Criminal Justice

Amid cries of 'defund the police,' Minneapolis city council majority pledges dismantling

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As protesters across the nation have chanted “defund the police,” the Minneapolis city council plans to take action.

A veto-proof council majority said Sunday it would be dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department and redefine the city’s system of public safety, report the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The council members’ pledge is at odds with the views of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who told protesters that he does “not support the full abolition of the police department.”

“People continue to require service in many forms from our public safety offices, whether in times of domestic violence, or assistance in some of the most dire conditions,” Frey said.

Another voice in opposition is U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who told CBS News on Sunday that he doesn’t think law enforcement is systemically racist, the New York Times reports. A transcript of the interview with Face the Nation is here.

Barr also said he doesn’t think immunity has to be repealed for police officers “because that would result certainly in police pulling back.”

The doctrine of qualified immunity allows police to escape civil liability for violating a person’s rights under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act when those rights are not “clearly established.”

The Minneapolis council members said in a statement that decades of police reform efforts have proved that the Minneapolis Police Department can’t be reformed. The members pledged to create “a new, transformative model for cultivating safety in Minneapolis.” They did not present a plan for how they would accomplish their aim, however.

Frey and the city council agreed on the need to ban choke holds, however. They reached a tentative agreement with the department Friday to ban the practice and strengthen the requirement for officers to intervene when inappropriate force is used. The agreement requires court approval.

Frey has also said he supports changes in the police union contract and in the arbitration process that allows discipline decisions to be overturned.

Defunding the police has long been an idea suggested by activists and academics, according to the Washington Post. Now, officials “from Washington to Los Angeles” are considering ways to scale back their police departments, the article reports.

According to the New York Times, demands to defund or abolish police departments “are often not meant literally. Rather, they are demands to rethink a law enforcement system from the ground up and to grapple with deeply ingrained issues.”

Some have called for the end of no-knock search warrants, which led the boyfriend of Breonna Taylor to fire at police in Louisville, Kentucky, who entered their home while in search of other people, according to the Washington Post. Police returned fire and killed Taylor.

Some have also called for ending the use of military gear by police departments and responding to mental health emergencies with social workers rather than police. Many want to reduce funding and spend more money on social services.

House Democrats are also proposing reforms in legislation called the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, report the New York Times, the Washington Post and NPR. The bill was set to be unveiled Monday. The bill:

• Changes qualified immunity to make it easier to sue police for civil rights violations.

• Makes it easier to obtain criminal penalties for police misconduct.

• Bans choke holds and no-knock warrants by police in federal drug cases.

• Requires state and local police to implement anti-discrimination policies to receive federal funding.

• Requires the U.S. attorney general to collect data on racial profiling.

• Allows victims of racial profiling to sue under a new cause of action.

• Limits the transfer of military gear to state and local police.

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