MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In protest after protest since the death of George Floyd, demonstrators have called for the abolishment of the Minneapolis Police Department.
On Saturday, Mayor Jacob Frey told hundreds of protesters who gathered outside his home that he did not think abolition was the way forward. Rather, he urged reform as protesters chanted “Shame! Shame! Shame!.”
A day later, nine of the 13 Minneapolis City Council members announced a commitment to defunding and dismantling the police department, with the goal of replacing it with a new system of community protection.
On Monday morning, the mayor and City Council President Lisa Bender appeared on WCCO This Morning. Each mapped out the path they believe the city should take.
When asked what it means to “abolish the police,” Bender said that she and her fellow councilmembers, which form a veto-proof majority, don’t yet have exact answers on how a new system would operate. However, she said that past reforms have clearly not worked for the city’s residents, specifically people of color.
“We have tried so many types of reform, we have tried new leadership, and we still saw George Floyd killed in such a horrific way,” she said. “Our community is telling us what we’ve done so far isn’t enough.”
Moving forward, the city council hopes to engage with the community over the next year to see how they think a new system of public safety should operate. In the meantime, the council will work to defund the department and put resources into other areas, such as mental health response teams and housing.
Meanwhile, Frey still believes “massive, structural” reform in the department is possible, especially with Chief Medaria Arradondo at the helm. The main obstacle to change, the mayor says, is the police union and not being able to kick problem officers out of the force.
“What I’m talking about is pushing back hard on the union contract, it’s about going after the police union,” Frey said, “It’s about making sure that these arbitration mandates…still allow us to actually institute discipline and shift the culture and therefore necessarily the personnel of the department itself. You don’t get a culture shift without being able to change the people as well.”
If what’s called for is abolishing the police union, Frey says he’s for it. “That is what needs to change,” the mayor said. “I think we need to have precision in our words, and what specifically we’re talking about.”
Over the weekend, neither the Minneapolis Police Department nor the police union responded to requests for comment on the proposed reform/dismantling of the department.
Before the city council could possibly move forward with defunding the police department, the city charter may need to be amended, which would require a question on the ballot in the next election. Currently, the city charter requires the council to fund a police force that is proportionate to the population.