In her introduction, Klobuchar, a cosponsor of the Justice in Policing Act, said that Carter is an “invaluable voice” who represents the best of Minnesota
Carter: “We deserve more than a swift response after a crime is committed, we deserve investment to reduce the number of times we have to call police in the first place, and we deserve to know that our officers will protect and serve all of us.”
WASHINGTON – Today, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on police use of force and community relations, Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter addressed the urgent need for systemic policing reform.
Carter was introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who said that Mayor Carter, “represents the best of our state, and as we work toward justice for George Floyd’s murder and making long overdue changes to our justice system, he brings a critical perspective to these issues and the experience of implementing police and public safety reforms at the local level.”
Carter appeared after being invited by Klobuchar to address the committee.
Last week, Klobuchar called on Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to hold hearings with Attorney General William Barr to examine the Administration’s response to the protesters in Lafayette Park, after federal officers used chemical gas and fired rubber bullets at protesters.
Also last week, Klobuchar and Tina Smith (D-MN), along with 23 colleagues, followed up on their letter to Attorney General Barr requesting that the Department of Justice open an investigation into patterns and practices of racially discriminatory and violent policing in the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). The senators asked for an explanation from Attorney General Barr on why he did not respond to their letter and to explain his statements on June 7 in an appearance on Face the Nation during which he said, “I don’t think necessarily starting a pattern or practice investigation at this stage is warranted.”
Watch Klobuchar's remarks HERE.
Watch Carter's remarks HERE.
KLOBUCHAR: Mr. Chairman thank you, Senator Feinstein, for holding this hearing. And thank you to my friends, Senator Booker, Senator Harris, for leading this important bill. Before I get to introducing the mayor, I want to note that this murder happened in this state, and George Floyd should be alive today, but he isn’t. His life evaporated before our eyes, before the eyes of the world. Our nation has been left in pain. My state has been left in pain, grieving, marching, and demanding justice. This is not a time to just talk about it. If we are silent, we are complicit. If we stand there and demand dominance and waive Bibles, we’re no better than monsters. But if we act and we actually do something and get this bill passed, well, then, we’re lawmakers, and that will be the legacy of George Floyd.
Melvin Carter is the mayor of the first African-American mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota. He represents the best of our state, and like so many Black leaders across the country, he has rose to this occasion.
Mayor Carter is a fourth-generation Saint Paul resident and comes from a family of public servants. His dad was one of the first Black officers of the Saint Paul Police Department, where he served for 28 years and his mom was the first Black elected as a county commissioner in the state of Minnesota. So it’s quite a legacy that he is living up to.
After graduating from Saint Paul public schools, and then Florida A&M University, and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, he served as a city council member at a very young age, and ultimately became vice-chair of the council.
During his tenure he has given special attention to public safety reform, working to change when and how officers use force and directing more money to strengthening communities as a way to promote public safety.
As we look to and work with local leaders to address the systemic racism that shapes the lives of too many people of color, Mayor Carter is an invaluable voice. I am grateful for his perspective, I am proud to have him as a friend, and to introduce him to this committee.
CARTER: My name is Melvin Carter and I serve as mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota. I am honored to testify today in support of the Justice in Policing Act.
My family has been in Saint Paul for over 100 years, since my great-grandparents fled here to escape racial violence in the Deep South. My grandfather, Melvin Sr, was a Navy veteran who played his trumpet for four U.S. Presidents. Working on the railroad, he was denied even the right to his own identity, as all Black men were just called “George”, to spare white passengers the inconvenience of having to learn their names.
George Floyd’s murder is so personal because every black teacher, electrician and mayor knows that we are all “George”, and no amount of money or accomplishments can change that fact.
My father, Melvin Jr, served 28 years as a Saint Paul officer and sergeant after a court order integrated our department. Because of that integration order, my friends and I grew up surrounded by superhero officers from our own neighborhood who knew us by name, were invested in our future, and solved local problems in ways that no one else could.
Still, I grew up with a set of rules that did not apply to my white classmates: they could drive a decent vehicle, visit the mall or glance into a passing squad car without fear of being stopped and questioned by police. I could not. Research shows that people who trust law enforcement will treat them fairly, are more likely to cooperate with officers, report a crime in progress, and step forward as a witness. If any of us distrust police, all of us are less safe.
It’s time we challenge the myth of public safety as a simple function of police, prisons, and prosecutors. We spend nearly $200 billion annually on law enforcement and corrections and maintain the highest imprisonment rate on the planet. Yet, despite three decades of steady increases in public safety increases, Americans feel less safe every year.
The reason is clear: our country’s enforcement-heavy public safety strategies aren’t designed to address the root causes of crime, only the symptoms. We deserve more than a swift response after a crime is committed, we deserve investment to reduce the number of times we have to call police in the first place, and we deserve to know that our officers will protect and serve all of us.
We’ve spent the last few years walking this talk in St. Paul.
We’ve rewritten policies governing use of force and police dogs, and terminated five officers who willfully failed to stop an assault in progress.
We’ve embedded social workers with to respond with officers to individuals in crisis, employed restorative justice circles for nonviolent offenders, and focused capital investments to drive safety goals.
Last year, we reduced our police department’s authorized strength in favor of evidence-based investments in youth, social supports, and a public health approach to violence prevention.
Mayors are leading with reforms like these across the country, but we need your help. We fire problem officers only to see them shielded from accountability, reinstated through arbitration, and hired by agencies unaware of their patterns. We build trust with residents, only to see those relationships damaged again and again by footage from other jurisdictions.
With the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, we can establish a national standard of policing to curb brutality, end racial profiling, and eliminate qualified immunity. We can invest in community-policing programs, as well as needed alternatives for safety beyond policing. We can prevent officers from switching departments to avoid accountability, and send a strong message to our children and to the world, that America will no longer accept these cycles of violence against her Black and Brown people.
I know you will be pressured by powerful friends who will paint these reforms as hostile to police, but our work to restore confidence is a lifeline for officers who serve in good faith. When someone argues that these measures go too far, and they will, remember Officer Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. That’s longer than my allotted time to make this statement. To prevent that from happening to another person we care about, no response will qualify as too much.
Just as we grew up wanting to know where our parents stood in critical moments like Pearl Harbor and Freedom Summer, our children and grandchildren will call us to account for our actions now. Simply measuring the problems and incentivizing voluntary action will not suffice. This moment demands decisive action.
Like Emmett Till, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and too many others, George Floyd commands the attention of the world because of the unacceptable conditions under which he died.
The anger and unrest across our country will only grow until we address the unacceptable conditions—like hunger, homelessness, and police abuse—under which far too many Americans still live.