Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Monday balked at claims made by city council members that they vowed to dismantle the police department as President Trump weighed in on the increasing number of cities that are reducing funding to police departments amid growing national outcry over police brutality.
On Sunday, officials including Ilhan Omar and the son of the Attorney General prosecuting the four cops responsible for Floyd’s death – signed a pledge vowing to take it apart.
They spoke to protesters at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis and revealed their ‘reimagining’ of the police force. No actual vote has taken place yet.
But the president on Monday morning tweeted: ‘LAW & ORDER, NOT DEFUND AND ABOLISH THE POLICE. The Radical Left Democrats have gone Crazy!’
And Mayor Frey appeared on Good Morning America to say he would not support the plan to disband the department and that he wanted to know exactly what the council had in mind.
Officials at the rally Sunday said they had enough votes on the council though to secure a majority.
By law, Minneapolis must maintain a police force of at least 723 police officers. It currently has some 800.
To completely get rid of the department, the city charter would have to be amended – which would require a public vote or the full approval of all 13 council members, including the mayor.
The council members who want to take the ‘toxic’ police department apart have not yet proposed how they would replace it. They said they’d speak with community leaders and members of the public before forming any sort of real plan. On Monday, Mayor Frey told Good Morning America: ‘Am I for entirely abolishing the police department? No, I’m not.
‘I’m looking forward to working with council and talking with them and deciphering particularly what they mean when they say ending and abolishing,’ he said.
He said he would rather see reform to police unions that would make it easier to fire racist cops and keep them out of the force.
‘There are so many areas where mayors and police chiefs have been hamstrung because we have difficulty both terminating and disciplining officers and getting it to stick.
Council President Lisa Bender told CNN on Sunday that there are no plans to get rid of the police force ‘in the short term’, but that city leaders are committed long-term ‘to dismantling policing as we know it… and to rebuild with our community a new model of public safety that actually keeps our community safe.’
Bender addressed crowds in Powderhorn Park, just blocks away from where Floyd was filmed suffocating to death while being knelt on by police officers for nine minutes.
Minneapolis officials including Ilhan Omar and Jeremiah Ellison – the Minnesota AG’s son – have vowed to reimagine the police force but there is no clear plan for an alternative
‘We’re here because we hear you. We are here today because George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis Police,’ she said.
‘We are here because here in Minneapolis and in cities across the United States it is clear that our existing system of policing and public safety is not keeping our communities safe.
What would a city without a police force look like?
Minneapolis councilors say they want to abolish the city’s police force.
The plan broadly involves moving funds away from the police department – which had a budget of $1.6billion in 2019 – towards community initiatives aimed at preventing crime and reducing its impact.
While councilors have not revealed how exactly what Minneapolis’s new police force will look like, several prominent groups – including MPD150 and Reclaim The Block – have produced blueprints.
Their proposals include funding affordable housing, addiction support services, youth groups, mental health providers, social services, and arts programs.
Routine jobs such as traffic stops, mental health call-outs, responding to the scene of overdoses and policing schools would be taken out of the hands of officers and given over to EMTs, the fire service, counselors and others who are better placed to provide support.
Campaigners say a ‘small, specialized force of public servants’ could be used to prevent violent crime – since it does not make up the bulk of modern-day police work.
The aim, they say, is to empower community members to ‘look out for one another’ as opposed to relying on a police service which often does not draw its members from the neighborhoods they police.
‘Our efforts at incremental reform have failed. Period.’
Rep. Omar led the calls to disband it.
‘I will never stop saying not only do we need to disinvest in police but we need to completely dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.
‘The Minneapolis Police Department is rotten to the root. And so when we dismantle it we get rid of that cancer and allow for something beautiful to rise and that reimagining allows us to figure out what public safety looks like for us.’
But Bill Barr asserted Sunday that law enforcement is not ‘systematically racist’.
‘I think there’s racism in the United States still but I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist,’ the attorney general said during his Sunday morning interview with CBS News’ Face the Nation. ‘I understand the distrust, however, of the African-American community given the history in this country.’
‘I think we have to recognize that for most of our history, our institutions were explicitly racist. Since the 1960s, I think we’ve been in a phase of reforming our institutions and making sure that they’re in sync with our laws and aren’t fighting a rearguard action to impose inequities,’ he continued.
And taking the police department completely apart is not as straight forward as they may make it seem.
‘We might have to take it to the people to have a vote on it, but I think there are a lot of ways in which the council can move forward with the plan even if the mayor isn’t on board,’ Jeremiah Ellison said.
He is the son of Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s AG who is now prosecuting the four cops involved in Floyd’s death.
Camden, New Jersey, is the only city in recent years to undertake similar reforms. It scrapped its police force in 2012 after being named one of the most violent places in America, and has reported positive results.
But it is far from clear that the same strategy will work in Minneapolis – a city with almost six times the population of Camden and with a police force that is more than three times the size of Camden’s when it was removed.
A joint statement issued by the council members read: ‘Decades of police reform efforts have proved that the Minneapolis Police Department cannot be reformed, and will never be accountable for its action.
‘We are here today to begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department and creating a new transformative model for cultivating safety in our city.
‘We recognize that we don’t have all the answers about what a police-free future looks like, but our community does.
‘We’re committing to engaging with every willing community member in the City of Minneapolis over the next year to identify what safety looks like for everyone.’
‘We’ll be taking intermediate steps towards ending the MPD through the budget process and other policy and budget decisions over the coming weeks and months.’
Defunding police services has been a key demand of protesters that have taken to streets across the nation in the wake of Floyd’s death on May 25.
While no city other than Minneapolis has committed to abolishing its police department, several much-larger cities – including New York and Los Angeles – have committed to moving funds away from policing and into community services instead.
On Monday Donald Trump Jr. hit out at ‘Dem mayors’, tweeting: ‘Remember, it’s not just the leftwing Minneapolis City Council moving to abolish their police department, Dem mayors like De Blasio in NYC & Garcetti in LA are bragging about cutting funding to the police departments in their cities
‘And @JoeBiden refuses to condemn any of it!’
Outlining what the next steps for Minneapolis might look like, Bender said the solutions ‘lie within the community’.
Campaign group MPD150 has been advocating for the abolition of the Minneapolis Police Department since 2017, when it turned 150 years old.
It is not clear that their model is the one that will be adopted by councilors, but it gives an indication of the kind of things activists are likely to demand.
A pamphlet posted on the group’s website reads: ‘Police abolition work is not about snapping our fingers and instantly defunding every department in the world.
‘Rather, we’re talking about a gradual process of strategically reallocating resources, funding, and responsibility away from police and toward community-based models of safety, support, and prevention.
The move comes after more than a week of protests – which have occasionally turned violent – over the killing of George Floyd, who suffocated to death while being arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill
Councilors spoke to protesters in Powderhorn Park on Sunday, just blocks away from where Floyd was filmed dying in footage that has been seen around the world
‘The people who respond to crises in our community should be the people who are best-equipped to deal with those crises.
‘Rather than strangers armed with guns, who very likely do not live in the neighborhoods they’re patrolling, we want to create space for more mental health service providers, social workers, victim/survivor advocates, religious leaders, neighbors and friends– all of the people who really make up the fabric of a community– to look out for one another.’
The group admit it may be necessary to have ‘a small, specialized class of public servants whose job is to respond to violent crimes’ – but say that work does not make up the majority of what police are currently used for.
Starting over: What happened when Camden scrapped its police force
While Minneapolis’s move to scrap its police force is unheard-of for a city of its size, it is not unprecedented.
In 2012 the city of Camden, New Jersey – then one of the most violent places in America – announced it was gutting its entire police force along with the local union.
In an attempt at a do-over, it moved to a cheaper but larger county force with the concept of ‘community policing’ at its core.
Instead of being sent out to make arrests, officers went out in ice cream trucks and hosted barbecues in an attempt to connect with locals.
Officers were given ‘deescalation’ training, body cameras, and a strict new code on what constitutes ‘reasonable’ force – including that all other options must be exhausted before an officer can draw a weapon.
The new rules are requirements, not simply guidelines, with officers compelled to act if they see another officer breaching the guide. The department can fire any officer found to be in breach.
Since then, the city’s murder rate has dropped by almost 50 per cent while excessive force complaints have dropped by 94 per cent.
As protests sprung up across the nation in response to George Floyd’s death, officers in Camden asked to join in – with white police chief Joseph Wysocki pictured holding a banner reading ‘marching in solidarity’ alongside black activists.
A related group, called Reclaim The Block, have been calling since 2018 for funds to be stripped from the police department and invested in affordable housing and addiction counseling – as well as violence support groups and youth programs.
A four-point plan published by the group earlier this year called for politicians to stop increasing the police budget, to move $45million from the department to other services to cover coronavirus shortfalls, to ‘invest in community-led health and safety strategies’ and to compel police to stop using violence.
Scrapping a large city’s police department is an historic move, but not unprecedented. In 2012, the city of Camden, New Jersey, removed its entire police force in order to establish a new county-wide force – gutting the local police union in the process.
Gabe Rodriguez, a police lieutenant who grew up in Camden and saw the reforms brought in, told The Times that officers were told to move away from a ‘warrior’ mentality towards a ‘guardian’ one.
The idea of ‘community policing’ was central to the strategy, which saw officers driving out in ice cream trucks and hosting barbecues in order to connect with the people they were hired to protect.
Since then, Camden’s murder rate has fallen by almost 50 per cent. So far this year the city has seen just three killings. The year before the reforms came in it had 67.
As Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets following Floyd’s death, police in Camden joined them – with chief Joseph Wysocki pictured holding a banner reading ‘standing in solidarity’ alongside black activists.
In Ferguson, Missouri – where a white officer in 2014 fatally shot Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old – then-Attorney General Eric Holder said federal authorities considered dismantling the police department. The city eventually reached an agreement short of that but one that required massive reforms.
The state of Minnesota has launched a civil rights investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department, and the first concrete changes came when the city agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints.
On Saturday, Minneapolis mayor Frey was been booed out of a Black Lives Matter demonstration after refusing to defund the city’s police department.
Frey proved to be at odds with activists fighting police brutality just two days after he sobbed uncontrollably at the foot of George Floyd‘s gold coffin during a memorial service.
‘I have been coming to grips with my own responsibility, my own failure in this,’ Frey said Saturday.
‘If you’re asking whether I’m for massive structural reform to revise a structurally racist system the answer is ‘yes.’ If you’re asking whether I will do everything possible to push back on the inherent inequities that are literally built into the architecture the answer is ‘yes,” said Frey.
‘If you’re asking whether I’m willing to do everything I possibly can throughout the rest of my term to make sure that the police union, the police contract, the arbitration system, and some of these policies that have resulted in problems for specifically Black and Brown people and murder over series of generations, I’m all for that.
‘I’m not for abolishing the entire police department, I will be honest about that,’ Frey said.
Frey’s handling of Floyd’s death and the subsequent protests that have surged across Minneapolis has been under intense scrutiny.
Minneapolis was the center of both violent and peaceful protests following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd.
Floyd died after white cop Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes, ignoring Floyd’s ‘I can’t breathe’ cries and holding it there even after Floyd stopped moving.
‘It shouldn’t have taken so much death to get us here,’ said Kandace Montgomery, the director of Black Vision at the rally.
‘We’re safer without armed, unaccountable patrols supported by the state hunting black people.’
Community activists have criticized the department for years for what they say is a racist and brutal culture that resists change and had been pushing for a new model.
At another march Saturday during which leaders called for defunding the department, Verbena Dempster said she supported the idea.
‘I think, honestly, we’re too far past’ the chance for reform, Dempster told Minnesota Public Radio. ‘We just have to take down the whole system.’
Protesters who were present at the rally held close to Powderhorn Lake agreed that it was a breakthrough that elected officials had committed to complete overhaul of policing.
Across the country over the last week, protesters marched on city streets and voiced their demands to cut or abolish police departments altogether frequently chanting ‘defund the police’.
A heavy-handed response to demonstrations in many places has underscored what critics have maintained: Law enforcement is militarized and too often uses excessive force.
Cities imposed curfews as several protests last week were marred by spasms of arson, assaults and smash-and-grab raids on businesses. More than 10,000 people have been arrested around the country since protests began, according to reports tracked by The Associated Press. Videos have surfaced of officers in riot gear using tear gas or physical force against even peaceful demonstrators.
But U.S. protests in recent days have been overwhelmingly peaceful – and over the weekend, several police departments appeared to retreat from aggressive tactics.+17
Flames from a nearby fire illuminate protesters standing on a barricade in front of the Third Police Precinct in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during a protest over the death of George Floyd on May 28+17
Minneapolis Police officers stand in a line while facing protesters demonstrating against the death of George Floyd outside the 3rd Precinct Police Precinct in Minneapolis – photo from May 27
Several cities have also lifted curfews, including Chicago and New York City, where the governor urged protesters to get tested for the virus and to proceed with caution until they had. Leaders around the country have expressed concern that demonstrations could lead to an increase in coronavirus cases.
For the first time since protests began in New York more than a week ago, most officers Sunday were not wearing riot helmets as they watched over rallies. Police moved the barricades at the Trump hotel at Columbus Circle for protesters so they could pass through.
Officers in some places in the city casually smoked cigars or ate ice cream and pizza. Some officers shook hands and posed for photos with motorcyclists at one rally.
In Compton, California, several thousand protesters, some on horseback, peacefully demonstrated through the city, just south of Los Angeles. The only law enforcement presence was about a dozen sheriff’s deputies, who watched without engaging.
In Washington, D.C., National Guard troops from South Carolina were seen checking out of their hotel Sunday shortly before President Donald Trump tweeted he was giving the order to withdraw them from the nation’s capital.
Things weren’t as peaceful in Seattle, where the mayor and police chief had said they were trying to deescalate tensions. Police used flash bang devices and pepper spray to disperse protesters after rocks, bottles and explosives were thrown at officers Saturday night.
On Sunday night, a man drove a car at protesters, hit a barricade then exited the vehicle brandishing a pistol, authorities said. A 27-year-old male was shot and taken to a hospital in stable condition, the Seattle Fire Department said.
Dual crises – the coronavirus pandemic and the protests – have weighed particularly heavily on the black community, which has been disproportionately affected by the virus, and also exposed deep political fissures in the U.S. during this presidential election year.
Trump’s leadership during both has been called into question by Democrats and a few Republicans who viewed his response to COVID-19 as too little, too late, and his reaction to protests as heavy handed and insensitive.
On Sunday, U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah marched in a protest in Washington against police mistreatment of minorities, making him the first known Republican senator to do so.
‘We need a voice against racism, we need many voices against racism and against brutality,’ Romney, who represents Utah, told NBC News.
On Sunday, Floyd’s body arrived in Texas for a third and final memorial service, said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. A viewing is planned for Monday in Houston, followed by a service and burial Tuesday in suburban Pearland.
The state of Minnesota launched a civil rights investigation of the department last week, and the first concrete changes came Friday when the city agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints.
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Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey kneels in front of George Floyd’s gold casket and sobs
Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder along with three other officers – Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J Alexander Kueng who have been charged with aiding and abetting in Floyd’s fatal arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill on Memorial Day two weeks ago.
On Sunday, protesters in cities including Washington, New York and Winter Park, Florida, began focusing their outrage over the death of Floyd onto demands for police reform and social justice.
But in Seattle a person was shot and wounded after a man armed with a gun drove into a crowd of protesters. The suspect was arrested, police said.
Mitt Romney, a Republican senator from Utah, joined a group of Christian protesters marching toward the White House. He tweeted photos of himself in the procession, along with the simple caption, ‘Black Lives Matter.’
Although Romney has been a rare Republican voice of opposition to Trump, he was joined last week by Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who said criticism of Trump was overdue.
Trump’s tough approach to putting down protests continued to draw exceptional rebukes from top retired military officers, a group normally loath to criticize a civilian leader.
Former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Colin Powell joined them Sunday, saying Trump had ‘drifted away’ from the constitution. Powell, a Republican moderate, said Trump had weakened America’s position around the world and that in November’s presidential election he would support Democrat Joe Biden.
Condoleezza Rice, who succeeded Powell as secretary of state under President George W. Bush, told CBS she would ‘absolutely’ oppose using the military against peaceful protesters, adding, ‘This isn’t a battlefield.’
The president has ordered National Guard troops to begin withdrawing from the nation’s capital, whose Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat who jousted with Trump over the use of force in her city, told Fox News there had been no arrests on Saturday despite the protests which saw thousands moving through the capital’s streets.
A week earlier, however, there were fires and vandalism.