Two Years After George Floyd's Murder, Minneapolis Is Still Struggling to Redefine Policing Josiah Bates Wed, May 25, 2022
America's Policing System is broken. It's time to radically Rethink Public safety
The Complex Dynamic between "Violence Interrupters" and Police
“If George Floyd wouldn’t have happened in Central,” McBrayer says, “it wouldn’t have had the effect on the world that it did.”
But, two years later, it can be hard to quantify what effect Floyd’s murder has actually had on Minneapolis. As some activists across the country and the world pushed for cities to “defund the police,” the Minneapolis City Council declared in June 2020 that it would disband the police department and relaunch a new form of public safety in the city. Elected officials and police leaders assured the country, as much as they did Minneapolis’ residents, that they would fix law enforcement in Minneapolis and make a concerted effort to build trust with residents. But in the time since those promises were made, some observers say, few have been borne out.
Though it would be easy to draw a simple line between crime and the size of Minneapolis’ police force, the reasons crime rises are complex and usually not entirely clear until a crime wave has ended, says Sasha Cotton, director of Minneapolis’ Office of Violence Prevention, which was established in 2018 to work with residents on a non-police approach to public safety
Rahson Johnson of Save Our Streets in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York on Oct. 8, 2021. Save Our Streets staff work on preventing gun violence in the neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant Booklyn by mediating conflicts and acting as peer counselors to the people who are at risk of perpetrating or being victimized by violence. Nate Palmer for TIME
BY JOSIAH BATES OCTOBER 15, 2021 10:04 AM EDT
Just off a stretch of Eastern Parkway, the highway-like street that goes through many of Brooklyn, New York’s most disenfranchised neighborhoods, is a small office in Crown Heights. What fills this small space is vital to the community. It’s the Crown Heights location for Save Our Streets (SOS), an activist group dedicated to combating gun violence in the borough. Inside there are desks, chairs and cubicles; a small indoor basketball hoop and a punching bag. There are posters on the walls, with portraits of Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis. One reads “Don’t shoot, I want to grow up.” Another says “stop shooting, start living.”
In a back room, a team of young Black men and women are preparing for a community event. They are volunteers, outreach workers and practitioners of what’s known as violence interruption—the work of credible neighborhood messengers attempting to quell violence within inner-city communities. Among them is Rahson Johnson, 46, the organization’s associate director of community safety. Johnson is stoic, measured and methodical as he prepares to lead the group outside for an event
They are heading to the scene of a shooting—a street corner where, on Aug. 1, a young man was killed. (The NYPD has since made an arrest in the case.) As they walk, SOS workers also try to hand out their cards to people on the street. In the middle of a residential area, they set up a speaker so the entire block can hear what they have to say: They’re there to denounce gun violence, and to remind the community that they’re available to offer any kind of help or support. And they’re coming from a real position of expertise—most of the interrupters, if not all, were previously involved in street crimes and gun violence themselves.