The nine members of the 13-member council signed their pledge at a rally of protesters demanding that the police force be defunded. Speaking from the stage in Powderhorn Park, council president Lisa Bender said that the city needed a top-to-bottom rethink of what policing is and how it should work.
“Our commitment is to do what’s necessary to keep every single member of our safe, and to tell the truth: that the Minneapolis police are not doing that.
“Our commitment is to end our city’s toxic relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department, to end policing as we know it, and to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe.”
Protesters at the event, gathered around a huge sign saying “defund police”, greeted with enthusiasm a prepared statement announcing the plan, which was read out on behalf of the council members backing it.
“Decades of police reform efforts have proved that the Minneapolis Police Department cannot be reformed, and will never be accountable for its action. We are here today to begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department and creating a new transformative model for cultivating safety in our city.
“We recognise that we don’t have all the answers about what a police-free future looks like, but our community does. We’re committing to engaging with every willing community member in the City of Minneapolis over the next year to identify what safety looks like for everyone.
“We’ll be taking intermediate steps towards ending the MPD through the budget process and other policy and budget decisions over the coming weeks and months.”
The statement puts the councillors at odds with progressive mayor Jacob Frey, who told protesters outside his home the day before that he does not support fully abolishing the department.
““People continue to require service in many forms from our public safety offices,” he said, “whether in times of domestic violence, or assistance in some of the most dire conditions.”
Writing on Twitter, councillor Jeremiah Ellison cast the push to take the department apart as part of a fight against “disorder” created by law enforcement, citing the killings of both Mr Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who was shot by police in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky in the spring.
The council members who backed the statement in the park did not offer a concrete proposal for what the police force would be replaced with, or a timescale for dismantling the force as it stands.
Minneapolis has already mooted a ban on police using chokeholds and neck restraints, but a wholesale dismantling of the department represents a far more radical step. However, Minneapolis would hardly be the first city to close its department.
Camden, New Jersey – notorious for its high rate of violent crime – took a similar step in 2012 and formed a new police department altogether. Since then, homicide, rape and shooting figures have continued to fall, with homicide numbers now only 22 per cent of what they were eight years ago.
And more than a decade earlier, Compton, California disbanded its police force after it failed to tackle crime effectively, instead taking out a contract with the LA County Sheriff’s Department, saving $7m dollars to be spent on improving citizens’ quality of life.
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