MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Minneapolis City Council is once again receiving national scrutiny for its intent to dismantle the police department.

A New York Times headline Saturday read “How a Pledge to Dismantle the Minneapolis Police Collapsed.”

Three council members, including President Lisa Bender, told the Times that the pledge to dismantle MPD created confusion not only in the community, but among the council members themselves.

When nine council members took the stage at Powderhorn Park in June, there was no ambiguity. The words “Defund Police” were displayed front and center. Bender said they were going to “end policing as we know it.”

She and Council Member Jeremiah Ellison tweeted in June, “We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.”

Council Member Alondra Cano tweeted days later, “We’re going to end the current policing system.”

In the Times article, Council Member Phillipe Cunningham said the language in the pledge was “up for interpretation.”

He told WCCO Saturday the Times quoted him accurately, but he declined an interview request. Bender was also not available to be interviewed.

Earlier this week, WCCO asked Council Member Steve Fletcher, who was part of the summer pledge, what would replace MPD.

Fletcher said the council is looking at alternative responses to situations that don’t require guns and badges, like traffic accidents. He also didn’t seem to be on board with dismantling the department.

“We need them to be investigating robberies and carjackings and making those arrests,” Fletcher said. “There are pieces of this that it’s critically important that we have law enforcement focused on where there’s actual violent crime.”

The Times article discouraged leaders with the activist group CAIR Minnesota.

“To hear them backpedal now is extremely difficult,” said Mohamed Ibrahim, CAIR MN’s deputy director.

The city is now considering a new timeline to engage with transforming public safety. It calls for beginning to gather information in October, three and a half months after the initial pledge.

In response to the Times article, Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement, “We need deep, structural police reform — and Chief Arradondo and I have already acted to overhaul our use of force policy and ban warrior training. We need to do more to change police culture, but we still need police.”

Voters would have to approve changing the city charter to get rid of MPD. It wouldn’t be on the ballot until at least next year.

David Schuman

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