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Minneapolis Council Moves To Defund Police, Establish 'Holistic' Public Safety Force

The Minneapolis City Council on Friday unanimously approved a proposal to eliminate the city's police department, marking the first step toward establishing a new "holistic" approach to public safety.

The move follows more than a month of national outrage and protests against police brutality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died after an officer pressed his knee into his neck for more than eight minutes.

The police force, which is largely white and has long struggled to reflect the racial makeup of the city, has come under even greater scrutiny as public cries to defund the department have gained traction among elected officials.

"Young Black and brown people in the streets made this happen. Black organizers demanding abolition for generations made this happen," Miski Noor of Black Visions Collective said in a statement.

"Now, on this new terrain, Minneapolis can start practicing a new vision of safety that defends Black lives."

While Noor was critical of the shortcomings of the amendment passed Friday, she added, "We are closer than any time in history, and anywhere else in the country, to a safe, thriving city without police."

Under the proposed plan, the city would eliminate the existing police department and replace it with "a department of community safety and violence prevention, which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach."

The department would be overseen by a director, nominated by the mayor and approved by the City Council. Only individuals with "non-law enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches," will be eligible to hold the post, according to the amendment.

Additionally, the city could keep a much smaller division of law enforcement in effect under the supervision of the department of community safety and violence prevention.

"We are going straight into the architecture of how safety is provided for in our community, and we're going straight into the heart of the foundations of that work," council member Alondra Cano said.

She added that "the council has been fielding ongoing calls from residents for accountability, systems change and community-led safety."

Despite unanimous support Friday, the amendment faces a number of bureaucratic obstacles before voters can vote on it in November.

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Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.

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