The City Council of Minneapolis declared racism a public health emergency on July 17, about two months after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody, and following measures that seek to defund the city’s police department.
“Systemic racism is among the greatest long-term threats our city and nation are facing, and the last two months have made that reality painfully clear,” said Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, in a news release. “For Minneapolis to be a place where everyone can live and thrive, we must recognize this crisis for what it is and approach policymaking with the urgency it deserves.”
The resolution (pdf) also claims that “racism has various forms including historical, individual, systemic and that has not only continued to present day, but has been institutionalized to ensure the concentration of material, power, and resources into the hands of white-bodied individuals.” The resolution also noted that Minneapolis ranks “as one of the worst regions for racial gaps in homeownership, poverty, median income, and obtaining a high school diploma.”
The resolution seeks to decrease the incarceration rate while only making arrests for “violent and major crimes,” providing a “comprehensive rapid response protocol to immediate needs and long-term work to address systemic inequities,” and “easing and dismissing” cash bail. The text of the resolution didn’t say how those proposed measures would ameliorate problems such as gaps in homeownership, income, or increasing high school graduation rates.
Most of the Minneapolis City Council have already vowed to disband the local police department and replace it with a new model of public safety, although details about the new agency are not clear. Frey has publicly said he doesn’t want to abolish the city’s police force.
In June, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights filed a civil rights discrimination charge against the city’s police department and is investigating the department’s policies and practices.
City leaders and law enforcement officials have said that the months of COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, rising unemployment, and the fallout from mass protests over the Floyd killing have helped create conditions for a rise in violent crime in Minneapolis. A number of businesses were forced to shut down or leave during weeks of riots, looting, arson, and vandalism in the city.