POLITICS

In Veto-Proof Majority, Minneapolis City Council Says It Will Dismantle Police Department

“Decades of police reform efforts have proved that the Minneapolis Police Department cannot be reformed," nine city council members said Sunday.

Nine members of the Minneapolis City Council announced Sunday they will “begin the process of ending” the city’s police department following the death of George Floyd, which set off nationwide protests calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism.

“Decades of police reform efforts have proved that the Minneapolis Police Department cannot be reformed and will never be accountable for its action,” the city council said jointly at a rally on Sunday. “We are here today to begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department and creating a new transformative model for cultivating safety in our city.”

The overwhelming support on the 13-member council reflects a veto-proof majority. It’s unclear so far what a new model of policing would look like, but the lawmakers said they would engage “with every willing community member in the City of Minneapolis over the next year to identify what safety looks like for everyone.”

Calls to defund or dismantle police departments have increased across the country over the last few weeks since Floyd’s death. A video capturing the moment — in which a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, killing him — ignited calls for dramatic change to law enforcement practices. Four officers have been charged in the killing, including Derek Chauvin, whose charges were elevated to the more severe second-degree murder.

Until the Minneapolis City Council’s announcement, local lawmakers around the country had been slow to implement any dramatic changes. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was booed at a protest on Saturday after he refused to commit to defunding the city’s police department as protesters chanted, “Go home, Jacob. Go home!”

Other lawmakers have announced partial cuts to local forces. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said up to $150 million would be diverted from the city’s police department and directed instead toward youth job initiatives. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed Sunday to cut police funding for the first time, although he did not provide a figure. The New York Police Department has an annual budget of $6 billion.

Lisa Bender, president of the Minneapolis City Council, said Thursday that she felt the moment was right to dramatically shift policing in Minneapolis, citing deep political support and the ongoing protests across the nation. The council approved a slate of temporary changes on Friday, including barring officers from using chokeholds and upping the requirements for other officers to intervene if their colleagues use excessive force.

“We’re serious, and frankly I think the police department has started the process of dismantling itself,” Bender told HuffPost. “We really have no choice but to step back and say, what are the transformational changes we can make?”

The city council’s announcement on Sunday prompted immediate support from civil rights groups.

“Across the country, communities have been calling for fundamental change. Today, Minneapolis leaders are answering that call to action,” Local Progress, a project of the Center for Popular Democracy, said in a statement. “In bold solidarity grounded by the community, they are committing to fundamentally reimagining what true public safety looks like. This is a bold step — and, most importantly, a necessary one.”

Bender wrote on Twitter that the news was a “beginning” for the city, thanking community members for raising their “voices to demand change.”

“Minneapolis: we invite you to be part of building a system so our whole community is safe,” she said.

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