Nine of the Minneapolis City Council’s 13 members have pledged to entirely dismantle the city’s police department following the death of George Floyd, although details are scant.
Meanwhile, council President Lisa Bender suggested during an interview that wanting to call the police after a break-in “comes from a place of privilege.”
The council’s intent to defund and dismantle the police force is so they could usher in a new community-based model of public safety, Bender said. The nine-member vote would be a veto-proof supermajority.
Bender later responded to and defended the council’s stance in an interview with CNN. At one point, CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota relayed some concerns, telling Bender that some might ask, “What if, in the middle of the night, my home is broken into. Who do I call?”
“Yes, I hear that loud and clear from a lot of my neighbors. … 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 responded.
Bender also talked about changing the response to emergencies to include other professions instead of law enforcement. She said city officials have conducted an analysis of all the different reasons people call 911, and have looked at ways “we can shift the response away from armed police officers into a more appropriate response for mental health calls.”
She was also asked to comment on the use of the word “dismantle,” in that it goes further than just departmental reforms. She responded that she could indeed envision a “police-free” future.
“A lot of us were asked if we could imagine a future without police, back in 2017, when we were running for office and I answered ‘yes’ to that question,” she said. “To me that future is a long way away and would take an enormous amount of investment.”
The move by the City Council comes after a number of other major partners in the city have decided to cut ties with the Minneapolis Police Department, The Appeal reported. Those partners included Minneapolis public schools, the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation, and the Minnesota Orchestra.
What started as peaceful protests over the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody has been exploited, according to the Department of Justice. While most have peacefully demonstrated, Attorney General William Barr said recently the department had evidence the protests have been “hijacked” by Antifa and other similar groups.
Bender also said in the interview that the point of the council’s stance was so they could “try something new.” In a Twitter post, she described the new model as being “transformative.”
City Councilman Jeremiah Ellison, meanwhile, said that after dismantling the department, they are not “simply gonna glue it back together.”
“We are going to dramatically rethink how we approach public safety and emergency response,” Ellison, the son of state Attorney General Keith Ellison, said on June 4. “It’s really past due.”
The move also comes after violent rioting and looting have eased across the nation, with demonstrations becoming largely peaceful because of the presence of federal law enforcement, according to acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.
Meanwhile, the city’s mayor told protestors over the weekend that he was opposed to their demands to defund the police.
All four Minneapolis police officers implicated in Floyd’s death have since been arrested, including Derek Chauvin, the white officer seen pinning Floyd’s neck to the ground, who is charged with second-degree murder.
Demonstrators in Minneapolis and elsewhere have since refocused their demands from just seeking justice for Floyd’s death to a quest for far-reaching police reforms.
Some activists have gone so far as to call for defunding and dismantling the police department altogether. They argue for shifting city dollars instead into public health programs and other initiatives aimed to prevent violent crime.
On June 6, according to an account by Minneapolis-based WCCO-TV, a throng of demonstrators marched to Mayor Jacob Frey’s home and called on him to come out to address the crowd.
When the mayor was later spotted in the crowd, the TV station said, he was asked by one of the protest leaders whether he would commit to defunding the police. While Frey’s exact reply was drowned out, the crowd erupted in a chorus of taunts and boos as he walked off and left the scene.
Reuters contributed to this report