Minneapolis has been rocked by violence since the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day night. Floyd was restrained by an officer who placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes. The victim, who allegedly tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill, would later die in an ambulance.
Floyd and other black people’s death while in police custody has given voice to a rallying cry to defund the police. The Minneapolis City Council announced that it had a veto-proof supermajority with nine (of a total of 13) members pledging that they will vote to defund the Minneapolis Police Department.
State and local governments spent $115 billion on policing in 2017. If Minneapolis defunds its department, it could be the first of many more as municipalities around the country. Nearly every community is now looking at the performance of its law enforcement and discussing legal options to make changes in resources.
The Minneapolis mayor has so far refused to endorse this idea, saying that he is “unwavering in his commitment to working with Chief (Medaria) Arradondo towards deep structural reforms and uprooting systemic racism.”
Californians also looking at the issue
Congresswoman Karen Bass, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told CNN that part of the movement is about how the governments spend the money.
“Now, I don’t believe that you should disband police departments,” she said. “But I do think that in cities, in states, we need to look at how we are spending the resources and invest more in our communities. Maybe this is an opportunity to re-envision public safety.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti has also weighed in on the issue, saying Los Angeles could trim as much as $150 million from a planned increase to the LAPD’s budget. Long resisting such calls, local law enforcement and union advocates are pushing back, claiming it will slow response time to 911 calls and make cities less safe.
Disbanding a police department happened here in Southern California when Compton did it in 2000, moving all its law enforcement needs to Los Angeles County. A crime-riddled Camden, New Jersey, did it in 2012 as well.
Many on both sides of the issue admit that the protests and examination of modern policing are different here in 2020. Changes in how municipalities fund law enforcement and other services are a given in most communities, but no one knows how it will look. It will also vary based on the needs and actions of the municipalities.