Ever since the wrongful death of Minnesota resident George Floyd in late May, people everywhere have been calling for the cities of our nation to “defund the police” and do away with law enforcement as we know it. And so it is no surprise that Minneapolis, where it all began, has become the first city to actually do so.
That’s right; they have officially voted to “dismantle” their police force and subsequently agreed that it should be replaced with something else. But what that something else is has yet to be determined.
Last week, five city council members wrote a resolution calling for the police department to be cut completely. According to the resolution, Floyd’s death proves that “no amount of reforms will prevent lethal violence and abuse by some members of the Police Department against members of our community, especially Black people and people of color.”
And it wasn’t long after the resolution was submitted that the council held a vote, in which all 12 members unanimously voted to disband the police force.
Since the decision was made, more than a dozen Minneapolis police officers have joined to write a letter, both condemning the actions of the officers responsible for Floyd’s death and supporting the idea that reform in all aspects of the job is much needed. And the city’s Mayor Jacob Frey seems to agree. Last week, he too spouted the need for “massive structural reform to revise the structurally racist system.” Although, he didn’t say that department as a whole needed to be abolished.
However, it seems the concerns of both the mayor and the city’s police officers have been mostly ignored. Because on Friday, the city council made another unanimous decision. This one is to not merely reform the police department, but “replace” it entirely.
City Council member Alondra Cano said, “We acknowledge that the current system is not reformable – that we would like to end the current policing system as we know it.” Another City Councilman, Jeremiah Ellison, wrote, “We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department. And when we’re done, we’re not simply gonna glue it back together. We are going to dramatically rethink how we approach public safety and emergency response.”
Instead, the council will look to implement a new community-led public safety system.
According to the resolution, “the City Council will commence a year-long process of community engagement, research, and structural change to create a transformative new model for cultivating safety in our city.”
It added, “City Council will engage with every willing community member in Minneapolis, centering the voices of Black people, American Indian people, people of color, immigrants, victims of harm, and other stakeholders who have historically marginalized or under-served by our present system. Together, we will identify what safety looks like for everyone.”
The council went on to commission a “Future of Community Safety Work Group” that would be tasked with meeting with various members of the community. Once this group has a good handle on the needs and wishes of the community, they are to report back to City Council with their findings and begin the work of setting new goals and safety measures in place.
Now, as a glass half full kind of person, there is a part of me that wants to be positive about this possibility. After all, America was founded on out of the box and definitely against the grain type of thinking. And for the most part, it has been rewarded with those efforts.
And I’m all for setting a system in place that works to unite all communities with a single goal of public safety and equality. This, too, was a dream of our founding fathers, “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” as our Pledge of Allegiance says.
However, history has also proven that even the best-laid plans don’t always work out, no matter how great the intentions.
Let’s face it; there is a lot that could go wrong. What if a shared move forward cannot be found? What if nothing really changes and we only end up with the same old problems? What if it results in an even worse fate for the city?
And that doesn’t even begin to cover what the city will do during this year of interim. Are they merely going to tell criminals to hold off a year, so they can get their stuff worked out? With no police force and nothing figured out yet, who is going to react to crime or emergencies?
Minneapolis, even before the riots and civil unrest, had the highest crime rate in the state.