One of the leading critics of Minneapolis Police Department on the city council has described what disbanding the force and replacing it with an alternative system could look like.
Ward 3 member Steve Fletcher, who this past week accused city police of slowing its response time to his ward after he supported funding changes to the department, has written more on the growing calls for disbanding police in an op-ed for Time Magazine.
It comes amid growing calls for the dismantling of the MPD following the in-custody killing of George Floyd, fuel for which was added on Saturday by this Star Tribune article that described the city's 3rd Precinct as a "playground for renegade cops."
In his op-ed, Fletcher describes some of the measures that the council could now pursue as it shifts away from a traditional police force in favor of a "non-violent" alternative, which includes:
– County mental health professionals sent to mental health calls, not police officers.
– Using fire department EMTs to respond to opioid overdose calls.
– The use of "unarmed, community-oriented street teams" on weekend nights downtown "to focus on de-escalation."
– Traffic enforcement turned over to cameras and potentially parking enforcement teams.
– And while there was no specific reference made to plans for handling violent crime, Fletcher says the council would "invest in cultural competency and mental health training, de-escalation and conflict resolution."
"We can reimagine what public safety means, what skills we recruit for, and what tools we do and do not need," Fletcher writes.
"We can send a city response that that is appropriate to each situation and makes it better," he adds. "We can resolve confusion over a $20 grocery transaction without drawing a weapon or pulling out handcuffs."
On Saturday, a protest march attended by thousands calling for the defunding of police arrived outside the home of Mayor Jacob Frey, who made an appearance in response to ongoing chanting.
He was booed and told to leave the protest after he didn't commit to defunding the police department, although he did agree that sweeping changes were needed.
Video of him leaving the protest have now been viewed millions of times.
In his op-ed, Fletcher notes that efforts to reform the police have been stymied, reserving praise for current chief Medaria Arradondo for swiftly firing officers for misconduct, only for the decisions to later be overturned by arbitrators.
Similarly, efforts by Frey and the city council to implement "even minor policy changes" have met resistance from the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, whose controversial leader Bob Kroll has been under pressure to stand down since the death of Floyd.
Fletcher also criticized the police response to the Floyd protests, saying: "Minneapolis Police had an opportunity to distance themselves from [murder accused ex-officer] Derek Chauvin, to express sympathy, to be a calming presence," he wrote.
"Instead, they deployed tear gas and rubber bullets, effectively escalating the situation from protest to pitched conflict."