MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis City Council members voted unanimously to amend the city’s charter Friday to remove the mandate for a police department– the first step toward disbanding it in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
The amendment proposes the city 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,” a draft of the amendment said.
The proposal adds that the director of the new agency would have “non-law-enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches.” It also suggests setting up a division of licensed peace officers, who would answer to the department’s director, FOX reported.
Although the amendment received a 12-0 vote from council members, it faces an uphill battle as it makes its way past 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.
If successful, the amendment will proceed to the November ballot for a vote in the general election.
Mayor Jacob Frey has resisted collapsing the department entirely, saying that the proposal to do so shows a “significant lack of clarity.”
“If I’m seeing a lack of clarity, so are our constituents,” said Frey, who is a Democrat and who has said he supports deep structural change in the existing department.
Barry Clegg, chairman of the Charter Commission, has said the process to implement change so quickly after Floyd’s death may not be the best step forward, according to FOX News.
“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.”
More than two weeks ago, the president of the Minneapolis City Council, who went viral for saying that calling the police when your home is broken into “comes from a place of privilege,” said she wanted a “police-free society.”
Speaking on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time,” Lisa Bender discussed the idea.
Host Chris Cuomo told her: “When you say you see someday being police-free that sounds aspirational, a utopian concept where nobody’s committing any crime, because as long as these communities are being preyed upon, both from within and without, there’s gonna have to be good men and women willing to step up to keep people safe.”
She replied: “I think the idea of having a police-free future is very aspirational, and I am willing to stand with community members who are asking us to think of that as the goal.”