The Minneapolis city council has pledged to disband the city’s police department and replace it with a new system of public safety, a historic move that comes as calls to defund law enforcement is sweeping the US, reported the Guardian newspaper.
Speaking at a community rally on Sunday, a veto-proof majority of council members declared their intent to “dismantle” and “abolish” the embattled police agency responsible for George Floyd’s death and replace the police department with a community-based model of public safety.
“Our commitment is to end our city’s toxic relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department, to end policing as we know it, and to re-create systems of public safety that actually keep us safe,” Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender said.
The decision is a direct response to the massive protests that have taken over American cities in the last two weeks and is a major victory for abolitionist activists who have long fought to disband police and prisons.
“In Minneapolis and in cities across the US, it is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” said Lisa Bender, the Minneapolis city council president, at the event. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period. Our commitment is to do what’s necessary to keep every single member of our community safe and to tell the truth: that the Minneapolis police are not doing that. Our commitment is to end policing as we know it and to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe.”
The formal effort to abolish a major-city police department in America and replace it with a different model of safety would have been unthinkable even weeks ago and is a testament to the impact of the protests that began with Floyd’s death on 25 May. The unarmed 46-year-old was killed by Minneapolis police when an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes as he pleaded for him to stop. Four officers now face criminal charges.
On Saturday, the Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey said in a protest demonstration that he does not support getting rid of the police department. He was hooted down by the angry protesters with chants of “Go home Jacob, go home! and “Shame!”
“This is a moment that’s going to go down in history as a landmark in the police and prison abolition movement,” said Tony Williams, a member of MPD150, a Minneapolis group whose literature on building a “police-free future” has been widely shared during the protests. “There’s a groundswell of support for this. People are grounded in the history of policing in a way that has never happened before. It’s visible that police are not able to create safety for communities.”
While the effort in Minneapolis is the most radical, a number of other US mayors and local leaders have reversed their positions on police funding.
The mayor of Los Angeles and New York also have spoken about defunding the police department and moving the money to “youth initiatives and social services”.
The Minneapolis City Council members announced their intention on the same day as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed for the first time to cut the funding for the New York Police Department. Both the mayors have been vocal opponents of fund cuts to the police.
In Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, San Francisco and other cities, local policymakers have expressed support for some form of defunding or opposing police budget increases in the last week.