Statement on Minneapolis Charter Amendment on Public Safety
Last year our public advocacy agenda was redesigned to better reflect the mission and work of the organization as it is today. Because of the uniquely pervasive impact that racism has on our society, the focus of Rainbow Health’s Advocacy Agenda is to advance racial equity and justice. We know that ending HIV and ending health inequity for LGBTQ+ communities cannot be achieved unless the brutality of racism is broken and the experiences of Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color (BIPOC) are centered and amplified.
It was with this agenda in mind that we supported the City of Minneapolis’ 2020 declaration that racism is a public health crisis. As the City stated at the time, “a multitude of studies connect racism to inequitable health outcomes for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), including cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, high infant and maternal mortality rates demonstrating that racism is the root cause of social determinants of health.” The City also noted “research has shown that police killings of unarmed Black Americans have adverse effects on mental health among Black American adults overall, and that programs are needed to decrease the frequency of police killings and to mitigate adverse mental health effects within communities when and where such killings occur.”
In this year’s election, Minneapolis voters have a unique opportunity to expand and redefine public safety for the better. Question 2 on the Minneapolis ballot would create a Department of Public Safety to employ a range of qualified professionals – including police officers – to coordinate the best response to different emergency situations.
For far too long, we have relied on armed police officers to solve problems they are not trained to solve. In too many instances, we have been left with one choice – calling the police – when other options would be better. As a result, our community been left less safe. Voting yes on Question 2 will change this outdated and limiting system with one that offers more choices.
While we recognize that good people have strong opinions on both sides of this question, including inside our organization, the values and mission of Rainbow Health call on us to support Question 2.
As an organization dedicated to the health of our community for nearly 40 years, Rainbow Health has battled some of Minnesota’s worst public health crises: HIV/AIDS, corporate tobacco, opioids, and now COVID-19. As a community of LGBTQ people, low-income people, formerly incarcerated people, and people of color, the HIV/AIDS community knows firsthand the disproportionate impact of harmful police tactics and how these tactics fuel existing disparities in our systems of care.
As an organization centering anti-racism and believing racism is a public health crisis, we cannot ignore the choice before Minneapolis voters this election to change public safety – a system with some of the most disparate harms on the communities we care about and care for.
As a provider of mental health services, we know that a person in mental distress needs a trained professional, not an armed officer, to help them.
As a provider of stable, affordable housing, we know that a person sleeping outside needs a social worker, not an armed officer, to help them.
As a provider of chemical health care, we know that a person struggling with substance abuse needs specialized treatment, not an armed officer, help them.
As an advocate for public health, we know that addressing the root causes of violence is more effective than solely resorting to police.
We also know there is misinformation being spread about Question 2, so let’s be clear about what it is not. According to Yes 4 Minneapolis, Question 2 would not “defund” or eliminate police officers in Minneapolis but would help ensure the most qualified professional is called upon in the right moment to keep people safe. Check out more of the facts at yes4minneapolis.org.
Lastly, we know that Question 2 is about change. It is change at a time when Minneapolis is in the global spotlight of police reform and racial justice. It is change when change is needed. For too long, those opposed to racial justice and equity have used fear to keep people from choosing a better system of public safety. Minneapolis has an opportunity to listen to those most affected by police brutality and the communities who have been demanding change. Minneapolis has an opportunity to choose the better path.
We realize that not everyone will agree with this position, but hopefully you can understand why an organization like ours would take this position.