Minneapolis council votes to abolish police
The Minneapolis City Council has unanimously voted to change the city charter, so that their police department can be dismantled.
The extraordinary move is in response to the death of African-American man George Floyd at the hands of a white officer in the city last month, in a case that rocked the United States and sparked massive protests.
Black Lives Matter demonstrations began in Minnesota and quickly spread across the country, still being held in multiple cities for the fourth week.
Council members voted 12-0 to effectively abolish the police department.
They propose establishing a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, instead of a police department.
The new department “will have responsibility for public safety services prioritising a holistic, public health-oriented approach,” the council’s draft statement read.
The boss of this new agency would have “non-law-enforcement experience in community safety services, including … public health and/or restorative justice approaches”.
Jobs such as traffic stops, overdose call-outs and mental health calls may be taken away from officers.
When something currently goes wrong in law enforcement, the chief and the mayor are accountable — but under the new plan, accountability would be dispersed among 14 people.
Money is expected to be saved with the new program. The excess funds could be redirected to mental health services, social services, jobs programs, and arts groups.
One recommendation from activists involves a smaller, more-specialised force of “public servants” who would deal with solving violent crimes.
The Minneapolis City Council emphasised that this is not a short-term plan, and they’ve started the beginning of a year-long process to find recommendations for what will replace the police.
But they’re concerned about red tape, which could delay the public ballot vote, forcing it to happen a year later than planned.
If they don‘t get the charter change on the November ballot, their next chance won’t come until November 2021, they say.
“It is time to make structural change,” Council Member Steve Fletcher said.
“It is time to start from scratch and reinvent what public safety looks like.”
The proposed amendment might have got a unanimous vote on Friday, but that’s just a first step.
The decision to change the charter now must go to a policy committee and then to the city‘s Charter Commission for formal review.
Citizens must then approve for the change to the charter.
After that, a long process of community review must be undertaken to figure out how the new police department would work.
If things go as planned and the vote goes ahead in November this year, the alternative police department will come into effect on May 1, 2021.