A veto-proof majority, nine members, of The Minneapolis City Council pledged on Sunday to disband its police department and replace it with a fresh system of managing public safety, sparking a national debate about the wisdom behind calls to defund police departments.
"It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe," Council President Lisa Bender said in a report from USA Today. "Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period."
The pledge comes as chants calling for the defunding of police departments have become a rallying cry among protesters demanding police reform in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers on May 25.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Floyd’s family, praised the move in a tweet Sunday.
“Minneapolis City Council voted today to disband @MinneapolisPD and replace it w/ a community-led system that prioritizes community safety/health! That’s REAL accountability for a BROKEN Dept w/ illegal procedures and failure to discipline corrupt officers! #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd,” he noted.
“It shouldn’t have taken so much death to get us here,” said Kandace Montgomery, the director of Black Vision, who has along with other activists been pushing for years for drastic changes to policing. “We’re safer without armed, unaccountable patrols supported by the state hunting black people.”
A day earlier, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a 38-year-old Democrat and civil rights lawyer, was booed out of a rally by protesters after he declined to commit to defunding the police. He maintained Monday that he could not support the idea of “entirely abolishing the police department” in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
"Let me be clear, I am for massive, structural and transformational reform to an entire system that has not for generations worked for black and brown people; we have failed them, and we need to entirely reshape the system, we need a full-on cultural shift in how our Minneapolis Police Department and departments throughout the country function," Frey said. "Am I for entirely abolishing the police department? No, I'm not. So over the coming days and weeks, I'm looking forward to working with council, talking with them about deciphering what particularly they mean when they say ending and abolishing and I'll be talking with them directly."
Christy E. Lopez, a Georgetown Law professor and co-director of the school’s Innovative Policing Program, recently explained in an op-ed in The Washington Post that defunding the police is not just about diverting funds.
"Defunding the police means shrinking the scope of police responsibilities and shifting most of what government does to keep us safe to entities that are better equipped to meet that need," Lopez noted.
President Donald Trump in a tweet on Sunday did not appear to support the move.
“Not only will Sleepy Joe Biden DEFUND THE POLICE, but he will DEFUND OUR MILITARY! He has no choice, the Dems are controlled by the Radical Left,” Trump said of political rival, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Many other high-profile conservatives such as popular internet preacher and lead pastor of Global Vision Bible Church in Tennessee Greg Locke dismissed the idea as terrible.
Turning Point USA leader Charlie Kirk asked on Twitter: “Can someone reasonably explain what happens when you ‘defund police’? What happens when there is a school shooting? What happens when women get raped? What happens in a hostage situation? What happens when gang leaders kill innocent people? How would this make anyone safer?"
Chicago-based internet preacher and U.S. Army veteran Marcus Rogers said the push to disband police stations is the “dumbest thing I ever heard.”
“They Want To Do Away With Police Officers and Disband Police Stations? Dumbest thing I ever heard! Several theories on this but one is completely doing away with police and allowing the community to respond to crisis as they come up in neighborhoods. The idea is to take the money from the police and give it to people ‘better suited’ to respond to crisis apparently,” he wrote on Facebook along with a response on Facebook Live.
Some reports have pointed to the example of Camden, New Jersey. After the entire police force was laid off in 2012, the department was rebuilt and a culture of community policing was instituted by incorporating de-escalation training, engaging officers in sports, school programs and community events. Officers were placed on bikes in neighborhoods and parks to get them out of patrol cars, forcing them to walk the beat. Crime rates in the city went down and people say they now feel safer.