Minneapolis Vows To Dismantle City Police Department, Prompts Nationwide Debate
A veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis City Council voted on Sunday to create a new public safety system, and dismantle the city’s police department.
The nine members who voted to dismantle the announced their plan in front of hundreds of people who had demanded the historically racist police department to be defunded. The decision comes in the wake of nationwide protests of the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
“I think in Minneapolis, watching George Floyd’s death, and the four — the actions of the four police officers that were involved has been a huge wake-up call for so many in Minneapolis to see what many already knew, which is that our police department is not keeping every member of our community safe,” Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender told CNN on Monday.
The pledge “signals a strong and clear direction about where this is going,” said Councilwoman Alondra Cano, the Public Safety Committee chair.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) supported the decision to dismantle the police department, calling it “rotten to the root.”
“We need to completely dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department. Because here’s the thing, there’s a cancer,” she said. “The Minneapolis Police Department is rotten to the root, and so when we dismantle it, we get rid of that cancer, and we allow for something beautiful to rise, and that reimagining allows us to figure out what public safety looks like for us.”
It is unclear what a new system of public safety would look like, but council members said they would work with the community and use past studies and reforms to guide their plan.
Mayor Jacob Frey, who has said he his opposed to abolishing the police, is able to veto council decisions. However, council members said they have enough votes to override Frey if he tries to veto the measure.
Minneapolis’s move has prompted debate around the country about the necessity of police forces. Officials in other cities, including New York, have begun discussing diverting funds from the police to other institutions like education, but no city besides Minneapolis is officially planning to dismantle their department.
Yet, the idea is not unheard of.
Camden, New Jersey disbanded their department in 2013. According to a City Lab report, the city department was replaced with a new one covering all of Camden County which had more officers, but on lower pay. The change appears to have caused crime rates to fall, with the city reporting 67 homicides in 2012, and only 25 last year.
However, the push to follow in the footsteps of Minneapolis and dismantle police departments nationwide has alarmed both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
Former Vice President Joe Biden‘s campaign said the Democratic nominee does not support defunding the police.
“He hears and shares the deep grief and frustration of those calling out for change, and is driven to ensure that justice is done and that we put a stop to this terrible pain,” campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said. “Biden supports the urgent need for reform — including funding for public schools, summer programs, and mental health and substance abuse treatment separate from funding for policing — so that officers can focus on the job of policing.”
— Asma Khalid (@asmamk) June 8, 2020
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-New York) said on Monday he opposes defunding, dismantling and disbanding the police.
Don’t “Defund the Police”,
Don’t “Dismantle the Police”, and
Don’t “Disband the Police”
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) June 8, 2020
However, although some have called for the complete abolition of police, many supporters of the “Defund Police” movement, claim there is confusion surrounding their goals.
Social justice lawyer Eric Williams tweeted that “defunding the police doesn’t mean a society without law enforcement,” including a graph showing Detroit disproportionately allocating funds to their police.
Defunding the police doesn't mean a society without law enforcement. It means recognizing that law enforcement is only 1 aspect – 1 small part – of public safety and that should be reflected in both the budgets and responsibilities of police departments. #DefundPolice pic.twitter.com/xjBV5PtTIo
— Eric Williams (@ericcwms) June 8, 2020