Dismantle the police, the controversial proposal that may soon be implemented in Minneapolis

May 2020, a police team arrests a black man on a street in Minneapolis after a grocer called after reporting a payment with counterfeit bills. Thrown to the ground, Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck, George Floyd very quickly found himself in respiratory distress and alerted to his condition without causing any reaction from the men in blue around him. After long minutes of pleading and agony, he uses his last breath to tell his executioner, Derek Chauvin, that he is going to die.

The images of this murderous arrest, filmed by passers-by, quickly go viral and shock the world. Far from being the first scandal involving the American police, Chauvin’s cruelty and Floyd’s long suffering spark an unprecedented wave of anger and indignation in the United States. Very quickly, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of major cities across the country to express their anger at the behavior and practices of the police, and to denounce the systemic racism affecting the institution. The Black Lives Matter movement, which appeared in 2013, is back on the scene and takes the reins of protest. In the midst of an election campaign, President Donald Trump is fueling the fire while Joe Biden promises he will try to change things if he comes to power.

On the side of the most radical activists and elected officials, a demand emerges: the definition of the police –«Defund the Police»– which would consist in reducing the funds of the local police forces to invest them elsewhere or to completely dismantle the services. A little over a year after its emergence, this proposal will be the subject of a vote in Minneapolis on November 2. Voters will decide whether or not to pass an amendment to the city’s charter that would limit the size, scope and influence of its police service. This vote raises several questions.

What will happen if the amendment is adopted?

The Minneapolis Police Department will be replaced by a Public Safety Department responsible for integrate its security functions into a more comprehensive public health approach.

The minimum number of agents per inhabitant required by the city will disappear, some of them will be replaced by social workers, mental health experts or crisis managers. Part of the funds allocated to the police service may be reallocated to other municipal services.

Finally, this new entity will be subject to more democratic control since it will be accountable to the municipal council and not only to the mayor, the former being more representative of the diversity of the population than the latter. If the “yes” is in the majority, the modification of the city’s charter will take effect thirty days after the poll.

What do the African-American residents of Minneapolis think?

The dismantling of the police department is a very sensitive subject and the vote promises to be close. A recent opinion poll of the local newspaper Star Tribune indicates a certain reluctance within the black community towards the project proposed by the municipality (42% for / 49% against) and a total opposition to the reduction of the police force (14% for / 75% against). This can be explained in particular by the growing importance of security-related themes for residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods in Minneapolis.

In fact, in the State of Minnesota as in the rest of the country, crime is increasing and even reached records in 2020. Ea Porter, a resident of the northern neighborhoods, intends to vote against: “I think black voters are more likely to feel the effects of the lack of police services. […] Do not experience this on us, for we are the ones who are going to be the hardest hit first. ” Don Samuels, very committed against this reform, also lives in the north of the city and shares the same concerns as Porter: “Black neighborhoods and poor communities will pay the price.”

There is, however, one element that is unanimous among residents of Minneapolis, whatever their skin color: the negative image of the police. A very large majority agree that things are not going well and that profound changes must take place. “We no longer want just muscular white men intervening, with a brutal demeanor, and slaughtering black youth in the streets one after another. […] We need cops who value black lives and serve the community with dignity and respect ”, expose Samuels.

A highly scrutinized ballot

Although this is a local consultation, it is almost national in character. Many other cities, with a Democratic majority, have put forward the idea of ​​dismantling their police force after the death of George Floyd. For the time being, none have gone to the end of the process and many even backtracked by strengthening budgets to cope with the increase in crime, which particularly affects large metropolitan areas.

Also, this type of proposal divides even within the Democratic Party, even the left wing. Difficult for the moment to predict the outcome but in case of failure, it will probably sign the end of the movement Defund the Police.

Conversely, if the “yes” wins, political parties, media and activists will closely follow this experiment. But one problem, which no one is talking about yet, could emerge as a result of the consultation: What if the ballot result does not match the vote of the majority of African-American residents of Minneapolis?

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