Policing in America (A New series by Laura Plummer that examines current efforts to reform police departments in cities and states across the country.)
# 2 Hearings to Abolish Minneapolis Police Start This Week
July 15, 2020
Minneapolis is the epicenter of the nation’s ongoing debate on police reform. The Minneapolis Police Department, notorious for its involvement in the death of George Floyd, has been the target of local and national outrage. Police abolitionist groups were handed a major victory on June 26, when the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to change the city’s charter to dismantle the police department.
The council’s proposed charter amendment would replace the current department run by the mayor with a Community Safety & Violence Prevention Department under the supervision of council. Its creation would be informed by a robust, year-long community input process. The new department could choose to create a law enforcement branch staffed by trained “peace officers”.
On July 15 and 21, the city’s charter commission will hold two public hearings on the amendment. The commission can approve, reject or edit the amendment, but the council can act independently of its recommendation. If the council decides to put the matter on the November ballot, residents would be given the final say. Changes to the charter would go into effect in May of 2021.
The Minneapolis City Council is taking its cues from local advocacy groups like MPD150, Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block. These and other groups believe that abolition of the police is preferable to efforts to defund or reform. Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar also joined in the call to abolish.
In 2012, Camden, New Jersey, famously dismantled its police department and rebuilt it from the ground up. While often touted as a success story, it was done in response to police corruption and rampant crime. If Minneapolis were to abolish its police department to address systemic racism, it would be the first city in the country to do so.
Opposing the council’s proposal are Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, various members of the charter commission and some civil rights activists, who believe that the absence of a traditional police force would make citizens vulnerable. For this reason, the matter may not make it onto the ballot in November, and even if it does, the voters may not support it. Whatever the outcome, local groups say they will continue fighting for meaningful change.
MPD150 is a group of activists and researchers fighting for a “police-free” future.
Black Visions Collective is committed to “dismantling systems of oppression”.
Reclaim the Block aims to reroute police funding to social services.