Two weeks of global protests have made it clear that radical change is needed and now the city of Minneapolis is responding. A veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis city council has announced a “transformative” plan to disband their embattled police department and re-think public safety from the ground up.
“In Minneapolis and in cities across the US, it is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” said Lisa Bender, the Minneapolis city council president, at the event. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period. Our commitment is to do what’s necessary to keep every single member of our community safe and to tell the truth: that the Minneapolis police are not doing that. Our commitment is to end policing as we know it and to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe.”
The Minneapolis mayor does not support the movement, but cannot override the nine-member majority of the twelve-seat city council.
Details on what this new alternative model of community-led safety could look like will be forthcoming, but will likely involve broadly rethinking what kind of public servant is sent to deal with what kind of emergency. NPR interviewed Alex S. Vitale, who wrote 2017’s The End of Policing. “One of the problems that we’re encountering here is this massive expansion in the scope of policing over the last 40 years or so,” Vitale told NPR. “Policing is now happening in our schools. It’s happening in relation to the problems of homelessness, untreated mental illness, youth violence and some things that we historically associate police with …So what I’m calling for is a rethink on why we’ve turned all of these social problems over to the police to manage. And as we dial those things back, then we can think more concretely about what the rest of policing should look like and how that could be reformed.”
Will it work? That’s the question, and there’s no doubt that all eyes will be turned towards Minnesota to see just how they deal with the monumental challenge of rethinking public safety. Minneapolis will doubtless face strong political opposition (President Donald Trump tweeted a not-so-veiled criticism on Monday) and the powerful Police Union will likely be a hurdle. But nobody can accuse Minneapolis of thinking too small.