It was encouraging to see the rapid response from Minneapolis city and police officials to clear-cut racial disparities in downtown marijuana arrests. After learning that 46 of 47 people arrested for selling small amounts of marijuana in sting operations this year were black, Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said they would halt the stings. And the Hennepin County attorney said charges against 47 people arrested in the first five months of 2018 would be dismissed.
Frey took action after the county’s chief public defender alerted him to the apparent racial profiling in the arrests. Officials were right to be concerned. During these times of increased sensitivity about police-community relations, MPD should pay close attention to whom they arrest and under what circumstances.
At the same time, the city must address — perhaps in ways other than arrests — the range of lesser livability offenses that occur downtown. If unchecked, frequent, visible drug transactions, panhandling and harassing speech and behaviors do have an impact on how safe workers, residents and visitors feel.