly 300 officers, one-third below its authorized maximum of 888. Only 588 were actually available to work as of mid-October, compared with the charter-mandated minimum of about 730. A major reason is officers quitting, retiring or going on disability leaves for post-traumatic stress disorder following the sometimes violent unrest, looting and arson that followed Floyd’s death. Critics of the proposal blame the reduction in officers for the surge in gun violence and other crimes that Minneapolis has experienced since then.

Dorsey voiced some skepticism over some of the statistics that have entered the debate.

“Stats can be manipulated and you can move a type of crime from one category to another,” she said. “Murders are up nationwide 30%? Well, listen, so is mass shooting. Is anybody concerned about that? Are they willing to do something about gun control and background checks to deal with that?”

Public opinion seems to be swinging away from defunding police departments. New numbers from the Pew Research Center suggest that 47% of Americans want more police funding, compared to only 15% who support reducing funding.

Opponents of the ballot initiative in Minnesota, including the All of Mpls campaign, say the biggest problem is there is no plan, making it a dangerous gamble. Many say they support a lot of the changes proponents want to see, such as the greater reliance on unarmed professionals. But they say it’s not necessary to amend the city charter to accomplish those goals. Many opponents also distrust the city council, given that a majority of current members, shortly after Floyd’s death, stood on a stage bearing a prominent “Defund Police” sign and pledged to dismantle the department.

Dorsey, too, cited politics as a major concern.

“Police officers can make or break a chief,” she said “And every chief serves at the pleasure of a mayor. And so listen, these folks who are hollering, ‘defund the police department,’ be careful what you ask for.

“I think a lot of times, mayors are just paying lip service to protesters and activists and others. And again, be careful what you ask for, because, listen, every police chief serves at the pleasure of one of those mayors, and they buckled to the pressure of protesters last year.”

Dorsey added that real-life events can often preclude getting a qualified mental health expert on the scene in a timely fashion.

“What about those traffic stops that police officers engage in?” she asked. “And you don’t know that the person that you’re dealing with is having a mental episode. And you’ve got to deal with it right now, you don’t have time to get a clinician, you can’t call a timeout.”

Still, the Minneapolis Police Department does have its detractors. U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., recently called the Minneapolis Police Department “the most dysfunctional police department in our state and in the country.”

And the ballot proposal does have its advocates. Supporters, including the Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign, say the new response options afforded by the “public health approach” would reduce excessive police force and turn the focus to prevention. They say the changes are needed to uproot a police culture that resists change and protects bad apples. They say the new approach ultimately would make the community safer for everyone, including people of color. And they say the new department would be accountable to the entire city because it would have to answer to the 13-member City Council instead of just the mayor.

Dorsey said the real issue may not be getting rid of the police department, but rather, getting the right police.

“You know, the cop mentality is the same all across these 18,000 police departments (nationwide) and the problem that they’re having there is not unique to Minneapolis. You know, when police officers get butthurt, they lash out or, you know, blue flu, it was a thing, right? Slow response, you know. … And so there are plenty of misfit toys out there who have resigned under protest or who quit, retired a little early from one department and they’re going to move around like chess pieces. So you’ll have somebody who will replace these people under a different name wearing a different uniform with that same mentality.

“Until and unless you deal with the accountability issue, you’re going to continue to have the same problem and why they won’t deal with accountability is beyond me. You would think it was a four-letter word. … And that’s why it’s so important to get the right police officers on the department in the first place. And when somebody shows you that they don’t have the temperament, then you need to get rid of them.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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