On Sunday, the Minneapolis City Council voted in a supermajority to disband the police department and invest in community-based public safety programs in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
What We Know:
- At a rally at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon, nine of the twelve members on the City Council announced their support for defunding the Minneapolis Police Department, replacing it instead with a community-based public safety model.
- With support from nine council members, they created a veto-proof supermajority which blocks Mayor Jacob Frey, who earlier in the weekend announced his opposition to disbanding the department, from overriding the council’s decision. The other three council members are reported to be broadly supportive of the effort, but not ready to sign on.
- At the rally, City Council President Lisa Bender announced the plan to “end [the] city’s toxic relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department”, declaring “we’re here because we hear you. We are here today because George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis Police. In Minneapolis and in cities across the United States it is clear that our existing system of policing and public safety is not keeping our communities safe”.
- The decision comes in direct response to massive protests that have taken place in various American cities in the last two weeks, in response to the death of George Floyd and police brutality. This comes as the first major victory for abolitionist activists who have called to “defund the police”.
- Bender announced that the council would start a conversation with the community about what a new community-led public safety program would entail. Declaring at the rally, “our commitment is to do what’s necessary to keep every single member of our community safe and to tell the truth: that the Minneapolis police are not doing that. Our commitment is to end policing as we know it and to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe”. Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison shared the decision across social media.
We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.
And when we’re done, we’re not simply gonna glue it back together.
We are going to dramatically rethink how we approach public safety and emergency response.
It’s really past due. https://t.co/7WIxUL6W79
— Jeremiah Ellison (@jeremiah4north) June 4, 2020
- Following the death of Floyd, the police department lost much of its longstanding support from the Minneapolis community. Key partners such as Minneapolis Public Schools, the University of Minnesota, and Minneapolis Parks and Recreation all severed ties with the department.
- Since taking mayoral office in January 2018, Frey oversaw reforms within the police department such as enforcing the use of body cams and imposing harsher disciplines on officers who failed to comply as well as barring officers from participating in “bulletproof warrior” training, which encourages the use of deadly force if they fear their life is in jeopardy.
- Frey has recently faced criticism for supporting increases to the MPD budget, failure to invest in community safety programs during his tenure, and his opposition towards disbanding the police. At Sunday’s rally in Powderhorn Park, Frey was met with a chorus of boos and chants of “Shame!” and “Go home Jacob, go home!” until the mayor left.
- For years, activists have argued that the MPD has failed to keep the city safe and the council members’ statements on Sunday echoed that. The MPD rates for solving serious crimes are extremely low.
- In 2019, Minneapolis police only cleared 56 percent of cases in which a person was killed.
- In 2018, their clearing rate for rape charges was 22 percent, meaning that four out of every five rapes in Minneapolis went unsolved.
- In 2019, the MPD announced the discovery of 1,700 untested rape kits, spanning back to the 1990s, in which officials said were misplaced.
- While unclear exactly what the community-based safety programs will entail at this point or how quickly the process will move, advocates at the rally said programs can start with finding “non-police solutions to the problems poor people face”. For example, counselors responding to mental health calls and addiction experts responding to drug abuse.
- Supporters are pushing for the council to start the transition by taking money away from the police budget and investing it in other government departments, such as social services and wellness programs while launching a community process for creating alternative systems to the police.
- Although the City Council reached a supermajority, it will not be easy for them to make drastic changes. While the council controls budget and policy and could work to dismantle MPD through budget cuts and ordinances, a city charter requires them to maintain a minimum force determined by the city’s population. In order to change this, it would require an amendment by public vote or full approval of the entire city council along with the mayor.
The council’s decision is consistent with a rapidly changing public opinion regarding the urgency of overhauling and reformatting the American model of law enforcement. This decision by the Minneapolis City Council is the first of its kind and will be defined by many as a landmark historical event. Although unclear exactly how this community-based safety program will work, one thing is for sure, America is watching.