ST. PAUL — The Minneapolis City Council on Friday, June 26, voted unanimously to advance a proposal to disband the Minneapolis Police Department just more than a month after a former Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd.
Under the plan, the department would be renamed the "department of community safety and violence prevention" and it would maintain a division of licensed officers but would be led by a non-law enforcement figure. The new department would be responsible for “public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach."
The vote doesn't make the change final. It will have to be approved by other city commissions next month before it could come before Minneapolis voters in November. Approval at the ballot would finalize the change.
Council members on Friday said the move to put the charter change before voters would be the first step in defunding the police department and reassessing how city funding could be allocated differently to boost mental health, substance abuse and other resources.
"This is the path that provides our residents with the most agency to affirm what they want a new system of public safety to look like," Council Member Jeremiah Ellison said. "It does successfully lay the groundwork for us to make the kind of systemic change that people are asking for."
Even if the city approves the change, there will be work to do in addressing systemic racism in various government and law enforcement structures, other council members said.
“Until we really address racism, nothing is going to change," Council Vice-President Andrea Jenkins said. "We’re going to have a new name of a new public safety measure with the same underlying racist foundations that has been in the formulation of this country forever."
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has opposed efforts to defund the police department but has supported efforts to reform policing in the city. He said the charter amendment was unclear and wouldn’t solve problems with policing in Minneapolis.
“I believe voters should have a say, but they should know what they’re voting on when they decide,” Frey said.
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association on Friday said members were concerned to see the state's largest city move forward with a "haphazard" approach that could create an unsafe environment.
“Their proposal, in the midst of a drastic increase of violent gun crimes, is an unserious and disingenuous attempt to satisfy small political factions without providing real resources to address and prevent crime from happening in the city," Brian Peters, the group's executive director, said. "If they were serious about making real change, they should be including feedback of peace officers and first responders into what really goes into public safety on a day-to-day basis.”
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Memorial Day knelt on Floyd's neck for almost eight minutes following a report of using a counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd repeatedly said he couldn't breathe and pleaded for help, per a video of the incident released by a bystander. And he later died after he was transported to a hospital.
Chauvin, along with three other officers involved in the incident, has been charged following Floyd's killing.
The department's response following the incident ignited protests and riots in the Twin Cities metro and around the country. At the local, state and federal level, advocates have pressed lawmakers for criminal justice reforms with a focus on police accountability.