After the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis policeman, we all wanted answers — but more importantly, we wanted action.
There was unanimity that something needed to be done, and that something began with Derek Chauvin — the officer whose knee was on Floyd’s neck for over eight sickening minutes — being charged with murder. There was also the matter of the policemen who stood by and did nothing.
For some, the idea of wider, more sweeping changes to the system of law enforcement were in order. This continued on a continuum that got progressively more, well, progressive, until you get to Lisa Bender and the rest of the Minneapolis City Council.
Bender, a Democrat, is the president of that august body (all Democrats but for one Green Party member, as National Review’s Kevin Williamson has noted). And the council members have a plan to deal with what they see as problematic policing in Minnesota’s largest city: Do away with that whole policing thing.
Yes. We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety. https://t.co/FCfjoPy64k
— Lisa Bender (@lisabendermpls) June 4, 2020
“Yes. We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety,” Bender wrote in a Twitter post on Thursday.
She was responding to a post from another council member, Jeremiah Ellison. The son of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, Jeremiah Ellison also says the Minneapolis Police Department should be disbanded — although it’s a bit easier to discount him when you consider this is a guy who pledged his support to antifa because Donald Trump didn’t like them. Solid reasoning, that.
But a crank like that can get elected to city council in pretty much any big city of America, since just because this is the land of opportunity doesn’t mean that all who’ll take advantage of that fact actually intend to do something worthwhile with it. Nor is the oddness of the affair that the Minneapolis City Council president seems to be taken with a similar case of crankitude, either.
Rather, it’s the fact that nine members of the 13-member council believe it’s a splendid idea to disband the police department “and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety,” whatever that sinister-sounding prattle means.
On Sunday, the nine members used a stage at a political rally to announce the move to get rid of the police would begin, according to CBS News, though details are still sorely lacking.
The Washington Post reported that the council “did not offer a timeline or specific actions they plan to take” (now there’s a shocker) but confirmed the members were “taking intermediate steps toward ending” the current police department. No evidence was offered that the department was so irredeemably violent and racist that it needed to be disbanded, but the idea was popular so, hey, go with it.
Disbanding the Minneapolis Police Department as a response to Floyd’s death had been floated by plenty of activists and other leftist personages in Minneapolis — most notably Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar — but it’s a bit different when the city council is actually going along with it.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, usually good for a soundbite in which he’d engage in tweedy, progressive fulmination or make some wild claim about how a sizable chunk of the more violent protesters were actually agents provocateur from out of town, is actually turning out to be the voice of reason in all of this — either because he realizes eliminating the police department would be stupid or because he just now realizes he’s chosen to ride a tiger that’s very hungry and he doesn’t dare dismount.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Frey said last week that he believes in “working with the community towards deep, structural reforms that address systemic racism in our laws and in policing.” However, his spokesman says he “does not support abolishing the police department.”
It looks like we can prepare for a showdown, which raises the question: What would a city with a disbanded police force look like?
“Speaking only for herself and not for the council as whole, Bender said she would support shifting from a traditional police department to a wider public safety department oriented toward violence prevention and community-based service,” the Star-Tribune reported.
“In that kind of scenario, it’s possible that social workers or medics could respond to some calls now being handled by police.”
Speaking for myself and not sanity as a whole, that’s something a community could do without disbanding its police department. Ah, but it wouldn’t give an opportunity for quotes like this:
“To do this kind of big work, we need a deeper, broader conversation than we’ve ever had before,” Bender said. “We need white people like me and my neighbors to show up in a different way.”
What does that even mean?
Actually, the very fact the question needs to be asked provides its own answer: It probably means nothing.
Bender told the Star-Tribune that these reforms aren’t going to be debated immediately but discussions will begin, as the newspaper put it, “later this next year or next.” That schedule, I predict, will be delayed like a Spirit Airlines flight in a snowstorm (back when we actually flew on planes, that is).
For right now, the members of the council get to sound like 21st century Huey P. Newtons. By the time they actually plan to talk about this fatuous talking point, in short, we’ll hopefully have conquered the novel coronavirus and will likely be spending more time trying to piece together our shattered economy — particularly in Minneapolis, where they have plenty of shattered glass on top of it.
And if they do get around to talking about dismantling the police department, it’s not going to look as different as you might think. Bender told the Star-Tribune she saw one possibility involving the department going into receivership and then being restructured under that.
That’s not dismantling the police department. That’s reorganizing it using novel instruments.
I doubt that’s what Jeremiah Ellison quite had in mind.
But then, I’m not quite sure what dismantling a police department would even involve. The same thing goes with “defunding” police departments, which is a popular rallying cry all over the country right now.
Does defunding the police suddenly mean all of the bad cops stop getting paychecks, or does it mean law enforcement will end up being stretched and unable to respond effectively to crime? You make the call.
Just don’t make it to 911 in Minneapolis. You’ll just get a busy signal.
Will disbanding police departments lead to a holistic replacement springing up organically in its place with community stakeholders as its guide, or will it be a passageway to chaos, a nightmare attempt at reorganization and, eventually, the same police department Minneapolis had before?
The officers involved in George Floyd’s death have been charged. The rest of the department — indeed, the rest of the law enforcement community in America — has been put on notice that Americans care that law enforcement is untainted by prejudice. That’s a positive start.
It needn’t be derailed by silly self-promoting tweets and council votes in which elected officials promise the most rabid elements of the activist class that they’re going to do something they have no intention of following through on — and God help us if they do.
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