Minneapolis City Council members voted unanimously to amend the city’s charter Friday to remove the mandate for a police department— the first step toward disbanding it in the wake of George Floyd‘s death.
The amendment proposes the city replace the police department with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, “which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach,” a draft of the amendment said.
The proposal adds that the director of the new agency would have “non-law-enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches.” It also suggests setting up a division of licensed peace officers, who would answer to the department’s director.
Although the amendment received a 12-0 vote from council members, it faces an uphill battle as it makes its way past a policy committee and to the city’s Charter Commission for a formal review, at which point citizens and city officials can also weigh in.
If successful, the amendment will be put on the November ballot for a vote in the general election.
The pressure to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department mounted after the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody on May 25 after an officer kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes.
However, the city’s mayor, Jacob Frey, has resisted collapsing the department entirely, saying that the proposal to do so shows a “significant lack of clarity.”
“If I’m seeing a lack of clarity, so are our constituents,” said Frey, who is a Democrat and who has said he supports deep structural change in the existing department.
Barry Clegg, chairman of the Charter Commission, has said the process to implement change so quickly after Floyd’s death may not be the best step forward.
“As I understand it, they are saying, ‘We are going to have this new department. We don’t know what it’s going to look like yet. We won’t implement this for a year, we’ll figure it out,’” Clegg said. “For myself anyway, I would prefer that we figured it out first, and then voted on it.”