Opinion| Carmine Sabia| The city council of Minneapolis has voted unanimously to abolish its entire police department in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
The 12 – 0 vote is the first step in what is certain to be an arduous process before it can get to the ballot in November where voters would decide, The Daily Mail reported.
And it came amid a spate of recent shootings in Minnesota’s largest city that have heightened many citizens´ concerns about talk of dismantling the department.
The proposed amendment next goes to a policy committee and to the city’s Charter Commission for a formal review, at which point citizens and city officials can also weigh in.
The Minneapolis force has come under heavy pressure since Floyd, a Black man in handcuffs, died May 25 after a police officer pressed his knee on Floyd´s neck for nearly eight minutes.
Activists have long accused the department of being unable to change a racist and brutal culture, and earlier this month, a majority of the council proclaimed support for dismantling the department.
“I hope that the Charter Commission will recognize the moment that we are in and take our offer of support, however we can provide it, to expedite this process so that voters have a chance to have their voices heard on this important question and this important moment in our city´s history,” city council President Lisa Bende said.
Jeremiah Ellison, the son of Keith Ellison, the attorney general of the state, said that the charter has stood in the way of changes that he thinks are needed.
The amendment, shared online, says it would replace the police department with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, “which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach.”
“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.”
Charter Commission chairman Barry Clegg says that he believes the city council is rushing things after Floyd’s death.
“As I understand it, they are saying, ‘We are going to have this new department. We don’t know what it’s going to look like yet. We won’t implement this for a year, we´ll figure it out’” he said.
“For myself anyway, I would prefer that we figured it out first, and then voted on it,” the chairman said.
Mayor Jacob Frey is not in favor of abolishing the police department, which had activists boo him weeks ago.
“There is a significant lack of clarity. And if I’m seeing a lack of clarity, so are our constituents,’ the mayor said.
Steven Belton, president and chief executive of Urban League Twin Cities, said the way some council members went forward without a concrete plan is “irresponsible.”
‘The problem that needs to be stated up front, from my perspective, is racism. … I’m not sure what they are trying to fix here,’ he said.