Minneapolis, MN – Some members of the Minneapolis City Council are backtracking on their pledge to abolish the Minneapolis Police Department, claiming they supported “the spirit” of the pledge but didn’t actually want to dismantle the law enforcement agency.
The New York Times reported that some of the nine city council members who supported the pledge to completely defund the police department are looking for a do-over.
Even Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender, who led the charge to abolish the police, had to admit that the initiative thus far had been a poorly-timed flop.
“I think our pledge created confusion in the community and in our wards,” Bender told The New York Times.
The vote to defund the Minneapolis police came about two weeks after George Floyd died while he was being arrested on May 25.
His death sparked nationwide riots and Minneapolis’ city council led the nation in its effort to dismantle the city’s police force.
But then crime spiked, and residents began to feel very differently about their lawmakers’ plans.
Police sent out an alert to residents near the 3rd Precinct in early August warning them not to try to fight back if somebody tried to rob or carjack them.
The Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct was the station house that was overrun by rioters and burned to the ground a few days after Floyd died.
“Attention 3rd Precinct Residents,” began the email sent on July 28. “Robberies and Carjacking’s have increased in our Precinct. Cell phones, purses, and vehicles are being targeted. Some victims have been maced, dragged, assaulted, and some threatened with a gun.”
Recent Minneapolis crime data released by the police department showed dramatic spikes in all kinds of criminal activity across the entire city since the rioting began in late May, WCCO reported.
The city council president blamed the police department for the crime spike and said it happened because officers were intentionally making the city less safe.
“This is not new,” Bender said. “But it is very concerning in the current context.”
She claimed her constituents had told her that police told them they weren’t arresting people intentionally, MPR reported.
Minneapolis City Councilor Andrew Johnson told The New York Times that when he voted to support the pledge to abolish the police department in June he was voting “in spirit” to get rid of officers, not actually voting to dismantle the department.
Minneapolis City Councilor Phillipe Cunningham called the language in the pledge “up for interpretation.”
Cunningham said it was “it was very clear that most of us had interpreted that language differently” shortly after the pledge was made, The New York Times reported.
The city council faced a number of obstacles after they voted to dismantle the Minneapolis PD, not the least of which was the fact that the City Charter required the council to fund a police department according to a certain formula, and a change to the charter must be approved on a ballot by voters.
The city’s charter commission reviewed the council’s proposal mid-summer and requested an additional 90 days to consider the change before they would vote, pushing their decision past the deadline for the charter change to make the November ballot, and effectively postponing the dismantling of the agency for at least a year.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who has been a vocal opponent of abolishing the police, agreed that the way the city council had handled the matter had caused great confusion, The New York Times reported.
“I think the initial announcement created a certain level of confusion from residents at a time when the city really needed that stability,” Frey explained. “I also think that the declaration itself meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people — and that included a healthy share of activists that were anticipating abolition.”
Community activist Cathy Spann said that not everybody in the community was pleased about the council’s initiative to do away with the Minneapolis Police Department, The New York Times reported.
Spann said that the people being affected by the paralysis of the police department were the same people the council had vowed to protect but the elected officials blew it.
“They didn’t engage black and brown people,” Ms. Spann said, referring to city council. “And something about that does not sit right with me. Something about saying to the community, ‘We need to make change together,’ but instead you leave this community and me unsafe.”