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Some Black leaders in Minneapolis speak out against City Council's moves to defund police

Maya Rao, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in News & Features

MINNEAPOLIS -- Egregious, grotesque, absurd, crazy, ridiculous.

These are a handful of the words that some local African American leaders are using to rebuke the Minneapolis City Council's moves toward dismantling the Police Department, even as they demand an overhaul of law enforcement.

While the movement to defund the police has been driven by Black activists, others say that city politicians rushed the process and failed to include a police chief who has the backing of many Black residents.

"They have shown a complete disregard for the voices and perspectives of many members of the African American community," said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and former president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP. "We have not been consulted as the city makes its decisions, even though our community is the one most heavily impacted by both police violence and community violence."

A month after George Floyd died under the knee of a police officer, the City Council unanimously voted Friday to revise the city charter to permit the dismantling of the Police Department, the first step toward putting the matter to voters on the November ballot. The ordinance, which the Charter Commission discussed during a meeting Wednesday, would abolish the city's current law enforcement structure in favor of a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.

It also raises questions about the future of Medaria Arradondo, the city's first Black police chief.

 

The measure doesn't preclude a chief with a traditional policing background, but it requires the head of the new agency to have "non-law enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches." Arradondo joined the department as a patrol officer in 1989 in his early 20s.

"Why now, when you have an African American chief who is highly regarded and trusted in the Black community?" said Steven Belton, president and CEO of the Urban League Twin Cities. "This strikes me as being passive aggressive Minnesota nice on steroids. This is a hit on Chief Arradondo."

Pastor Brian Herron said the council is "pandering."

"We have a department that is troubled, but it is also a department that with the leadership of our chief could be really transformed, and the culture of policing could change dramatically if he was given the proper support," said Herron, who ministers at Zion Baptist Church in north Minneapolis.

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