Minneapolis City Council President: 'We'll Replace Police by Reimagining Public Safety'

On Monday's airing of CNN’s “Situation Room,” Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender explained the city's plans to disband the Minneapolis police department following the death of George Floyd.

"Let’s get the messaging clear here. Are you really calling for the disbanding of the police department? Meaning it goes away?" host Chris Cuomo asked.

Bender responded, "Well, yesterday nine city councilmembers stood together with our community and pledged to rethink public safety in our community. And to acknowledge that the current Minneapolis Police Department is not working to keep our community safe. And really what we pledged was to start a year long conversation with Minneapolis residents to help us reimagine what public safety looks like as we make those short term fixes that are so clearly needed in our department."

"Better, smarter, safer, those are things that are all clearly needed." Cuomo said, "The controversial part comes in the, you can’t just get rid of it right now. You wouldn’t have anything. What happens if somebody comes in the middle of the night and I call. Well, that desire speaks to a privilege. Yes, but not white privilege. White privilege, black privilege. We need police. Do you agree?"

Bender said, "I agree that our number one priority is the safety of every single person in our community. Yes, we still have a police department today. We have had a police department for 150 years. As we look forward into the future, the answer is yes, absolutely, if something is happening there needs to be someone to call. We need to make sure every single person in our community feels safe."

"Our university of Minnesota, the local school board and parks district, major employers in our city, a local law firm have ended their relationships with the police department in the last week, we need to make sure that when you call, the public has confidence that that department, that system is keeping people safe." She continued, "That’s our urgent priority in Minneapolis. To make sure that every single resident of our city feels safe, is safe and that we do start to address the systems of racial injustice that folks are out in the streets protesting, that so many community leaders are speaking out and speaking up against."

Cuomo replied, "Right. But, of course, there could be no worse crisis than you calling, because you need help and nobody answers. That’s why I’m asking you that. You’re getting beaten over the head with something that seems ridiculous to people."

"They’re going to get rid of the police and they don’t know what they’re going to replace it with?" he asked.

Bender explained, "We’ve looked at every reason that folks call 911. Why are people in Minneapolis calling for help? And we’re starting to pair what’s the right response to those calls? In the short term that helps our police officers focus on the work that they’re trained to do, while we have a better response to people who have a mental health crisis or a physical health crisis, and we also know that the system of policing isn’t working for a lot of victims of crime."

She concluded, "We have thousands of rape kits that have gone untested. We need to improve our response to all kinds of different violations of public safety, because again that trust in the system is so eroded that our community is across the board. Nine councilmembers from across the city standing together saying, we need to make deeper change than we have in the past."

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