Three Minneapolis city council members are floating a new scheme in which the police department is disbanded but its officers retained under a “Department of Public Safety.”
According to the plan, which was proposed by Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher, and Jeremy Schroeder, the new department would consist of “additional divisions … to provide for a comprehensive approach to public safety beyond law enforcement,” according to Fox News.
The proposal comes as the council has been grappling with what sweeping reforms to the department should look like in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the subsequent rioting that destroyed much of the city last May.
About a week after Floyd’s death, Councilman Jeremiah Ellison, who previously declared support for Antifa on social media, vowed to “dismantle” the entire Minneapolis Police Department.
“We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department,” Ellison, the son of Minnesota Attorney General and former U.S. representative Keith Ellison, said in early June.
“And when we’re done, we’re not simply gonna glue it back together. We are going to dramatically rethink how we approach public safety and emergency response,” he noted further. “It’s really past due.”
Days later, a veto-proof majority of council members told a “Defund Police” rally in the city that they wanted to replace the department with a community-oriented public safety model.
“We’re here because we hear you,” Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender said. “We are here today because George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis Police. We are here because here in Minneapolis and in cities across the United States it is clear that our existing system of policing and public safety is not keeping our communities safe. Our efforts at incremental reform have failed. Period.”
But by September, city council members and Minneapolis residents, stung by a rise in violent crime due to an apparent retreat by MPD, were asking where officers were.
“That is the only public safety option they have at the moment. MPD. They rely on MPD. And they are saying they are nowhere to be seen,” newly elected council member Jamal Osman said during a study session on police reforms.
And by December, two council members who initially backed the ‘defund’ effort attempted to distance themselves from the notion after the passage of an $8 million cut to the department’s budget.
“’Defund’ is not the framework the council has ever chosen,” Fletcher told KSTP-TV while sitting next to Cunningham. “If we’re going to look at how we fund different programs, it would be very hard to do that without taking that money from the Minneapolis Police Department.”
Another proposal that was blocked by Minneapolis’ Charter Commission last year, which prevented it from being included on the November ballot, sought an option to create a Department of Public Safety. However, a new proposal now would make such an agency mandatory, Fox News noted.
Some council members have also proposed the addition of new language eliminating a clause in the city’s charter giving “complete power” of the MPD’s operations to the mayor, allowing the council new authorities. Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, said that would be problematic, however, because council members’ perspectives on law enforcement differ.
“Minneapolis residents are imagining a comprehensive public safety approach that is more effective and more reflective of our values, and they are calling on the city to act,” said Fletcher in a statement. “This charter amendment creates a structure that supports that vision and allows our city to innovate.”
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