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Minneapolis city councilors: Residents are feeling 'terrorized,' say police 'nowhere to be seen'

Minneapolis city councilors told the city police chief Tuesday that their residents are feeling “terrorized” and say police are “nowhere to be seen” months after the police killing of George Floyd set off protests against police brutality.

The Minneapolis City Council called on Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo to address constituents’ reports of increased street racing, carjacking, robberies, assaults and shootings.

The meeting this week came months after the city council unanimously voted to amend the city’s charter to allow the city police department to be dismantled. The proposal, which would need to be voted on as a ballot measure, would replace the police department with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, “which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach.”

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During the two-hour meeting, several council members, including Council President Lisa Bender, said residents have complained that officers on the ground said they will not enforce laws or make arrests. 

Arradondo, who has served as chief since 2017, called the comments “troubling to hear” and promised to discuss the issue with the commanders and heads of the precincts.

“We need to make sure that our communities know that we are going to be there, that we’re going to be responsive,” the chief said. “We’ve taken an oath to do that.”

Council Member Jamal Osman said his constituents are asking, “Where are the police?” and informing him that calls to police are going unanswered. 

“That is the only public safety option they have at the moment. MPD. They rely on MPD. And they are saying they are nowhere to be seen,” Osman said.

The Minneapolis Police Department’s crime data shows a rise in assaults, robberies and homicides, as well as property crimes and arson, Minnesota Public Radio reported. More homicides have taken place in the city in the first nine months of 2020 than all of 2019.

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The police chief said the department was responding by adding more officers to patrol and investigations and attempting to suppress robberies. 

But council members told Arradondo that officers are saying they’re overworked and understaffed. The chief said about 100 officers have left the department this year, more than double the usual amount who step down or are inactive every year. 

Council member Phillipe Cunningham criticized his fellow city councilors during the meeting, accusing them of contradicting previous statements when they called for the department to be dismantled. 

“What I am sort of flabbergasted by right now is colleagues, who a very short time ago were calling for abolition, are now suggesting we should be putting more resources and funding into MPD,” Cunningham said.

The council began focusing on police reform after Floyd, a Black man, died after a police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter, and the three other officers present were charged with aiding and abetting.  

Floyd’s death sparked Black Lives Matter protests across the country and around the world.