The Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved a plan Friday that would allow the city’s police force to be dissolved in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
While the council supports the move, the final say would lie with Minnesota voters in November.
Floyd, a Black man, was killed after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck in a parking lot for nearly eight minutes, sparking protests against police brutality all over the world.
The city’s police force, like countless others around the country, has come under heavy scrutiny by activists and critics who say too much public funding is going to law enforcement agencies instead of schools and social programs that strengthen the community.
Several city council members emphasized that the council’s decision to push forward with the proposal was just one step in a larger effort to address systemic racism.
“This is a precondition to the change people are asking for,” city council member Steve Fletcher said.
City council member Andrea Jenkins added, “Until we really address racism, nothing is really going to change.”
The city council’s vote will allow the Minneapolis charter to be amended so that it can eliminate the police department. Draft language of the proposed changes suggests that the council wishes to instead establish a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.
Such a department, according to the draft, would prioritize “a holistic, public health-oriented approach” to law enforcement. If approved, the plan to form a new public safety force would not go into effect until next year.
Any approved head of the new department “will have non-law enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches,” according to the proposal.
The Minneapolis Police Department has been criticized for its response to anti-racism protests since Floyd’s death. Rubber bullets fired at journalists left at least one woman with permanent vision damage. The department has also faced criticism for allowing Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed Floyd, to remain on the job despite having 17 complaints under his belt.