Yesterday was a significant day in Minneapolis history. But it might not have been quite as significant as the world beyond Minneapolis thinks.
As you’ve heard reported, nine Minneapolis City Council members met in Powderhorn Park yesterday and pledged to “begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department.”
That’s a bold statement, and it acknowledges that years of police reform have failed to restrain the MPD’s brutality and reliance on extreme force, manifested most recently in the killing of George Floyd and the violent response to the protests that arose in its wake.
What didn’t the Minneapolis City Council do? Well, they didn’t vote to disband the police department, as a widely shared Forbes story flatly misstates. Cop cars were not transformed into flower planters overnight. Police horses were not set free to roam the prairie.
Minneapolis did not wake up this morning to either the peacenik utopia or the Death Wish hellscape that social media users of various ideological stripes imagined.
Council Member Phillipe Cunningham clarified the members’ statement in a Twitter thread this morning:
Clarification: We did not vote to disband the police yesterday. A super majority of the City Council formally announced support for beginning the process of doing so to build new systems of public safety. That distinction matters bc a plan has to be put into place first. 1/— Phillipe Cunningham (@CunninghamMPLS) June 8, 2020
As the nine council members stated yesterday, “We’re committed to engaging with every willing community member in the City of Minneapolis over the next year to identify what safety looks like for you.” And without a concrete proposal yet on the table for “dismantling” the MPD (to use the verb favored by several council members) competing voices have already surged into the vacuum.
The most conservative suggestions are modeled on the steps taken by Camden, N.J., which disbanded its city-based police force and reorganized as “the Camden County Police Department” in 2013 with “a strategic shift toward ‘community-policing.’” It’s hard to imagine that kind of humane rebranding satisfying hardline police abolitionists. Meanwhile, groups like MP150 have drawn up suggestions for “a police-free future” that we’ll certainly be hearing a lot more of in upcoming weeks.
Whatever happens next will follow a long, deliberative, contentious process. Activists will call out liberal accommodation. Exurban onlookers will fret about lawlessness. Concern trolling and bad faith will be plentiful. The council members who didn’t participate in yesterday’s event will have something to add, as will community organizations like Reclaim the Block and Black Visions Collective, both instrumental in organizing Sunday's park gathering.
So will downtown business owners. There will be (sigh) more than one Star Tribune editorial.
So what does it all mean? The four words no journalist likes to type: We don’t know yet.