The vote is just one step in a process that faces significant bureaucratic obstacles to make the November ballot, where the city’s voters would have the final say
The Minneapolis force has come under heavy pressure since Floyd was killed on 25 May, sparking a global wave of Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests. Local activists had long accused the department of being unable to change a racist and brutal culture, and earlier this month, a majority of the council proclaimed support for dismantling the department.
Doing so would first require amending the city charter. Draft language of the amendment posted online would replace the department with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, “which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritising a holistic, public health-oriented approach.”
“It is time to make structural change,” Council Member Steve Fletcher told AP. “It is time to start from scratch and reinvent what public safety looks like.”
Fletcher said under the new agency when someone calls 911, there will always be a response that’s appropriate, including the option for a response by employees authorised to use force. But he said the vast majority of calls that police officers currently take will be answered by employees with different expertise.
The proposed amendment is expected to be approved Friday, but that’s just a first step. It goes then to a policy committee and to the city’s Charter Commission for formal review. The commission’s recommendation doesn’t bind the council, but it takes time.
Barry Clegg, chairman of the Charter Commission, said the process feels rushed.
“As I understand it, they are saying, ‘We are going to have this new department. We don’t know what it’s going to look like yet. We won’t implement this for a year, we’ll figure it out,”’ Clegg said. “For myself anyway, I would prefer that we figured it out first, and then voted on it.”
For his part, Mayor Jacob Frey doesn’t support abolishing the department, a stance that got him booed off the street by activists who demonstrated outside his house following Floyd’s death and demanded to know where he stood.
Frey expressed concerns about the proposed amendment as currently drafted, including whether the change would eliminate police altogether or allow for a police presence going forward.
“There is a significant lack of clarity. And if I’m seeing a lack of clarity, so are our constituents,” said Frey, who has said he supports deep structural change in the existing department.