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Council president Lisa Bender won’t seek re-election, has no regrets for pledge to dismantle MPD from what it is now

In her first TV interview since saying she won't seek re-election, Lisa Bender talks about her decision and stands by her pledge to re-imagine policing.

The Minneapolis city council made national and international news this summer when a majority of its members stood on a stage in a Minneapolis park and said it promised to begin the process of ending policing as we know it today in that city.

Since then every move of that council, when it comes to public safety, against the backdrop of a violent year, has been scrutinized.

And over the weekend, another turn - the council president, Lisa Bender, said she would not seek re-election next year.

Bender was one of the nine council members calling for an end to policing as we know it.

Wednesday, she spoke to Jana Shortal about her decision to leave the council next year, and her decision to stand on that stage back in June to make that pledge.

Bender said she decided earlier in 2020 that this term would be her last in the Minneapolis City Council.

“It just feels like the right time for me to move on to what's next for my life and my family and pass the torch to new leaders,” Bender said.

She says she briefly thought a change of heart was coming, in a year where she and other council members have pushed for major public safety changes, but in the end stayed with her decision.

She spoke about what she and other council members pledged to do last June – end policing in Minneapolis as it stands today.

“I 100% believe in that statement today,” Bender said.

When asked if the words defund or disband were the right ones to use she said, "The words are coming from our community members, not from elected officials so we have to help translate demands for change into concrete action that gets results for people,” Bender said.

She said she and the council didn't just make that pledge - they also had an action plan.

“We did adopt a resolution unanimously. Perhaps we should have put out [a] more public facing version of the official actions we took … So I hear there is confusion, but I also know that we made a specific proposal that included law enforcement,” Bender said.

She said that resolution included moving money from policing as we know it now, to ideas like using mental health professionals on calls that need it, or drug intervention specialists on overdose calls.

In a poll taken this summer by the Star Tribune, MPR and KARE 11 - 73% of respondents said they did favor shifting some police funding to social service programs.

“We also know that when people are asked do you support shifting money out of policing to alternative responses people say yes they want to send the right call for help, the right response for a call for help,” Bender said.

In that poll respondents also said defunding police as a whole did not have majority support.

As for the rest of the council - they are all up for re-election next year.

So many more things could change, in the fall of 2021.

As for her decision to announce now - she said it is to give time to whoever is thinking of running in her ward, to make a plan to do so.