The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to abolish the police department following a massive public outcry following the May 25th murder by police of George Floyd.
The council seeks to dismantle the police and replace it with a “department of community safety and violence prevention,” to be led by an agency director with non-law-enforcement experience in community safety, but rather a “holistic, public health-oriented approach.”
The 12-0 vote, held on June 26, 2020, is the first step in a process that is sure to face significant bureaucratic obstacles to make the November ballot, where the city’s voters would have the final say, per the Star Tribune.
Activists have long accused the Minneapolis department of being unable to change a racist and brutal culture. Earlier this month, a majority of the council proclaimed support for dismantling the department, which would first require amending the city charter.
“I hope that the Charter Commission will recognize the moment that we are in and take our offer of support, however we can provide it, to expedite this process so that voters have a chance to have their voices heard on this important question and this important moment in our city’s history,” Council President Lisa Bender said.
According to draft language posted online in the Daily Mail, the new department “will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach.”
The amendment goes on to say the director of the new agency would have “non-law-enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches.” It also provides for a division of licensed peace officers who would answer to the department’s director.
The proposed amendment will now go to a policy committee then to the city’s Charter Commission for a formal review, at which point citizens and city officials can also weigh in.
If they don’t get the charter change on the November ballot, their next chance won’t come until November 2021.
“It is time to make structural change,” Council Member Steve Fletcher said. “It is time to start from scratch and reinvent what public safety looks like.”
Some say too fast
Barry Clegg, chairman of the Charter Commission, said the process feels rushed.
“As I understand it, they are saying, ‘We are going to have this new department. We don’t know what it’s going to look like yet,” Clegg said. “I would prefer that we figured it out first, and then voted on it.”
Civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong, a sharp critic of the police department, said the move is premature and counterproductive to building trust with the Black community amid the current uptick in crime.
“There are a lot of people in the African American community who are anxious, who are fearful, who are concerned about the irresponsibility of the Minneapolis City Council and the failure to articulate a clear plan of action on what to expect, and they want an opportunity to weigh in on that,” Armstrong said.