Minneapolis agrees to disband police, to replace with community model

A sea of peaceful protesters are kept back by the Seattle Police Department on Capitol Hill early this month. (AP pic)

MINNEAPOLIS: Minneapolis leaders voted unanimously Friday to disband the US city’s police force and replace it with a “community” safety department, a reaction to transformational changes demanded in mass protests against racial injustice.

The plan comes three weeks after the death of African-American George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, a killing that sparked widespread calls for police reform.

The Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved a resolution instructing it to “commence a year-long process of community engagement, research, and structural change to create a transformative new model for cultivating safety in our city”.

“The murder of George Floyd… by Minneapolis police officers is a tragedy that shows that no amount of reforms will prevent lethal violence and abuse by some members of the Police Department against members of our community, especially Black people and people of colour,” the resolution added.

“Together, we will identify what safety looks like for everyone.”

The council will bring together stakeholders addressing the issues of violence prevention, civil rights, race equity, community relations and 911 emergency services.

The move comes days after the council, with a veto-proof majority, pledged to disband the police department and create a community-oriented replacement. Friday’s vote is the next step in formalising the move.

“As we respond to demands for immediate action to reduce police violence and support community safety, we will invite our community to help shape long-term transformative change, centring the voices of those most impacted by community violence and police violence,” City Council President Lisa Bender said.

Bender and other council members said they intend to put the police removal plan to Minneapolis voters in the Nov 3 election.

Some activists have described the broader effort as a movement to “defund the police”.

Others have bristled at the language, saying authorities should reform troubled police departments, not scrap them altogether.

Fourteen uniformed Minneapolis police officers signed an open letter Thursday condemning the actions of their former colleague and Floyd’s killer, Derek Chauvin.

“This is not who we are,” they wrote.