Minneapolis, MN – Five members of the Minneapolis City Council have authored an amendment to the city charter which, if it makes it onto the November ballot, would give voters the option to abolish the Minneapolis Police Department.
Under the amendment, the police department would be replaced by a Department of Community Service and Violence Prevention that would take a “holistic” and “public-health oriented” approach to keeping the city safe, KFGO reported.
The proposed amendment, if passed by the city council, will proceed to a policy committee and the city’s Charter Commission for review.
Charter Commissioner Chairman Barry Clegg said the process feels rushed, WIFR reported.
“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,’” Clegg said. “For myself anyway, I would prefer that we figured it out first, and then voted on it.”
He explained that the ballot measure must finish the review process, be passed by the council, and go through a mayoral veto period before Aug. 21 in order to be finalized and placed on the November ballot, WIFR reported.
But Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has said he will not support abolishing the police department and has expressed concerns about the amendment to the city charter.
Council members initially announced plans to disband the police department in the wake of riots throughout the city following the death of 46-year-old George Floyd while he was being arrested by the Minneapolis police on May 25.
On June 7, nine members of the Minneapolis City Council announced that they would vote to disband the city’s police department, KSMP reported.
They proudly told supporters at a rally on June 7 that they had the votes to override Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s veto of the move, after the mayor came out against abolishing the city’s law enforcement agency.
But it turned out that the city council doesn’t have the power to disband the police department, nor can they tell it what to do, KSMP reported.
The city charter requires the city council to fund the police department and details a formula as to how many police officers should be funded based on the city’s population. And then the city charter tasks the mayor’s office with full authority over the police department.
Right now, the city charter requires the council to fund 723 police officers, based on the most recent population estimates, KSMP reported.
The current city budget actually provided for 888 sworn police officers this year.
In order to reduce the size of the department significantly or disband it completely, there would have to be a unanimous vote of the Minneapolis City Council and the mayor, or the approval of the public via a ballot measure, according to KSMP.
“We might have to take it to the people to have a vote on it, but I think there are a lot of ways in which the council can move forward with the plan even if the mayor isn’t on board,” City Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison, whose father – Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison – has personally taken on the prosecution of the police officers involved in Floyd’s death.
But despite the stated goal of dismantling the police department, the city council doesn’t seem to have a plan to replace the officers with an alternative way to guard their safety and security.
Councilmembers at the rally talked said calling a neighbor or a social worker could be the new alternatives to calling 911, KSMP reported.
Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender, in an interview with CNN, was asked what residents of Minneapolis would do if there were no police and a criminal was breaking into their home in the middle of the night.
“Yes, I mean, I hear that loud and clear from a lot of my neighbors. And I know – and myself too – I know that that comes from a place of privilege because for those of us for whom the system is working, I think we need to step back and imagine what it would feel like to already live in that reality, where calling the police may mean more harm is done,” Bender said.
CAMEROTA: "What if in the middle of the night my home is broken into. Who do I call?"
BENDER: "Yes, I hear that loud and clear from a lot of my neighbors. And I know — and myself, too, and I know that that comes from a place of privilege." pic.twitter.com/WhubQ9yJIf
— Eddie Zipperer (@EddieZipperer) June 8, 2020
Many lawmakers have denounced the Minneapolis Police Department as a whole.
“You can’t really reform a department that is rotten to the root,” U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar told CNN. “What you can do is rebuild, and so this is our opportunity.”
Omar said that Minneapolis is “committed to dismantling a department that is beyond repair so that the community has the space to come together to reimagine what public safety looks like.”
However, in the weeks since Floyd’s death, as police have been hamstrung by local officials, crime has seen a dramatic increase in Minneapolis, WIFR reported.
Twelve people were shot early Sunday morning in just one incident in the Minneapolis business district.
The incident occurred in the 2900 block of Hennepin Avenue at around 12:30 a.m., according to FOX News.
Multiple “individuals on foot” opened fire in the area, which has multiple bars and restaurants, according to WEAU.
One adult male victim was fatally shot, and 11 more people were wounded.
In other areas of the city, residents and business owners have complained they feel unsafe because of the lack of law enforcement presence.
Residents of the Powderhorn Park, which has long been known as a haven for leftist activists and bohemian artist types, vowed to avoid calling law enforcement into their community Floyd died, The New York Times reported.
But that was before looters burned huge sections of Minneapolis and hundreds of homeless that were displaced by the rioting decided to make Powderhorn Park their home, and set up tents and a community.
As a result, drug dealers have targeted the area and have been selling to the people living in the park, The New York Times reported.
Numerous members of the group suffer from mental illness or addiction, and already two people have overdosed and been taken from the park in ambulances.
Many Minneapolis residents and business owners do not support abolishing the police department.
Don Blyly, whose bookstores were destroy in the Floyd riots, said he won’t re-open in Minneapolis if local leaders do something “sufficiently stupid” like getting rid of police, WIFR reported.
“There are legitimate problems with the Minneapolis police, but the way the politicians are going about it is just ridiculous,” Blyly said. “They are pandering to a certain segment of the electorate.”