Story at a glance
- Several Minneapolis City Council members are walking back their support for the pledge to defund police, citing clarity issues.
- The measure will not appear on November ballots as an external charter commission struck it down.
In the aftermath of the May 25 police killing of George Floyd, the Minneapolis City Council pledged to defund its police department in June as Black Lives Matter protests demanded the reallocation of law enforcement funding.
Now, some city council members may want to walk back the decision.
The New York Times reports that several council members said that while they supported the pledge to overhaul the Minneapolis Police Department, some of the language is subjective and perplexed Minneapolis communities.
Council member Phillipe Cunningham reportedly said that the pledge itself was “up for interpretation,” and that following the pledge being made, the majority of council members “had interpreted that language differently.”
Council President Lisa Bender also said, “I think our pledge created confusion in the community and in our wards.”
This follows reports of Minneapolis residents lamenting the lack of police presence within their communities as a rash of crime reports in the city over the course of 2020.
Formally defunding the police department would require a proposal to make it onto a ballot as a measure in November. Last month, a charter commission voted 10-to-5 not to pass the charter amendment that would have removed the Minneapolis Police Department from the city’s purview and instead relegate public safety duties under a largely unstructured new department.
Public support, both in Minneapolis and nationally, for such initiatives that would cut or reform police departments also appear to have wavered. An August poll from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune found that a majority of residents, including 50 percent of Black people, opposed reducing the size of the police department, according to the Times.
A national poll also suggests public support for the Black Lives Matter movement and initiatives has fallen by about 12 percentage points since June.
The choice to not advance the city council’s proposal to restructure Minneapolis law enforcement called the charter commission into question. The charter commission is a group of appointed voters who specialize in evaluating city charter amendments before they go to the ballot for residents to vote upon.
The process has been criticized by activists, who say that the unelected members of the charter commission cannot represent community interests.
“A majority-white, unelected board of people can’t decide that they knew better than the community,” Miski Noor, an activist and organizer with the Black Visions Collective, told the Times.
Despite the city council’s proclamation to defund police in June, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D) has also publicly opposed the move, which initially called for a $200 million cut from the police department’s approximate $1.3 billion budget. A recent budget unveiled by Frey released on Sept. 23 features broad budget cuts, including a 7.4 percent reduction of the police department budgets.