Vote to disband Minneapolis police lets city council members ‘pose as great reformers while doing absolutely nothing,’ police brutality research group says

Alondra Cano, a City Council member, speaks during ‘The Path Forward’ meeting at Powderhorn Park on Sunday, June 7, 2020, in Minneapolis. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP) Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP
  • In the aftermath of the George Floyd killing, the Minneapolis City Council voted to disband the police department.
  • A police reform organisation that has researched police brutality in the area, and advocated for change, for decades is against the idea.
  • The plan, the group’s vice president said, would take years to pass, if ever, and is no substitute for reform that can be put in place now.
  • CUAPB said the council is “pandering in front of the worldwide TV cameras.”
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

George Floyd’s killing and its aftermath prompted the Minneapolis city council to vote to dismantle the city’s police force, signalling that local officials were taking police brutality seriously.

But Dave Bicking, the vice president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, called the officials “hypocrites” who know that it would take years to enact that kind of change.

In the meantime, he said, the council members were avoiding putting in place real reform that CUAPB has been pushing for decades.

“This gives them the opportunity to pose as great reformers while they’re doing absolutely nothing to get things done,” Bicking told Insider. “They are just pandering in front of the worldwide TV cameras.”

Less than two weeks after Floyd’s death, nine members of the Minneapolis City Council announced plans to disband the force. The council president, Lisa Bender, made the announcement at Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block rally as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Since then, members of the council have spoken publicly about the plan and even wrote an op-ed in Time about what the change might look like.

But Bicking is sceptical that the plan will work, and questions why it took this long for the city to commit to any sort of reform.

For 20 years, CUAPB has been researching and documenting use-of-force cases and policing in the Twin Cities. It also meets with the police department and city council members to share their suggestions for how to prevent unnecessary police killings.

Every few years, usually after another controversial police killing, the group releases a list of reform actions that can be implemented.

In 2014, there were 31 items on the list.

They included, among other things:

  • Requiring that officers be required to obtain personal liability insurance and remove any officers who can’t due to prior misconduct.
  • Immediately detaining and questioning a police officer involved in an internal affairs investigation. Currently, the union contract requires that they are given two days’ notice in writing.
  • The dismantlement of the city’s police conduct review board, which the group said was “set up to fail.”
  • A change in the management in the Civil Rights Department.
  • An investigation into any outside training received by officers from private contractors, and the prohibition of training by those that encourage excessive use of force.

‘Each time, nothing happened’

Bicking said the group issued a similar list in 2017, and then again, just recently, after Floyd’s killing.

He feels that city officials never took the recommendations seriously, but now instead have called for the dismantling of the department, a feat they know is out of reach.

“It’s not going to happen. It’s an excuse, in the end, to do nothing from people who are just hypocrites,” Bicking said. “It’s against at least four provisions in the city charter and state law.”

Bicking said that most people would like to “see a society where police don’t exist.”

He feels, though, that the move would violate the city charter and state law and take years to roll out, if ever.

“Discussing this at this point seems a little premature,” he said. “That is not a substitute for reforms that could have been made now. We feel utterly confident that if they took our recommendations two or three years ago, that this killing would have not happened, nor would Derek Chauvin be on the force.”

Messages left city council’s president Lisa Bender and the city’s communication department were not immediately returned. Voicemails and an email reply noted “a high volume” of calls and requests.

Bicking said that each time there is a high profile police killing – like the shooting of handcuffed Jamar Clark in 2015, or the shooting of Australian Justine Damond in 2017 – officials will speak out for change.

“After each one of these, city leaders said wonderful things about what a great tragedy it was and what they would do,” Bicking said. “And after each time, nothing happened.”