'That was optics': Minneapolis community members voice opposition to disbanding MPD

The Minneapolis City Council's vow to defund the police department has its mix of support and backlash, and the majority vote doesn't necessarily mean it will happen.

The council is sending a strong message, but they're facing obstacles, including some pushback from Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

The council is also receiving opposition from the public and from community groups who point out the council can't just end a charter-mandated department. Opponents also say that focusing on one department is the wrong approach; they say it has to be massive reforms at all levels of law enforcement.

In front of the destroyed 3rd precinct, Michelle Gross, President of Communities United Against Police Brutality, laid the blame for the death of George Floyd squarely at the feet of the city council and the mayor, both the current and those of the past.

“Had they done their jobs, Derek Chauvin wouldn’t have been around to kill George Floyd,” she said. “No, they didn’t light the match, but they created the conditions that made people so angry that they took to the streets and they burned down this precinct.”

Gross said when she heard council members on Sunday propose to end or defund the police, she saw it as unrealistic, impossible, and pandering.

"That was optics. It’s not meant to be any kind of real change because they don’t actually have the power to do it,” Gross said.

Communities United Against Police Brutality is the group behind a 44-point recommendation for police reform. Key among those points is setting up an independent agency to investigate and prosecute police misconduct, and requiring officers to buy their own liability insurance.

“They are not just ideas that came out of nowhere; these are ideas that have been discussed --research-based, evidence-based -- and they can be a first start,” added Jaylani Hussein with Minnesota’s Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The mayor appeared at the kick-off of a city rebuilding effort, stressing again he is wholly opposed to abolishing the department but vowed a full effort to go after the police union. He blames the union for standing in the way of accountability and a culture change.

“We’re going to do everything possible to shift that game because it’s necessary if we want to see full reform,” Mayor Frey said.