By now you’re probably well aware of the circumstances surrounding the death of George Floyd, which if we’re being honest, is just another notch in the belt of this country’s long history of violence against people of color. That doesn’t mean it’s insignificant, or that it should be ignored, but it’s becoming so commonplace that we’re constantly just waiting for the next incident to occur.
Luckily, some people are still able to channel their outrage into something proactive. University of Minnesota President, Joan Gabel made some pretty substantial changes to the relationship between the university and the Minnesota Police Department.
Basically, the school will not be contracting officers to work at university events, and they will not be using their specialized services like the K-9 unit. These changes are significant in that the school pays a large sum to have MPD officers working just at football games, not to mention all of the other university sponsored events. Seemingly, the only way to impact change in behavior is through money, and this will be a big hit.
A few years ago it was reported that the taxpayers of Tuscaloosa, AL paid more than $500,000 to the police department just for football games. Now Minnesota doesn’t have as high of a profile as Bama when it comes to football, but they have more students and have tons of people showing up every Saturday (Minnesotans be crazy when it comes to sports), and require a major police presence. So they probably don’t spend half a mil, but they assuredly pay a large sum, and because it’s a public university, that’s coming from taxes.
A lot of that money goes towards overtime, which is something that many of the officers enjoy having to offset their criminally low salaries. In comparison to a typical day, I’m sure that getting paid overtime to walk around tailgate and pour out Fireball pints of underage students, and stand on the sidelines during a football game isn’t that bad of a gig. I’m not overjoyed at hurting the pockets of police officers, but losing that privilege may encourage them to police themselves more.
This also doesn’t mean that taxpayers will feel a financial relief. In the absence of the MPD presence, the school will need to supplement it with more training and salary for campus police, or paying for more private security. They are still responsible for providing a safe environment for everyone at their events, it just won’t be done by the Minnesota Police Department.
It shouldn’t take money to evoke change and prevent unnecessary injuries and death, but apparently it does. More than the financial implications, the statement President Gabel made was that a major institution had lost faith in the very people who are responsible for protecting their students, families, and fans. It’s a public firing, which will hopefully cause shame and indignation enough to ensure that nothing like the death of George Floyd will ever happen again.
Is that wishful thinking? Probably. Does it mean that every MPD officer is responsible for Floyd’s death? Of course not. And worst of all, it doesn’t bring back life to a man who, regardless of circumstances, did not deserve to have it taken away from him and his family. But it’s a step, and sadly that’s about the best we can hope for right now.
The way things are right now, it surprisingly takes a lot for a public university to take a stand against the death of an unarmed man. So congratulations to the University of Minnesota and it’s leadership for doing so. Maybe other high profile institutions will find the courage to follow suit.