The murder of George Floyd

Minneapolis residents ask: Dismantle the police — then what?

On the city’s north side, some are skeptical of a move to disband the police department

A person speaks during a meeting.
Cathy Spann speaks during a meeting in the Jordan neighborhood in north Minneapolis. Residents gathered Tuesday talk about policing and recent gun violence across the city's north side.
Melissa Townsend for MPR News

Dozens of residents of the Jordan neighborhood in north Minneapolis on Tuesday donned their masks, gathered up their lawn chairs and assembled in an alley. They came to meet with police officers and talk about a spike in gun violence that had many of them rattled.

But a city proposal to dismantle the police dominated the conversation. 

Cathy Spann, who helped organize the meeting as director of the Jordan Area Community Council, said the Minneapolis Police Department is the only entity she knows that is there to protect her right now.

A woman wearing a blue headscarf and blue t-shirt.
Jean Loyd
Melissa Townsend for MPR News

“Whether you agree or disagree with that, that’s OK. But here is the issue I have: There is no plan,” Spann told the crowd to a round of applause. “We know we need change. But you not going to leave me unprotected in the streets, in the bus, in my house.” 

A plan backed by several City Council members to abolish the police in Minneapolis is meant to improve community safety, particularly for the city’s Black, brown and Indigenous communities. On Wednesday afternoon, the city’s Charter Commission will address an amendment, which calls for creating a new Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.

But residents at this gathering said they want to see a detailed plan before any formal action is taken. 

“How are you going to dismantle something if you don’t have a plan of action?” said Jean Loyd, who is Black and lives in the neighborhood. “And I think that’s what happens many times — our elected officials are reactionary instead of proactive.”

A person wearing a bike helmet.
David Opp
Melissa Townsend for MPR News

David Opp, her white neighbor, agrees. 

“It’s premature, immature and dangerous,” he said of the proposal to abolish the police. 

That said, people here know they want to see real change.  

“As an African American man, I truly believe we do need police,” said Richard Terrell, who lives close by in the Victory neighborhood. “But we need more community-centered police and more trauma-informed police and also more police doing prevention than actually reacting.”

The Minneapolis police officers from the 4th precinct speaking to the crowd, however, made the case for their survival. 

A man wears a red face mask and red t-shirt.
Richard Terrell
Melissa Townsend for MPR News

Officer Mike Nimlos said the department doesn’t have the resources it needs. 

“Our chief asked for 400 more cops, did we get it? No,” Nimlos said. “You guys want this and this and this — we don’t have the bodies for it. We barely have enough time to answer calls. We go from one call to the next to the next to the next. Officers are getting burnt out and tired.”

But the crowd didn’t support 400 new police officers any more than they supported a plan with too few details to replace the police.

Audua Pugh, who chairs the Jordan Area Community Council board, said she’s tired of defensive rhetoric, whether it’s from cops or politicians, that isn’t honest about tackling big problems. 

People stand in a driveway during a meeting.
Police officers from the 4th Precinct attend a community meeting Tuesday in the Jordan neighborhood in north Minneapolis.
Melissa Townsend for MPR News

“We’ve been taught as people to spin — I’m so sick of spin I’m dizzy,” Pugh said. “We need to work together to come up with a plan and now we need funding to execute it.”

A woman wearing a black t-shirt.
Audua Pugh
Melissa Townsend for MPR News

When details do come forward about a plan for replacing the Minneapolis police department as we know it, these neighbors want to know: Will they get facts or spin? 

David Haddy, a white homeowner in the neighborhood, says the history of disinvestment in the city’s north side makes clear communication a real challenge.  

“I rely on my neighbors because quite frankly, the way the city has historically treated this neighborhood you can really only rely on your neighbors,” Haddy said. “The city council has for decades ignored the north side or at least paid lip service to it.”

Organizers of the meeting say they’ll continue to gather like this every week, as long as residents want them. They say they know change is needed, but this time of transition is complicated — and as violent crime surges across the city, it’s also scary.