In response to the unrest following the death of George Floyd, Ilhan Omar today became the first member of Congress to publicly support abolishing the police force of Minneapolis. The statement came in response to City Council members rallying behind the previously unthinkable policy.
The Minneapolis Police Department has proven themselves beyond reform.
It’s time to disband them and reimagine public safety in Minneapolis.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) June 5, 2020
An article published at Time by City Council member Steve Fletcher argues that because of their inability to reform, he is supporting the call to “disband our police department and start fresh with a community oriented, non-violent, public safety and outreach capacity.”
The policy suggests increased use of medical responders, and the creation of vague “unarmed, community-oriented street teams.” The policy does not address how violent crime will be handled in the city. Minneapolis holds one of the highest crime rates for American cities in the country, with rape, robbery, and property crime at twice the national average. Fletcher goes on to complain about how police forces were unable to protect local businesses.
In addition to the support of Rep. Omar and Fletcher, numerous council members have backed disbanding the police, including the Minneapolis Council President, the Chair of Public Safety, and Council members Jeremiah Ellison, Jeremy Schroeder, and Alondra Cano. The group is currently controlled entirely by members of the Democratic Party, and one member of the Green Party. None so far have come forward to oppose the policy.
This movement is at the forefront of a nationwide push by groups like Black Lives Matter. While Omar is the first congresswoman to publicly support it, related proposals are gaining steam. More “moderate” ideas, such as defunding law enforcement and redirecting their funds to social welfare spending have also gained traction. Progressive Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, just yesterday announced her support for the policy. Many more congresspeople and local politicians on the Left have yet to make their position clear on either plan, likely weighing the political headwinds of the unprecedented policy.
Slashing law enforcement’s reach is well documented to show increased crime rates, as disincentives from breaking the law vanish. This can even lead to more arrests in the long term. Historical studies from 1960-2010 show that on average, every $1 invested in police results in $1.63 in social benefits as fewer murders are committed. As of now, no major studies exist on the effect of entirely removing the police department, as the policy has never been seriously considered for a major city before.