Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott, who now has “command authority” over Brooklyn Center police following an officer-involved shooting that led to the death of Daunte Wright, said late Tuesday that he does not believe officers must “necessarily” be armed when conducting traffic stops.
Elliott, who is managing the fallout from the incident after the police chief resigned Tuesday, was speaking on the possibility of police reform as a result of the shooting and echoed comments made by some federal legislators and national political leaders suggesting major changes to law enforcement strategy.
“I don’t believe that officers need to necessarily have weapons every time they’re making a traffic stop,” Elliot said.
The suggestion echoes statements made over the summer by the “Defund the Police” movement, specifically that some functions delegated to police officers would be better performed by community service officers or social workers, though the Defund the Police movement did not cite traffic stops specifically, referring more generally to “traffic control.”
Body camera footage, released on Monday, showed the interaction that led to Wright’s death. Officers pulled Wright over for a traffic stop. Wright, likely aware there was an active warrant out for his arrest, allegedly resisted police attempts to detain him.
Officer Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center police force, appears, on the video, to draw a weapon from her holster, and aim it at Wright, discharging the weapon and killing him.
Brooklyn Center police officials claimed, Monday, that Potter meant to pull out her taser and, instead, pulled out her service weapon. In the video, Potter can be heard yelling “taser!” at Wright before pulling the trigger, and after discharging the weapon, can be heard saying, “Holy sh**. I shot him.”
Although the incident appears to have been an accident, national political leaders who were vocal over the summer, in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in the custody of Minneapolis police, have called for a review of the American policing system.
Former President Barack Obama said, in a statement Tuesday, that he believes it is time to “reimagine policing,” as the system cannot be saved.
“Our hearts are heavy over yet another shooting of a Black man, Daunte Wright, at the hands of police,” Obama wrote. “It’s important to conduct a full and transparent investigation, but this is also a reminder of just how badly we need to reimagine policing and public safety in this country.”
Elliott himself suggested that Brooklyn Center, like other police departments, may undertake reform.
“We cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people,” Elliott said Tuesday. “We’re going to do everything we can to ensure that justice is done and our communities are made whole.”
Nearby Minneapolis, Minnesota, tried to “defund” its police department in 2020, following George Floyd’s death. The Minneapolis City Council was unable to fully strip law enforcement of funding, first because of a city constitution provision barring the city from completely dismantling its police department, and then because of a sharp spike in violent crime — a spike in violent crime that occurred in nearly all major cities over the summer of 2020.