As massive, ongoing demonstrations against police brutality swept much of the U.S. this weekend, Minneapolis and several other cities pledged to make some of the meaningful reforms that protesters have been demanding.
Many of the changes — including potentially deep budget cuts at some of the nation’s largest police forces — would’ve been unthinkable just two weeks ago, when an ex-Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck during a fatal arrest that stoked outrage and grieving nationwide.
For one, Minneapolis’ City Council announced Sunday that it had secured a veto-proof majority to begin the process of defunding and disbanding its police department, putting a whole different structure in its place.
Minneapolis City Council member Jeremiah Ellison told a local NBC affiliate that city officials were still determining what exactly that unraveling might look like, and what kind of agency would replace the police department in turn. For his part, Mayor Jacob Frey said he disapproves of getting rid of the police. When he expressed as much to the protesters blanketing his city on Saturday, demonstrators booed him away and chanted, “Go home, Jacob.”
At least one other city has disbanded their police force before, with some success.
Minneapolis officials also agreed Friday to ban police chokeholds and neck restraints in the wake of Floyd’s death. Denver police said Sunday they’d do the same thing, while also requiring officers to report any time they point a gun at a person.
Other large municipalities across the country announced a slew of changes, too, responding to the grieving protesters chanting for change in their streets. And on the national level, Congressional Democrats are set to unveil serious reform proposals Monday, including initiatives that would create a registry of police misconduct and make it easier to sue cops.
But the Congressional plans so far fail to include one massive demand of protesters: defunding the police, and favoring investments in health, education, and economic justice instead. For now, that charge is left to individual cities. Some officials have expressed that they’re willing to come to the table.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said last week that he’d consider up to $150 million in cuts across his city’s police department, as part of a stunning citywide initiative to spend $250 million on economic and health directives in communities of color. The city’s police union said in a statement that the mayor “apparently lost his damn mind,” according to KNBC. Some advocates said they’d like to see the budget cuts be deeper.
“I got calls from mayors around the country, some of them saying, ‘I’m so excited,’ and other ones saying: ‘What the hell did you do? Now I gotta shift money,’” Garcetti said Thursday, speaking at the local First African Methodist Episcopal Church, according to the Los Angeles Times. “That’s exactly the point. It starts someplace, and we say we are going to be who we want to be, or we’re going to continue being the killers that we are.”
"We say we are going to be who we want to be, or we’re going to continue being the killers that we are.”
In New York City — home to the nation’s largest municipal police department, with 36,000 officers and a $6 billion budget — Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced Sunday that officials were working to redirect some funding from cops to youth and social services, while also moving certain street vendor enforcement measures to a civilian agency. It’s unclear how much funding will be cut from the police budget; the mayor’s office is still working with New York’s City Council on the details.
“We’re committed to seeing a shift of funding to youth services, to social services, that will happen literally in the course of the next three weeks,” de Blasio said Sunday. “I’m not going to go into detail because it is subject to negotiation and we want to figure out what makes sense.”
Cover: Alondra Cano, a City Council member, speaks during "The Path Forward" meeting at Powderhorn Park on Sunday, June 7, 2020, in Minneapolis. The focus of the meeting was the defunding of the Minneapolis Police Department. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)