Three years before the murder of George Floyd, and before protests against police brutality engulfed the world, a group of activists in Minneapolis presented their vision for abolishing the police.
MPD150, a horizontally organised collection of researchers, artists, activists and local organisers, produced the document in 2017—150 years after the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) was created. It assessed policing across history and how the work of front-line workers in mental health, education and domestic violence is affected by the “paramilitary intervention of the police” in moments of crisis.
“By producing a performance review at the MPD’s 150-year mark, we can offer alternative strategies to the failed reforms that are routinely trotted out in response to protest and then methodically sabotaged, undermined and reversed by an alliance of police leadership, unions and rank and file,” the group explains on its website.
“Far from being a naive concept, police abolition is the only viable option for ending the systematic and unrelenting abuse of our communities.”
The group’s resources have set social media alight in recent weeks—not least because Floyd was murdered by the very police department MPD150 has spent years trying to disband. Theirs is a vision of gradual change, in which the people who respond to crises in the community would become people best-equipped to do so, rather than “strangers armed with guns, who very likely do not live in the neighbourhoods they’re patrolling.”
MPD150 says that more jobs and educational opportunities are needed to fight crime, rather than more cops that “make needless traffic stops, arrest petty drug users and harass people.”
“Cops don’t prevent crime; they cause it, through the ongoing, violent disruption of our communities.”
The group also takes pains to highlight the scale of investment in the police—$165 million from the city alone in 2016—which it says could be reinvested in heavily underfunded community services. It adds that reforms like body cameras or unconscious bias sessions don’t work—and have a long track history of not working.
“Dismantling the police will require reallocating their budget and assets to support real solutions to community desperation: good, well-paying jobs, affordable housing, healthy food, empowering education, accessible health care, removal of toxins,” MPD150 continues.
Minneapolis moves forwards
As reported in The Guardian, Minneapolis lawmakers have taken the MDP150 recommendations to heart with vows to disband the police department and replace it with an alternative model.
“In Minneapolis and in cities across the US, it is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” Lisa Bender, the Minneapolis city council president, was quoted as saying.
“Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period. Our commitment is to do what’s necessary to keep every single member of our community safe and to tell the truth: that the Minneapolis police are not doing that. Our commitment is to end policing as we know it and to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe.”
The council has been urged to open a community dialogue to determine what policing should look like in the coming years.
MPD150 member Tony WIlliams added to the paper: “This is a moment that’s going to go down in history as a landmark in the police and prison abolition movement. There’s a groundswell of support for this. People are grounded in the history of policing in a way that has never happened before. It’s visible that police are not able to create safety for communities.
“I do believe we are on the precipice of a major global shift. I’m really hopeful in this moment.”
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