This Friday, The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to begin dismantling the city’s police department. The shocking move comes after weeks of massive protests against police brutality, which were sparked by the death of George Floyd.
Ultimately, the city’s voters will have the final say this November through a ballot initiative.
‘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.
This does not mean that the police force will go away immediately, even if the ballot initiative passes. The measure that was introduced by the council began a year-long process where they will field different recommendations about what types of services will replace the police department. At the end of that year, there should be a workable plan, at which point, funds will be redirected from the police department towards community-based crime prevention and a new vision for law enforcement.
As a part of this process, responsibilities such as traffic stops, overdose calls, and mental health calls may be taken away from officers and handed off to other professionals. One recommendation from activists involves a smaller, more-specialized force of ‘public servants’ who would deal with solving violent crimes.
The council says that if they don’t win 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.‘ he added.
Mayor Jacob Frey says that he doesn’t support abolishing the department, which presents an additional challenge for council members trying to make the change.
The Minneapolis Police Department answers about four hundred thousand calls a year and does fifty thousand proactive stops a year. Among American cities with a population of over 100,000, Minneapolis is in the top twenty-five in terms of the crime rate. Occasionally, Minneapolis is in the top ten in the nation for cities with the most crime. Minneapolis made $14 million in payouts for cases of police misconduct between 2006 and 2012.
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights, an administrative agency of the state, opened a civil rights investigation into the practices of the Minneapolis Police Department on June 2. One immediate result was a consent decree with the city, passed on June 5, in which the Minneapolis City Council authorized the mayor to agree to a temporary restraining order with the State of Minnesota banning chokeholds and requiring police officers to both report and intervene against the use of excessive force by other officers, as well as banning neck restraints and the use of crowd control weapons such as tear gas and rubber bullets without permission from the police chief. Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey then approved the order and directed these changes to go into effect immediately.