- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 23, 2020

The cry of “defund the police” may be ringing loud in Minneapolis and other cities during this summer of discontent, but that doesn’t mean it is resonating on the street.

“Black hating Blue — that sells,” said Lisa Clemons, the founder of A Mother’s Love Initiative, a community outreach and education nonprofit, in the Minnesota metropolis she calls home. “But you can’t ‘reimagine Minneapolis’ with crime gone.”

Ms. Clemons, 57, has emerged from the chaos in her city as a prominent Black critic of elected officials’ left-wing approach to law enforcement.

She knows about the reality of policing and crime in urban neighborhoods. Before starting her group in 2014, she spent 13 years wearing the badge of the Minneapolis Police Department.

While most of the national media attention has dissipated, Minneapolis remains a city on edge. The streets are rife with crime, and residents are still digging through the rubble in neighborhoods that burned during protests over the May 25 death of George Floyd.

The crime seems to be everywhere.

As Ms. Clemons spoke to The Washington Times over a hands-free phone in her car, a police chase blew by her. The suspect’s car passed in a bike lane going 90 miles per hour with patrol cars in hot pursuit.

“It’s brazen out there now,” said Ms. Clemons, who has five children, including two she adopted. “There’s no fear at this point, a lawlessness that’s been around. There used to be safe places downtown, elsewhere. That’s gone now.”

This isn’t the Minneapolis she once knew, said Ms. Clemons. That city, she said, perished with Floyd.

“I’m a Democrat, but it was the Democrats who didn’t come through for us,” she said. “When this council was elected, the city was on fire. And everything changed after George. The city was on fire, and now they are talking about dismantling and abolishing the police, and it hasn’t stopped burning since.”

Ms. Clemons is pushing back against the effort to “reimagine” the city’s police.

She has popped up on social media and in multiple Twin Cities news reports as a neighborhood voice opposed to the City Council’s plan to disband the police department and replace it with, according to a sympathetic account in The Wedge, “a department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention [that] would have a ‘holistic, public health’ orientation, and be led by a director with public health or restorative justice experience [not a police chief].”

She has been featured going toe-to-toe with some of Minneapolis’ left-wing council members who have moved aggressively — sometimes over even the mayor’s objections — to cut the police department budget and, eventually, have fewer cops. On July 24, the council sliced $10 million from the department’s $193 million budget.

In July, A Mother’s Love called a community center press conference after a pregnant woman was fatally shot in her car. Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins happened to be nearby, and she and Ms. Clemons exchanged sharp words.

“It is time to stand up in this city. It is time to tell the City Council that utopia is a bunch of B.S.,” Ms. Clemons said. “We are not in Mayberry; we are in the wild, wild West, and it is time for some answers.”

The members of A Mother’s Love spend considerable time on the city streets talking with people whom Ms. Clemons said the theorists don’t know. At a crime scene in June on the city’s northern side, where four people had been shot, she demanded the resignation of Council President Lisa Bender.

Her message is neither isolated nor radical.

A Gallup poll this month found that an overwhelming 81% of Black Americans prefer the same police presence or an increased presence in their neighborhoods.

For most of its existence, A Mother’s Love has not been overtly activist. Ms. Clemons and a handful of friends, many of whom had lost sons or other loved ones to gun violence, started the group in 2014 by offering classes on life skills, such as how to improve credit scores, shop smart and discipline children.

A Mother’s Love worked hard, she said, to get more Black fathers involved in their children’s lives.

Ms. Clemons recalled her mother “with pink rollers in her hair and a house gown” confronting gang members on Chicago’s streets. Her mom physically dragging her brother back into the house.

The possibility a child “may get a butt tap” was real, Ms. Clemons chuckled.

She put her three biological children through college and is working on her two young adopted children.

A Mother’s Love expanded its mission after Ms. Clemons received a call from Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, a former head of the department’s internal affairs division who remembered her from training classes.

Chief Arradondo asked for help on the streets, and Ms. Clemons’ group was happy to oblige. Ms. Clemons acknowledged that “historically, police have developed a bad relationship” with much of the city, but she is convinced that Chief Arradondo would be up to the job if he weren’t hamstrung by the council and what she says are local media enthralled with the loudest, most radical voices.

She declined to comment on the four former officers charged in Floyd’s death. She said she did not know them.

“There’s always an element that hates the police, but people have never worn the blue or been out there at midnight,” she said. “Why don’t you apply? You’re the one who always says you know what kind of police you want. Why don’t you apply? Everyone wants to cripple the chief, but no one wants to go on a ride-along.”

Meanwhile, crime is surging.

Last week, two more people died in shootings in Minneapolis to bring the year’s homicide total to 49, surpassing the 48 homicides reported in all of 2019.

Ms. Clemons noted that nearly all of the victims were Black and two-thirds were ages 17 to 31.

“I feel like this is rock bottom,” she said.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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