A majority of Minneapolis City Council members have signed a pledge to disband the city’s police department and replace it with a new system for public safety.
Nine of the council’s 13 members made the announcement Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis’s Powderhorn Park, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. It comes nearly two weeks after city resident George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died with a police officer’s knee on his neck, something that sparked outrage and protests across the nation. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder, and the three other officers who were present have been charged with being accomplices.
The council members appeared onstage at the park in support of Black Visions, an advocacy group calling for an end to the Minneapolis Police Department. They read from a statement saying they will begin that process.
“We recognize that we don’t have all the answers about what a police-free future looks like, but our community does,” they said, according to the Star Tribune. “We're committed to engaging with every willing community member in the City of Minneapolis over the next year to identify what safety looks like for you.”
The statement said the department “cannot be reformed and will never be accountable for its actions” and that they intend to create “a new, transformative model for cultivating safety in Minneapolis.”
“The group did not present a single, unified vision for how they would replace policing in Minneapolis,” the paper notes, and both council members and Black Visions activists said many details remain to be worked out. Ideas include “investing in more community initiatives like mental health and having community members respond to public safety issues,” according to the Star Tribune.
Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins, who is Black and transgender, said she had some reservations about the pledge but signed it nonetheless. “There are 431,000 people in this city that call this city home,” she said. “Everyone has to have a voice in this conversation. This is a very beautiful, very gorgeous crowd out here right now, but this is not the entirety of Minneapolis.”
But she said that “this is the moment” to take the action, “because nothing else has worked.” She explained, “It’s possible to be conflicted and know what the right thing to do is.” The council’s other trans member, Phillipe Cunningham, who is also Black, signed the pledge as well.
Another Black council member, Jeremiah Ellison, told NBC News that today’s announcement marks only the beginning of the efforts to end the “current iteration” of the department. “The plan has to start somewhere,” he said. “We are not going to hit the eject button without a plan, so today was the announcement of the formulation of that plan.”
Mayor Jacob Frey said he supports major reforms to the police department but not abolition. “People continue to require service in many forms from our public safety offices, whether in times of domestic violence or assistance in some of the most dire conditions,” he told the Star Tribune.
“I have tremendous faith in the police chief, [Medaria] Arradondo, and by channeling all of this anger and energy toward a full restructuring, we can give him, our first Black police chief, the opportunity to remake this department in his image,” Frey added. “He has my full support. This is an opportunity to do it right.
But at the park event, Council President Lisa Bender said, “Our commitment is to do what is necessary to keep every single member of our community 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 re-create systems of public safety that actually keep us safe.”