The Minneapolis City Council is trying again to defund the Minneapolis Police Department, after an initial effort to eliminate the city’s existing law enforcement apparatus and replace it with a “community-oriented” solution failed.
Minneapolis’ CBS affiliate reports that three members of the Minneapolis City Council, all of whom supported a drastic plan to defund and disband the city’s police department following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, are offering a “follow-up” solution that involves slashing the police budget and drastically cutting the number of MPD officers.
“Minneapolis City Council Member Phillipe Cunningham saw the mass protests following George Floyd’s death in late May as an imperative for something new,” the outlet reported Tuesday. “He and council colleagues Lisa Bender and Steve Fletcher have co-written a budget plan that proposes moving about $8 million out of the police department. For context, the current budget allocated nearly $200 million to MPD.”
Bender is the force behind the City Council’s initial effort to defund and disband the police and famously told interviewers, over the summer, that fears about a rising crime rate were evidence of “privilege.”
Speaking to CNN, Bender said that concerns about midnight break-ins came “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.” Bender also accused fellow City Council members who did not support a plan to defund the police of being “complicit” in “white supremacy.”
The new plan would see a “community-oriented” force of social workers respond to around 15% of emergency calls.
“Part of the $8 million would go toward creating unarmed response teams for non-emergencies,” CBS 4 reports. “Cunningham says without MPD having to deal with theft reports or parking problems, officers would be freed up to investigate violent crime.”
The plan limits the number of officers on the force to 770. Instead of including an option to add officers if crime increases or a need arises, the plan’s authors consider 770 a starting point, with further cuts possible.
This is the second time this year that the Minneapolis City Council has tried to eliminate the city’s police force. An earlier effort collapsed back in September after the city’s Charter Commission rebuffed the City Council’s efforts, noting that Minneapolis’ city charter requires a police force. The city’s minority councilmembers also objected to the plan, noting that city government aggression toward the police coincided directly with a major spike in crime.
At the time, some City Council members, including Bender, expressed regret over supporting the effort to “defund the police.”
“Lisa Bender, the council president, paused for 16 seconds when asked if the council’s statement had led to uncertainty at a pivotal moment for the city,” The New York Times reported in September. “’I think our pledge created confusion in the community and in our wards,’ she said.”
Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey, who initially backed a plan to defund the Minneapolis Police Department, has not yet committed to the Council’s plan.
“The mayor would have significant concerns if his council colleagues attempted to make such large, permanent cuts without sound data or community input to support such a decision,” a spokesperson told local media.