MINNEAPOLIS council has voted unanimously to advance a proposal to replace its police force with a community safety department.
The decision comes in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police officers, which has sparked protests across the world, and galvanized calls to defund the police.
The City Council voted 12-0 to approve a proposal to change the city charter to allow the police department to be dismantled.
It is the first step in a long bureaucratic process, which would see the proposal on the November ballot, where the city's residents would have the final say.
The amendment will now be passed onto a policy committee, and from there to the city’s Charter Commission for a formal review, at which point citizens and city officials can also weigh in.
“I hope that the Charter Commission will recognize the moment that we are in and take our offer of support, however we can provide it, to expedite this process so that voters have a chance to have their voices heard on this important question and this important moment in our city’s history,” Council President Lisa Bender said.
The amendment would replace the department 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 director of the new agency would have “non-law-enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches.”
It also provides for a division of licensed peace officers who would answer to the department’s director.
Protesters across the United States have been gathering to demand police reformation after 47-year-old George Floyd, an African American man, died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.
Since then, all four officers involved in the incident have been charged with second-degree murder.
Minneapolis has been leading the way with its proposal, however, the suggested policy change has already come under criticism from all sides.
The Minneapolis Police and Peace Officers Association, which represents more than 10,000 law enforcement officers, called the vote a “haphazard effort to dismantle the police department” that will create “an unsafe environment” without sufficient resources to prevent crime.
An activist group, the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar, said the amendment lacks teeth.
The coalition wants to put the police department under community control via a new elected civilian council with the power to hire, fire and prosecute officers, AP reported.
Miski Noor, an organizer with Black Visions, criticized introducing licensed peace officers at all.
She told the newswire the move “would give current and former police way too much power to shape public safety in Minneapolis".
For the proposal to be included in the November ballot, it has to be finalized by August 31.
Mayor Jacob Frey has also expressed his criticism, and said he does not support abolishing the police – which led to crowds booing him off the street.
Other US communities have proved that a different form of policing can work.
In Camden, New Jersey, a city known for its high murder rates, crime dropped by nearly a third after officials overhauled the police department.
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