Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar Supports Minneapolis City Council Disbanding Police Department

A Minneapolis police station burns during the riots. Photo by Hunrgyogrephotos flickr

The Minneapolis city council is seriously floating a proposal to abolish their police department in the wake of the George Floyd killing and the subsequent protests and riots. Many city councilors have openly supported the idea.

Democrat Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is voicing her support as well.

This brave and stunning proposal is championed by three sitting Minneapolis city councilors; Jeremiah Ellison (Keith Ellison’s son), Lisa Bender, and Stephen Fletcher.

Time magazine even published an op-ed from Fletcher:

When I ran for the Minneapolis City Council in 2017, I knew that the Police Department had a decades-long history of violence and discrimination. I ran on a platform of police reform informed by my experience seeing police persistently harass young black canvassers that I worked with as a community organizer, and by the police shooting of Jamar Clark in 2015, which prompted weeks of protest outside the fourth precinct. In 2017, the police shooting of Justine Damond further cemented accountability as a central theme of that campaign year.

The weight of that history was especially heavy when we learned of George Floyd’s murder. The accumulated grief and anger from years of police violence was brought to the surface, and thousands of people abandoned social distancing to take to the streets and demand justice. Minneapolis Police had an opportunity to distance themselves from Derek Chauvin, to express sympathy, to be a calming presence. Instead, they deployed tear gas and rubber bullets, effectively escalating the situation from protest to pitched conflict. By the next day, it was clear that people on Lake Street were rallying for much more than the prosecution of four officers. They were demonstrating their anger at decades of harassment and racialized violence and calling for it to end.

The lack of change hasn’t been for lack of trying. Most of us who are currently in office in Minneapolis ran on a platform that included police reform and accountability. Many elected leaders before us have tried and failed to achieve meaningful progress on those fronts, and for the first two years of our current term, so have we. To varying degrees, we’ve all imagined that reform was possible.

There is another reason reform can be daunting, even scary. My reform advocacy, incremental though it has been, has prompted intense political attacks from police and their allies, who up to now have been confident that their support for police expansion was a mainstream point of view. And they do not limit their attacks to politics. Politicians who oppose the department’s wishes find slowdowns in their wards. After we cut money from the proposed police budget, I heard from constituents whose 9-1-1 calls took forever to get a response, and I heard about officers telling business owners to call their councilman about why it took so long. Since I’ve started talking publicly about this, elected officials from several cities and towns around the country have contacted me to tell me I am not alone in this experience.

Every member of the Minneapolis City Council has now expressed the need for dramatic structural change. I am one of many on the Council, including the Council President and the Chair of Public Safety, who are publicly supporting the call to disband our police department and start fresh with a community-oriented, non-violent public safety and outreach capacity. What I hear from most of my constituents is that they want to make sure we provide for public safety, and they have learned their whole lives to equate “safety” with “police,” but are now concluding that need not be the case.

Our city needs a public safety capacity that doesn’t fear our residents. That doesn’t need a gun at a community meeting. That considers itself part of our community. That doesn’t resort quickly to pepper spray when people are understandably angry. That doesn’t murder black people.

We can reimagine what public safety means, what skills we recruit for, and what tools we do and do not need. We can play a role in combating the systems of white supremacy in public safety that the death of black and brown lives has laid bare. We can invest in cultural competency and mental health training, de-escalation and conflict resolution. We can send a city response that that is appropriate to each situation and makes it better. We can resolve confusion over a $20 grocery transaction without drawing a weapon or pulling out handcuffs.

But without the police, who’s going to protect the rioters from an irate public, and, perhaps more ironic, who’s going to protect the politicians from the irate protesters?

Minneapolis ABC affiliate KSTP adds:

Thursday, the Minneapolis City Council said they are holding a special emergency meeting to approve court order outlining changes for the Minneapolis Police Department and framework for systemic change.

Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero and the Minneapolis Civil Rights Director Velma Korbel will brief the City Council Friday on the next steps for the state investigation into the MPD. The City Council will also vote on a court order, stipulating changes for the department and a framework for systemic change as part of the state’s longer-term investigation, according to a news release.

Two Minneapolis City Council members have tweeted this week that they’re looking to make serious changes to, or possibly eliminate, the Minneapolis Police Department after George Floyd’s death last week.

It’s unclear exactly what the council members plan to do and if there is any similar support from other city council members.

While the city council met today, they did not pass a resolution to break up the police department. They did, however, give some lip service to the mob by banning chokeholds and requiring any officer to make a report if they witnesses another one using unnecessary force.


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