Minneapolis poised to 'end policing as we know it' and disband police force

8 June 2020, 06:56

Police in Minneapolis have faced violent clashes and protests since the death
Police in Minneapolis have faced violent clashes and protests since the death. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The city of Minneapolis is on the verge of disbanding its police department amid the fallout from the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

A majority of city council members in the city have vowed to end policing as the city knows it and the state of Minnesota has launched a civil rights investigation after the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

Nine of the Minneapolis City Council's 12 members appeared with activists at a rally in a city park on Sunday afternoon and vowed to start the city's police force over again.

Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison promised that the council would "dismantle" the department.

"It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe," Lisa Bender, the council president, said. "Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period."

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Ms Bender said she and the eight other council members who joined the rally were committed to ending the city's relationship with the police force and "to end policing as we know it and recreate systems that actually keep us safe".

Mr Floyd, a handcuffed black man, died on May 25 after a white officer pressed his knee into his neck, ignoring his "I can't breathe" cries and holding his knee still even after Mr Floyd stopped moving. His death sparked protests - some violent, many peaceful - that have spread internationally.

Community activists have criticised the Minneapolis department for years for what they say is a racist and brutal culture that resists change.

The state of Minnesota launched a civil rights investigation of the department last week, and the first concrete changes came on Friday when the city agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints by police.

A more complete remaking of the city's police department is likely to unfold in coming months, with the push to defund or abolish the Minneapolis department far from assured as the civil rights investigation is conducted.

Disbanding an entire department has happened before. In 2012, with crime rampant in Camden, New Jersey, the city disbanded its police department and replaced it with a new force that covered Camden County.

Compton, California, took the same step in 2000, shifting its policing to Los Angeles County.

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