On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to approve $6.4 million in funding for its police department in order to recruit new officers. This comes after months of some members of the council denigrated the department after George Floyd’s death.
“The department says it only has 638 officers available to work — roughly 200 fewer than usual. An unprecedented number of officers quit or went on extended medical leave after Floyd’s death and the unrest that followed, which included the burning of a police precinct,” ABC News reported.
“An unprecedented number of officers quit or went on an extended medical leave — many for PTSD claims — after Floyd’s death, rioting that led to the burning of a police precinct, and calls to end the city’s Police Department,” the Star Tribune pointed out. “In the months since then, some residents have begged city leaders to hire additional officers, saying they’re waiting longer for responses to emergency calls amid a dramatic uptick in violent crime. Others have encouraged elected officials to dismantle the department, saying police haven’t proven effective at reducing crime.”
In June 2020, speaking with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota, the president of the Minneapolis City Council, which had stated it intended to “dismantle” the city’s police department, was asked what a citizen should do if an intruder broke into their house in the middle of the night and there were no police to call. In response, she suggested that the opportunity to call police “comes from a place of privilege,” adding that those citizens should “step back and imagine what it would feel like to already live in that reality where calling the police may mean more harm.”
“We have a state action against our police department, which gives us legal mechanisms in the very short term, you know, there is (sic) lessons from all over the country, all over the world that we’re looking to take immediate steps while we work toward building the systems that we would need to imagine that future,” Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender said to Camerota.
“Do you understand that the word ‘dismantle’ or ‘police-free’ make some people nervous?” Camerota asked. “For instance, what if in the middle of the night, my home is broken into? Who do I call?”
Bender answered, “Yes, I mean, I hear that loud and clear from a lot of my neighbors, and I know, and myself too, and I know that that comes from a place of privilege because for those of us for whom the system is working, I think we need to step back and imagine what it would feel like to already live in that reality where calling the police may mean more harm is done.”
Also in June, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo slammed the idea propounded by the city council to defund and dismantle the city’s police department, asserting, “As chief, I am obligated to [ensure] the public safety of our residents. I will not abandon that.”
That same month, reports surfaced that an increasing number of Minneapolis police officers had quit because of a lack of support from local Democratic political leaders.
“At least seven Minneapolis police officers have resigned from the department since widespread unrest began over the death of George Floyd last month, and more than half a dozen are in the process of leaving, according to department officials,” The Star Tribune reported. “Morale has sunk to new lows in recent weeks, say department insiders, as officers reported feeling misunderstood and squeezed by all sides: by the state probe; by protesters, who hurled bricks and epithets their way; by city leaders, who surrendered a police station that later burned on national television, and by the media. Numerous officers and protesters were injured the rioting.”
By July, Minneapolis residents started patrolling their own neighborhoods after violent crime across the city surged. The Daily Wire reported, “The patrols, some armed, are part of a largely grassroots efforts to protect neighborhoods, businesses, and residents from rioters and criminals. Some groups have constructed barriers at the entrance to their neighborhoods and control who can enter.”
In August, a Minneapolis commission prevented the Democrat-controlled Minneapolis City Council’s amendment to dismantle the city’s police department from appearing on the ballot in November. “The Charter Commission had expressed concern that the process to change the city’s charter was being rushed after Floyd died following an encounter with a Minneapolis police officer,” CBS News reported. “Some commissioners said they were more concerned with making the right changes rather than making them fast.”
City Council President Bender responded to the Minneapolis commission’s decision by complaining, “We’ve had an unprecedented outpouring of demand for change, demand for justice, unprecedented involvement from folks who are getting engaged in city government for the first time and I don’t want people to feel too discouraged. I’m disappointed and I share the disappointment that I’m sure people are feeling, but we have more ways to move forward as we continue to build this work.”
The same month, Minneapolis residents sued the city, demanding the Minneapolis City Council jettison its plan to defund and disband the Minneapolis Police Department. By September, a Minneapolis police inspector warned residents that police reinforcements “aren’t coming any time soon” to help residents plagued by an increase in crime.
In December 2020, council members created the Public Safety Staffing Reserve Fund; the fund was designed to hold roughly $11.4 million that the Police Department could access only if approved by the City Council.
Three members of the Minneapolis City Council, Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher, and Jeremy Schroeder, offered a charter amendment in late January 2021 that would establish a Department of Public Safety in Minneapolis, which would “oversee and lead a continuum of public safety efforts that prevent, intervene in, and reduce crime and violence to create safer communities for everyone in Minneapolis.”
CMs Fletcher, Schroeder, and I are introducing the Transforming Public Safety Charter Amendment, which would establish a new Dept of Public Safety similar to the State’s. It will be responsible for integrating various City of Mpls public safety functions. https://t.co/EAbU4P5ji2
— Phillipe Cunningham (@CunninghamMPLS) January 28, 2021