If you’ve been tuned into the Minneapolis public safety scene, you know that for years, Reclaim the Block and other grassroots community groups have been asking the city to do one thing: stop investing in policing. Budget meeting after budget meeting, they’d turn out with their petitions and signs, demanding the city put less money into its police department and more money into programs that stop crimes from happening in the first place – affordable housing, addiction counseling, violence prevention programs.
The council’s been listening.
“I think we’ve had a vision for a while of wanting to see another kind of city response to those  calls,” says Council Member Steve Fletcher, whose Ward 3 covers parts of downtown.
Calls about mental health crises could be answered by mental health professionals. Calls about opioid abuse could be answered by addiction experts. Instead, both get cops, usually armed.
But it’s one thing to think that’s a good idea and another to get it done. The city has “struggled” to put any of these reforms in place in a substantial way, Fletcher says.
Then George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police.
Now the council members are listening to a city that is wounded, angry, fed up with decades of violence disproportionately visited upon black and brown residents. Various private and public bodies – from First Avenue to Minneapolis Public Schools – have essentially cut ties with the police department. Council members are trying to figure out what their next move is. Their discussion is starting to sound a little more like what groups like Reclaim the Block and the Black Visions Collective have been saying for years. On Tuesday, Fletcher published a lengthy Twitter thread saying the police department was “irredeemably beyond reform,” and a “protection racket” that slows down responses as political payback. “Several of us on the council are working on finding out what it would take to disband the Minneapolis Police Department and start fresh with a community-oriented, nonviolent public safety and outreach capacity,” he wrote.