Since the death in Minneapolis, MN, of George Floyd, Defund the police has become 2020’s war cry. It has been heard across the nation, and while the left moves to drastically reduce budgets for law enforcement, the White House fights for police reform. However, when it comes to Minneapolis itself, neither defunding nor reform is good enough: the city council voted 12-0 on June 26 to abolish the police department.
If the measure goes forward, the police department would be eliminated and replaced with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, “which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach.” The proposal says the director of the agency would have “non-law-enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches.” The proposed legislation will allow a division of licensed peace officers, but they will have to answer to the non-law-enforcement director.
Spiraling Crime Numbers
This is a dangerous move, especially at this time when the COVID-19 pandemic has forced upon people stay-at-home orders, depression is spiking as millions of Americans have lost their jobs and businesses, and civil unrest violently plagues the nation. In New York City, gun violence has gone up 358% since June 2019. According to The New York Times, “It has been nearly a quarter century since New York City experienced so much gun violence in the month of June as it has seen this year.”
Crime in Minneapolis is also escalating; the city’s Downtown East neighborhood saw a 70% rise in serious crimes such as assault, burglary, and robbery last year. The Star Tribune reported that “Nearly two-thirds of city neighborhoods saw an increase in overall crime in 2019 compared to the average across the previous four years.” The newspaper, using data from the police department, said the highest percentage of increases were in “Part I” crimes, which include: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, auto theft, and arson.
No Plan, but We’ll Figure it Out
The push to abolish the police department is a result of the Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protests, in which thousands of citizens demanded not just police reform, but to do away with the institution altogether. The city council’s proposal was put together too quickly, however, without taking the time to hammer out important details. Chairman of the Charter Commission, Barry Clegg, said the process has been hasty:
“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.’ For myself anyway, I would prefer that we figured it out first, and then voted on it.”
The proposal will now go to a policy committee as well as the city’s Charter Commission for a formal review. The goal is to have it approved and be ready to put on the November ballot so that residents will be able to vote on it. However, to do that, Clegg said the amendment has to be finalized by August 21. Not a lot of time to eradicate a centuries-old organization of law and order and replace it with new rules, regulations, and non-law-enforcement personnel.
The Democratic mayor, Jacob Frey, is against abolishing the police department and has been criticized for his views on the matter. After Floyd’s murder, activists stood outside his home and booed him from the streets. About the proposal, he said: “There is a significant lack of clarity. And if I’m seeing a lack of clarity, so are our constituents.” One of the issues he pointed out is that currently when there is a problem, the mayor and the police chief are held accountable. Under the proposed legislation, that accountability would be spread among 14 people.
Don Blyly owned science fiction and mystery bookstores that were destroyed during the Floyd protests and called moves to abolish the police “sufficiently stupid.” He vowed he would move his business out of the city if they go through with the proposal. “There are legitimate problems with the Minneapolis police, but the way the politicians are going about it is just ridiculous,” he said. “They are pandering to a certain segment of the electorate.”
If this radical proposal makes it on the ballot, there’s no telling how the citizens will vote. The spike in crime and all the civil unrest has made a lot of residents fearful of removing the one city agency that is capable of providing them with physical protection.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.