Defund the police? How it looks like in Minneapolis

Leo Bessler

After the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police department, widespread anti-police brutality protests have swept across the nation.

One of the dominant messages championed by activists was that of defunding the police. Minneapolis’ progressive city council listened and moved swiftly, passing a veto proof ballot initiative that would let voters decide on the November ballot whether to replace police with “licensed peace officers, subject to the supervision of the department of community safety and violence prevention,” according to the proposed ordinance.

Activists have constantly noted the reallocation of police funds will result in worsening safety before safety improves. But why have homicides risen nearly 95% and traffic stops have dropped 85% if no defunding has occurred?

“Nearly 200 officers have applied to leave the Minneapolis Police Department because of what they describe as post-traumatic stress,” said Ronald F. Meuser Jr., a lawyer representing the officers. Department morale in Minneapolis is at an all time low and all the while facing significant staff shortages. “Cops are relatively reserved right now. They’re answering their calls but they’re not going that extra mile,” said Minneapolis Officer Rich Walker Sr.

This reluctance to take initiative has taken quite a toll on the city. Recently, a principal of a Minneapolis Public school, Mauri Friestleben, articulated that frustration in the form of a viral video that reached thousands of people worldwide. “It feels out of control, it feels like when I walk into a classroom where the teacher has given up.”

Principal Friestleben goes on to voice her anger about police reform in the wake of a shooting death of a student of hers. “You overhear law enforcement in our city right now and they feel like, well the city council doesn’t want us,  or well, the people don’t want us. Which people? WHO?! Which people is it?! Show me where they’re at. Okay, so are you talking about the few? Some who don’t even live here?”

On the other hand, those advocating for reform, groups like MDP150 have chronicled the creation of police as a colossal failure.

“And it’s bigger than just police brutality. It’s about how the prison industrial complex, the drug war, immigration law, and the web of policy, law, and culture that forms our criminal justice system has destroyed millions of lives, and torn apart families. Cops don’t prevent crime; they cause it, through the ongoing, violent disruption of our communities.”

Either way, it will be interesting to see the positions voters take to their ballots next November.