The city has advanced plans to defund and abolish the Minneapolis Police Department following the death of George Floyd and mass protests.
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A majority of the Minneapolis City Council has pledged to abolish the existing police force, The Washington Post reports. Nine members of the Council (who would form a veto-proof majority) have promised to disband the department and create a new model of public safety. The current Minneapolis Police Department has long been accused of systemic racism and institutional police brutality. The pledge comes after weeks of demonstrations held by Black Lives Matter protestors in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by a white police officer as three other officers looked on. Though the former officer has since been charged, there is more work to be done to prevent more deaths.
For many protestors, the pledge to defund is quite unbelievable. As council members, each read a line of their statement, Wintana Melekin, 32, held her hands above her head wrap as her mouth hung open in silence. "I knew it was happening," she said. "But I didn’t believe it." Kandace Montgomery, the director of Black Visions Collective, will not forget what it took to finally make this decision. She stated, "It shouldn’t have taken so much death to get us here. We’re safer without armed, unaccountable patrols supported by the state hunting black people." At present, the nine members of the City Council do not know what the new system will look like exactly.
However, some details are known. The Council plans to abolish the existing department and replace it with a "department of community safety and violence prevention, which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach." This department will be watched over by a director. The director will have to be nominated by the Mayor and approved by the City Council. As per an amendment submitted by the Council, only those with "non-law enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approach" will be permitted to hold the position.
In order to acutely understand all the changes that need to be made, the Minneapolis City Council has been actively engaged with the community. Councilmember Alondra Cano shared, "We are going straight into the architecture of how safety is provided for in our community and we're going straight into the heart of the foundations of that work. The Council has been fielding ongoing calls from residents for accountability, systems change, and community-led safety." What Montgomery most wants to see is growth. She affirmed, "We’re really saying we want to grow our community, and we want to invest in the things we actually need." Despite popular demand, the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association has expressed concerns. Andy Skoogman, the executive director of the Association, said the traditional police force “is an essential service and must still be funded.” "When someone is in immediate danger, fearing for his or her life, would these victims still have a place to call and a person who is willing and able to help?" he asked.