These days, we find ourselves writing stories that would have been unthinkable just weeks ago. Yesterday we published a groundbreaking story out of Los Angeles where Mayor Eric Garcetti recently announced that he was defunding the police department. By defunding the police, what is really meant is that a portion of LAPD’s $1.8 billion budget will be allocated to minority communities, with an expected $150 million to be taken out of the police budget.
In another major sign that elected officials are getting the message from protesters, the city council of Minneapolis has pledged to disband the city’s police department and replace it with a new system of public safety. Speaking at a community rally on Sunday, a veto-proof majority of council members declared their intent to “dismantle” and “abolish” the embattled police agency responsible for George Floyd’s death – and build an alternative model of community-led safety.
It would have been almost unthinkable for any major US city to disband its police department just a few weeks ago, before the harrowing death of Floyd. Minneapolis is yet to provide any details of what a new law enforcement system may look like, and there will still be a police department in the short term. However, city council president Lisa Bender says that most 911 calls are related to medical emergencies and mental health problems, which will be prioritized in funding.
In practice, this will probably involve diverting police funding to treatment services such as mental health counselors and drug-addiction experts. While a smaller police force may remain, it won’t be the default body interacting with the community at the time of crisis.
We cannot know yet whether this historic move will lead to a more peaceful governing of citizens, but what we do know is that our current method of policing isn’t working and change is badly needed.