Minneapolis city council members unveil new plan to eliminate police department — but keep police officers

News & Politics

Three members of the Minneapolis City Council unveiled a plan last week to finally make good on their promises to fundamentally transform the Minneapolis Police Department.

What is the background?

Following the tragic death of George Floyd last May, the Minneapolis City Council promised to abolish the Minneapolis Police Department. City council members vowed a “start fresh with a community-oriented, non-violent public safety and outreach capacity” approach to law enforcement.

But their promises never came to fruition.

In fact, the anti-police rhetoric triggered an exodus of police officers, resulting in record violent crime last summer. The crime wave, combined with inaction by city officials, angered residents — but that did not stop the city council, which has zero Republican members.

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When pressed by residents to combat the crime, city council members had the audacity to question, “Where are the police?” Later, city council members recanted their promises to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department upon learning that inflammatory rhetoric does not result in functional public policy.

What’s happening now?

The council members — Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher, and Jeremy Schroeder, all of whom are Democrats — released a proposal on Thursday that would eliminate the city’s police department, but keep the police officers.

Their plan establishes a new Department of Public Safety, which includes “additional divisions … to provide for a comprehensive approach to public safety beyond law enforcement,” according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

More from the Star Tribune:

The proposed charter amendment would eliminate the requirement to maintain a minimum number of officers based on the city’s population, leaving the force size entirely at the discretion of the mayor and the 13-member City Council.

Fletcher said, “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. This charter amendment creates a structure that supports that vision and allows our city to innovate.”

The proposal would also move the city’s Office of Violence Prevention and perhaps even 911 operations into the new department, the Star Tribune noted.

To appear on the next city ballot, the proposal must first be approved by the city council and city Charter Commission.

Anything else?

According to the Associated Press, the plan is very similar to a proposal made by the city council members last year.

The proposal is similar to one that was blocked last year after the city’s Charter Commission decided to take more time to review it, essentially stopping it from advancing to the November ballot. Both proposals were designed to eliminate the police department as it is and create a new department focused on broader public safety. Last year’s proposal made it optional to include a “Division of Law Enforcement Services,” but the new proposal says officers would be mandatory.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, is reportedly concerned that the proposal “would diminish accountability,” the Star Tribune reported.

“I believe in a comprehensive approach. That’s what we’re hearing from people,” Frey said. “We are not hearing people want to dilute accountability by having the head of public safety report to 14 people.”

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