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Defund Police | Munk Debates

EPISODE #33

Defund Police

Be it resolved it is time to defund police and reimagine public safety in our communities.

Guests
Alondra Cano
Wayne Harris

About this episode

It took a white police officer 8 minutes and 46 seconds to kill George Floyd - and not much longer to spark the largest anti-racism protests in the U.S. and around the world since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Protestors have started to focus their fury on a specific call to action: they say the time has come to defund the police. For many this means abolishing outright an institution that they see as rooted in centuries of racism and that has proven impossible to reform. They argue that the best way to make neighborhoods safe is to redirect large portions of existing policing budgets to social services focusing on poverty alleviation, mental health, public housing, and substance abuse. Defunding critics argue that police were, now, and will be essential in preserving the peace in society. Supporters of the police believe the vast majority of officers make positive and lasting contributions to the security and wellbeing of the communities they serve.

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Guests

Alondra Cano

“I cannot continue to legitimize a system where, every year or two, I have to write an apology for another person who has been awfully and horrifically murdered for no reason.”

Alondra Cano

“I cannot continue to legitimize a system where, every year or two, I have to write an apology for another person who has been awfully and horrifically murdered for no reason.”

Alondra is the first Latina to have been elected to serve on the Minneapolis City Council. She’s the Ninth Ward representative and part of the youngest and most racially diverse governing Council in the history of the City of Minneapolis. During her first months in office, she made national headlines as she worked shoulder-to-shoulder with American Indian leaders to secure a unanimous Council vote to abolish Columbus Day and recognize Indigenous Peoples Day. As the daughter of Mexican undocumented immigrants and low-wage workers, she led the charge to pass a $15 per hour minimum wage ordinance helping over 71,000 workers. As the mother of three boys growing up in East Phillips, she fiercely defended the community’s Green Zones vision to create pollution-free neighborhoods for the most low-income areas of our city.

Previous to her Council role, she served as Associate Director of the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network and successfully passed the Mn Dream Act, later was an Aide to Council Vice President Robert Lilligren, and then spearheaded the Multilingual Communications division for Minneapolis Public Schools. Alondra is passionate about infusing her policy making efforts with an organizing framework that engages artists, musicians, and grassroots groups to build a powerful voice for racial justice, workers’ rights, and mother earth. She is changing the face of politics.

Wayne Harris

“Policing is necessary in a civilized society, but it's also necessary that we do it right.”

Wayne Harris

“Policing is necessary in a civilized society, but it's also necessary that we do it right.”

Deputy Chief Wayne Harris (Ret.), Rochester Police Department Rochester, NY, began his law enforcement career in 1987 as a patrol officer with the Rochester Police Department in New York. He patrolled the Lake, Clinton, Highland, and Downtown sections for 12 years before he was promoted to sergeant. He was subsequently assigned to the Professional Standards Unit, where he investigated police misconduct. In 2006, he was elevated to a lieutenant and oversaw officers and investigators in the East Division’s first and second platoons. After five years, he was promoted to captain and was responsible for oversight of all patrol operations for the first platoon. In 2014, he became Commander of the West Division and managed all law enforcement personnel and services for western Rochester. In 2016, he was appointed to the position of Deputy Chief of Community Relations and Engagement where he was charged with strengthening relationships with the local community.
 
Harris retired from policing in 2017 and currently manages a consulting firm. He is a recipient of department awards including multiple Chief’s Letters of Recognition, several Captain Letters, a Unit Commendation Award, and an Excellent Police Service Award. He is a member the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and serves as the organization’s National Financial Secretary. He holds a B.S. in Organizational Management from Roberts Wesleyan College, and is a graduate of the 244th session of the F.B.I. National Academy.

Show Notes

Alondra Cano wrote an opinion piece about the Minneapolis City Council’s decision to defund police for USA Today. You can read it here.
 
Retired Deputy Chief Wayne C Harris outlined his opposition to defunding the police in Rochester’s daily newspaper, the Democrat and Chronicle. You can read it here.
 
In the debate Alondra says the history and foundation of police systems in the United States are rooted in slavery and colonialism. You can learn more about the history of racism and the police here.
 
Alondra defines her position on defunding police as abolitionist. You can learn more about the abolitionist perspective here
 
Retired Deputy Chief Wayne Harris refers to police department open data portals as a key transparency measure that will help police and communities work better together. The open data portal at the Rochester Police Department, where Deputy Chief Harris worked, is available here.
 
The Vera Institute of Justice offers a database with illuminating statistics on policing in the United States. For example, an arrest takes place every three seconds, but fewer than 5% of these arrests are for serious violent crimes. You can access the database here.
 
Deputy Chief Wayne Harris pointed to President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing as an excellent guide for police reform. You can read the report here. The leaders of the report discuss its impact and success in the wake of the Defund Police protests here.
 
In the debate Alondra Cano and Deputy Chief Wayne Harris discussed the current role of police in responding to situations involving mental health. The Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) recently issued a statement advocating that mental health experts and not the police should be the first to respond when individuals are in crisis in the community. You can read the statement here.

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