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Minneapolis City Council Vows to Disband Police Department

06-08-2020

Nine members of the Minneapolis City Council on Sunday pledged to dismantle the city’s embattled police department following public outcry over George Floyd’s killing at the hands of several officers.

Nine of the council’s 12 members rallied with civil rights activists in a Minneapolis park Sunday afternoon.

Council Member Jeremiah Ellison promised the crowd that the council would “dismantle” the department.

“We’re here because we hear you. We are here today because George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis Police. We are here because here 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,” Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender said Sunday. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.”

Bender said the city would “recreate systems that actually keep us safe.”

Hundreds in the crowd roared in support. Many chanted “defund the police,” which has become a rallying cry at protests across the nation.

In a TIME op-ed, Council Member Steve Fletcher said he and his colleagues tried and failed to correct the department’s “decades-long history of violence and discrimination.” 

The announcement comes after several Minneapolis institutions, including Minneapolis Public Schools and the University of Minnesota said they would limit or end their relationship with the department. The state of Minnesota also launched a civil rights investigation into the department last week, and the city agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said during a rally on Sunday that he opposes “the full abolition of the police department.”

The declaration went viral on social media after the crowd of protesters booed him and chanted at him to “go home.”

While Council members said they “don’t have all the answers about what a police-free future looks like,” they said they have enough votes to override Frey’s veto.

The state’s civil rights investigation could take months and council leaders gave no details on when they want to begin disbanding the department.

President Donald Trump has criticized the call to defund police departments in America.  

“They’re saying defund the police,” he said at an event in Maine. “Defund. Think of it. When I saw it, I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ ‘We don’t want to have any police,’ they say. You don’t want police?”

Police unions generally do not support the movement, arguing it would make cities more dangerous.

The Los Angeles police union said in a written statement that cuts to police funding would “undoubtedly affect not only police operations, but more importantly the community members we serve each day.”

“At this time, with violent crime increasing, a global pandemic and nearly a week’s worth of violence, arson, and looting, ‘defunding’ the LAPD is the most irresponsible thing anyone can propose.”

Supporters say the slogan to defund the abolish the police is often not meant literally. Instead, they are calls to rebuild law enforcement from the ground up and implement widespread reforms.

The dismantling of an entire police department has happened before. In 2012, Crime-ridden Camden, New Jersey disbanded its 141-year-old police force and formed a new department. 

 Laid-off police officers were invited to join the new force and receive new training. 

Camden County Captain Zsakheim James told WUSA9 that the crime rate is "the lowest it's been in 50 years" and the department went from 60 excessive force complaints to three. 

While most lawmakers don’t embrace the “defund police” movement, many leaders believe reform is needed.

“Now, I don’t believe that you should disband police departments,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) said in an interview with CNN. “But I do think that, in cities, in states, we need to look at how we are spending the resources and invest more in our communities.

“Maybe this is an opportunity to re-envision public safety,” she said.

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