(New York Times) – Nine members — a veto-proof majority — of the Minneapolis City Council pledged on Sunday to dismantle the city’s Police Department, promising to create a new system of public safety in a city where law enforcement has long been accused of racism.
Saying that the city’s current policing system could not be reformed, the council members stood before hundreds of people who gathered late in the day on a grassy hill, and signed a pledge to begin the process of taking apart the Police Department as it now exists.
For activists who have been pushing for years for drastic changes to policing, the move represented a turning point that they hoped would lead to a complete transformation of public safety in the city.
“It shouldn’t have taken so much death to get us here,” Kandace Montgomery, the director of Black Vision, said from the stage at the rally. “We’re safer without armed, unaccountable patrols supported by the state hunting black people.”
The pledge in Minneapolis, where George Floyd died 13 days ago after being pinned to the ground by a white police officer’s knee, reflected calls across America to completely rethink what policing looks like. Protesters have taken to the streets with demands to shrink or abolish police departments, and “defund the police” has become a frequent rallying cry.
Officials in other cities, including New York, have begun to talk of diverting some money and responsibilities from police forces to social services agencies, but no other major city has yet gone as far as the Minneapolis officials promised to do.
Council members said in interviews on Sunday that they did not have specific plans to announce for what a new public safety system for the city would look like. They promised to develop plans by working with the community, and said they would draw on past studies, consent decrees and reforms to policing across the nation and the world.
Protesters who gathered at the rally, with a view of Powderhorn Lake, said what mattered most was that elected officials had finally committed to a sweeping overhaul of policing, even if they had yet to offer specifics for how such a dismantling would work.
“There needs to be change,” said Paola Lehman, a 23-year-old actor and educator in Minneapolis.
Though the City Council controls the police budget, the department answers to Mayor Jacob Frey, who can veto the council’s actions. Council members said they had enough votes to override a veto by Mr. Frey, who was booed out of a rally by hundreds of people on Saturday after he said he did not believe in abolishing the Police Department.
The pledge “signals a strong and clear direction about where this is going,” said Councilwoman Alondra Cano, the chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee.