Minneapolis, Minnesota’s plan to defund and then disband their local police force has “collapsed” according to a New York Times report from over the weekend. Some of the Minneapolis City Council members who pledged to abolish the city’s law enforcement — including the City Council president — now say they regret making that promise.
The Times headline blares that the “pledge to dismantle the police department has collapsed,” and notes that “a majority of City Council members promised to ‘end policing as we know it’” after George Floyd died while in the custody of the Minneapolis police department. Instead, though “they became a case study in how idealistic calls for structural change can falter.”
Back in June, the Minneapolis City Council was clear that the Minneapolis Police Department was on borrowed time. The City Council president, Lisa Bender — a self-described progressive — told residents that she had a vision of a”transformative new model of public safety” and now-famously added that anyone worried that a lack of law enforcement would result in a spike in crime was speaking from a place of “privilege.”
At the time, Bender even challenged her fellow councilmembers to stick with the plan to dismantle the MPD, lest they be complicit in “white supremacy.”
“If you are a comfortable white person asking to dismantle the police I invite you to reflect: are you willing to stick with it? Will you be calling in three months to ask about garage break-ins? Are you willing to dismantle white supremacy in all systems, including a new system?” she mused.
She got the timeline nearly right — for herself. Bender is now among those who say abolishing the police is not the right approach.
“Councilor Andrew Johnson, one of the nine members who supported the pledge in June, said in an interview that he meant the words ‘in spirit,’ not by the letter,” according to the NY Times. “Another councilor, Phillipe Cunningham, said that the language in the pledge was “up for interpretation” and that even among council members soon after the promise was made, ‘it was very clear that most of us had interpreted that language differently.”
“Lisa Bender, the council president, paused for 16 seconds when asked if the council’s statement had led to uncertainty at a pivotal moment for the city,” the NY Times adds. “’I think our pledge created confusion in the community and in our wards,’ she said.”
Over the last month, Minneapolis officials have moved to “formalize a retreat that has quietly played out in Minneapolis in the months since George Floyd was killed by the police and the ensuing national uproar over the treatment of Black Americans by law enforcement and the country at large. After a summer that challenged society’s commitment to racial equality and raised the prospect of sweeping political change, a cool autumn reality is settling in,” the NY Times reports.
“National polls show decreasing support for Black Lives Matter since a sea change of goodwill in June. In Minneapolis, the most far-reaching policy efforts meant to address police violence have all but collapsed,” the outlet adds.
That’s partly because Minneapolis has experienced an unprecedented spike in violent crime, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and partly because the City Council had no plans beyond defunding and dismantling the police department — something the city’s charter explicitly disallows.