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Council members call to "disband" Minneapolis Police after Floyd's killing

Multiple city council members want to explore replacing MPD with a different public safety model, but the mayor does not support the idea.

MINNEAPOLIS — Multiple city council members, including Council President Lisa Bender, have signaled a willingness this week to explore disbanding or dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department after George Floyd’s killing, an idea the mayor does not support. 

Although council members have not unveiled an official policy proposal, Ward Three’s Steve Fletcher outlined the concept in an article published for Time on Friday by arguing that incremental reforms to policing have not worked. Therefore, Fletcher said, city lawmakers must consider a bolder “call to disband our police department and start fresh with a community-oriented, non-violent public safety and outreach capacity.”

Pointing to existing pilot programs for improved mental health calls and unarmed downtown street patrols, Fletcher laid out a new public safety model that would emphasize de-escalation and might not send an armed police officer to every single call. “We can send a city response that is appropriate to each situation and makes it better,” Fletcher wrote. “We can resolve confusion over a $20 grocery transaction without drawing a weapon or pulling out handcuffs.”

Council President Bender tweeted Fletcher’s Time article and said in a previous tweet that “we are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety.” Ward Five’s Jeremiah Ellison also supports the idea of dismantling MPD, saying on Thursday that public safety in Minneapolis must be re-imagined and that "a part of that imagining has to mean that we consider if policing is needed at all. And in what form, if so?” Ward 11’s Jeremy Schroeder has also tweeted about his commitment to “disinvesting” in MPD, in order to build a different system.

Mylan Masson, the retired director of the Law Enforcement Training Program, said she understands the need for community-based policing but called disbandment ideas “frightening.”

“What I would say is: Who’s going to do the job?” Masson said. “Who’s going to do traffic stops? Or don’t we want people to do traffic stops? Do we want drunk drivers? Do we want speeders out there? Who will do our investigations?”

Masson supports less drastic changes to policing. 

“There’s just a multitude of things, of other options that maybe we haven’t thought about yet. Do we have a civilian ride-along with us that’s trained properly? Do we make it easier for an officer to be terminated? Or maybe, every year, an officer has to go through a psychological evaluation,” Masson said. “So many things we haven’t done, or haven’t thought of yet, that we need to make sure we do before we just disband everything.”

At a virtual meeting on Friday, Steve Fletcher cautioned the public that the council would not rush any discussion about MPD disbandment without heavy community input. It is unclear, though, how exactly the concept would work and whether it could pass the full city council.

Mayor Frey would not sign off on such a plan, according to a statement sent to KARE 11 by his office. The mayor is "committed to working with community towards deep, structural reforms that address systemic racism in our laws and in policing," his spokesperson said. "The Mayor does not support abolishing the police department.” On Thursday, Frey echoed his calls for reform, placing particular blame on the police union contract and arbitration rules that he said leaves the city stymied and unable to adequately handle officer complaints. 

The Minneapolis Police Department has not responded specifically to calls for disbandment, but Chief Medaria Arradondo said in a statement that he’ll work to “improve public trust, public safety and transformational culture change of the MPD,” while promising “substantive policy changes.”

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