St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter Addresses Public Safety with Conan O’Brien

“If we approach public safety with this police-only perspective, that’s like approaching public health with an ambulance-only perspective.”

Melvin Carter and Conan O'Brien talk about public safety in virtual interview

As debates about public safety, police brutality, and inequality skyrocket across the U.S., St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter lays out his case for creating a new framework for public safety in an interview with TV talk show host, Conan O’Brien. 

Highlights from the interview include Mayor Carter’s own experience as a fourth-generation black Minnesotan, and his close relationship to both Philando Castile (whose murder in 2016 by the police in St. Anthony, MN sparked outrage) and his father’s career as a police officer.

“We’ve been having this conversation for years…how egregious does it need to get for us to say, ‘That’s enough, someone needs to be held accountable,’” Carter says in the interview. 

O’Brien notes to Carter that he often finds himself at a loss when trying to understand how we can move forward as a country during these complicated times. 

“What I think is not complicated is that we’ve bought into this notion that public safety is just as simple as police, prisons, and prosecutors,” Carter says. “Every time we feel unsafe, we can find billions of dollars to double down on police, prisons, and prosecutors, yet we still don’t feel safe. That public safety framework isn’t designed to make us all feel safe—it’s designed to draw a circle, and protect those inside the circle from everyone outside the circle.”

Police officers, Carter emphasizes, don’t have the capacity to be social workers, mental health counselors, or drug counselors. It’s too much for anyone to manage—yet these services and roles are crucial for helping and serving a community.

“If we approach public safety with this police-only perspective, that’s like approaching public health with an ambulance-only perspective,” Carter says. “We have to start investing in families and in neighborhoods to try to reduce the likelihood that something bad is going to happen in the first place. 

You can watch the full interview below:

 

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