In a historic move, the City of Minneapolis has pledged to disband its police and invest in community-led public safety.
Council President Lisa Bender made the formal announcement on Sunday at a Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block rally at Powderhorn Park — just a few blocks from where George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died while in white police custody, was fatefully arrested.
Bender was joined by eight members of the veto-proof council, including Jeremiah Ellison, Andrea Jenkins, Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher, Alondra Cano, Andrew Johnson, Jeremy Schroeder and Cam Gordon.
“It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” the president said. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.”
She added that the council majority is committed to ending the city’s relationship with the police force — and “policing as we know it.”
Bender also emphasized the importance of recreating systems “that actually keep us safe.”
The city’s pledge comes on the heels of Floyd’s May 25th death, which sparked scores of anti-police brutality riots nationwide.
Bystander footage shows former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes as the 46-year-old begged for air.
Chauvin has since been charged with second degree murder on top of a third degree murder charge and manslaughter.
The State of Minnesota has also launched a civil rights investigation of the department, probing MPD’s actions and practices over the last 10 years for patterns of discrimination against people of color.
So far, the city has agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints.
Calls to ‘Defund the Police’ Are Gaining Traction — but What Do They Mean ?
Minneapolis Councilor Steve Fletcher recently published an op-ed for Time Magazine proposing alternatives for using police force.
The councilor suggested dispatching mental health professionals to mental health crisis calls and fire department EMTs to opioid overdose calls. He also advocated for the use of increased camera coverage to monitor traffic offenses.
Fletcher’s sentiments are part of a growing movement to defund local police departments.
The push, according to CNN, calls for the reallocation of police funds to community investments — especially for those more heavily policed.
The concept has gained momentum since the 2014 anti-police brutality protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
President Donald Trump has been a vocal opponent to the movement, citing needs for “law & order.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey Isn’t Quite On-Board
The mayor, who has been in office since 2018, issued a statement Sunday acknowledging the need for reform, but said he doesn’t agree with disbanding the police department.
“I’ll work relentlessly with Chief [Medaria] Arradondo and alongside community toward deep, structural reform and addressing systemic racism in police culture,” he said. “And we’re ready to dig in and enact more community-led, public safety strategies on behalf of our city. But I do not support abolishing the Minneapolis Police Department.”
Frey has been involved in MPD reform in other areas, though.
The mayor imposed harsher disciplinary measures for officers who fail to comply with the department’s body camera policy, according to CBS Minnesota.
He also barred officers from participating in the so-called “Bulletproof Warrior” training, which encourages law enforcement to use deadly force if they feel their lives are in jeopardy.
Frey recently came under fire for supporting increases to MPD’s budget, which sits at $193.3 million for 2020.
While the Council’s execution plan remains unclear, the decision follows the footsteps of other city partners including Minneapolis Public Schools, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation and the University of Minnesota.