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Minneapolis City Council Taking First Steps to 'Dismantle' Police Department

"We are going to dramatically rethink how we approach public safety and emergency response," said council member Jeremiah Ellison. "It's really past due."

Protesters gather outside the 1st Precinct Police Department on July 17, 2017 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to protest the acquittal of Officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting death of Philando Castile, who was killed four years before George Floyd. Floyd's killing by a Minneapolis officer was the catalyst for a nationwide uprising over racial injustice and police brutality, and led the Minneapolis City Council to consider "dismantling" the police department in its current state. (Photo: Stephen Maturen/AFP via Getty Images)

Aiming to "dismantle" the Minneapolis Police Department, city councilors on Friday will vote on imposing a temporary restraining order for the city's police department in response to the killing of George Floyd last month, and plan to set a timeline for the state's investigation into racial discrimination by the police over the past decade.

The restraining order would be the first step in replacing the department with "with a transformative new model of public safety," said City Council President Lisa Bender on Thursday.

"We are going to dramatically rethink how we approach public safety and emergency response," added City Council member Jeremiah Ellison. 

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights worked with elected officials this week to develop the order, which, if passed, would allow the city to make "immediate changes to the police department that may include increased accountability and shifts in use of force policies," according to the Huffington Post.

Bender told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that the state's investigation could result in "Minneapolis police eventually entering a receivership that restructures the department."

A restructuring could include redirecting funding to community-based safety programs and create a "public safety department" to replace the traditional police department. Bender told the Star-Tribune that social workers and medical professionals may begin responding to many calls now handled by armed police officers. 

After council members vote at a public meeting Friday, a judge would need to approve the restraining order at a hearing expected to take place next week.

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The order, along with a civil rights charge filed by the state human rights department this week, comes amid a nationwide uprising over Floyd's killing by now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and three other officers who failed to intervene in Chauvin's attack.

The Minneapolis school board also acted swiftly to respond to Floyd's killing, voting unanimously on Tuesday to terminate a $1.1 million yearly contract with the police, under which schools employed armed "school resource officers."

Significantly remaking a city police department is not unprecedented. Camden, New Jersey disbanded its police force in 2012 and remade the department by implementing far-reaching reforms, adopting an extensive use-of-force policy which emphasizes deescalation. The city has seen a steep decline in crime since 2012.

"This can be done," tweeted Adam Forman, a policy officer for the city of New York.

Bender emphasized that "comfortable white people" in Minneapolis must fully commit to remaking its police department as a means of securing racial justice in the city.

 "Are you willing to dismantle white supremacy in all systems, including a new system?" Bender asked residents on Twitter. 

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