Defund Fargo-Moorhead police? This group is talking about it
MOORHEAD — A group is forming via social media to explore what defunding the police might look like in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
Set up about a week ago, a Facebook group called "Police-Free Fargo-Moorhead" has so far gained about 200 members, according to Jake Mullin, of Moorhead, who is helping organize the group.
Mullin said members have met once online and they plan to continue hosting virtual meetings on a somewhat regular basis, perhaps once a week.
The May 25 death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police sparked nationwide scrutiny of how police departments do their work, leading some to suggest radical change is necessary.
One idea gaining attention is reducing or eliminating funding of police departments and redirecting the resources to social programs and other efforts aimed at supporting communities.
The notion of defunding police has met with opposition from some, but it may not be as radical as it sounds, according to Mullin.
"It's not that crazy of an idea," said Mullin, who suggested that if people thought about how often they actually have contact with law enforcement, they might see it that way, too.
Mullin said many Americans, at least middle- to upper-class white Americans, don't interact much with police. "I think we're already kind of living in a police-free world," said Mullin, whose father is a police officer.
Mullin said he grew up believing that the police existed to protect people and that without the police there would be chaos and anarchy, but he said he doesn't really believe that anymore.
"I think a better world is possible. I think we can build alternative structures of public safety that would actually cost us less financially and cost us less morally and might actually be better and more efficient," Mullin said.
Figuring out those alternatives and how to advocate for them is where the Facebook group comes in, Mullin said, adding that the group's membership is a mix of people from across the community.
One city where defunding police is getting attention is Minneapolis, where a supermajority of the Minneapolis City Council said this week they would support disbanding the city's police department and instead move toward putting resources into health and social services programs that aim to reduce or prevent crime.
Moorhead Mayor Johnathan Judd said Wednesday, June 10, that he hasn't had time to research the question of defunding police enough to discuss it at any length.
"It would be completely out of line for me to even comment on it," he said.
Judd said given what is happening around the country, it's clear that police departments need to build and strengthen relationships with communities in general and with communities of color specifically.
"I'm not at this point going to say whether it needs to go to the level of what the Minneapolis City Council is doing, or not," Judd said.
Judd and other local officials have been having conversations with community organizers in the wake of protests and rioting in Fargo. Because many of the conversations were private, Judd said he could not go into detail about what was talked about.
However, he said during those talks community organizers verbally communicated demands they would like to see implemented, but when they were asked to put them in writing, they declined.
Community organizers later publicly released a list of demands, which at that time did not include defunding police.
Mullin said the term defunding police is a tricky one, because it means different things to different people, even among those pushing for it.
What the Facebook group is asking for, Mullin said, is for people to think about how city resources might be reallocated to strengthen services that address underlying societal problems, instead of expanding the police force, which he said "serves to punish and criminalize the consequences of these underlying problems."
Attempts to reach Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney and Fargo Police Chief David Todd for comment Wednesday were not successful.