Some Thoughts for Dallas on the Minneapolis Initiative to Dismantle Police Department

Minneapolis, MN

On Sunday night, a veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis City Council announced their intent to disband the police department and invest its budget in community-led systems of public safety and social programs (see: https://cnn.it/3dL3PDM).

This is a milestone. Camden dismantled and re-imagined its police department nearly a decade ago (see: https://bit.ly/30j8iK5) — but Camden is just Camden. If Minneapolis can do this, so can major cities across America.

For Dallas, it’s important to understand that this boldness in Minneapolis didn’t come from thin air. Certainly, it came most directly from the incredible efforts of organizers and citizens over many years and the last few weeks. But it was also facilitated by the structure of Minneapolis city government, which, better than many, nurtures civic capacity and responsiveness in urban politics.

It was facilitated by a Minneapolis City Council that — unlike the Dallas city council — is empowered with policy and political staff, research capacity, and full-time, well-compensated council members to understand policy problems, develop bold initiatives, and adopt them without reliance on the city bureaucracy.

It was encouraged by Minneapolis’s Council-Mayor system — as opposed to the antiquated Council-Manager system we have in Dallas — in which politicians can’t duck responsibility for the city by blaming problems on an appointed and unaccountable city manager.

It was supported by region-wide tax and capacity sharing arrangements that broke the race-to-the-bottom competition between municipalities for wealthy residents and capital investments, and thereby empowered each city in the region to pursue its own vision of what it wants to be.

And, finally, it was fostered by Minneapolis urban design that promoted social diversity in neighborhoods, developed public spaces in which people can meet, work, and deal with one another, and thereby enhanced social trust and civic capacity among the public.

As Minneapolis moves forward with re-designing its public safety apparatus, I think we need to follow what Minneapolis does carefully, and strive to replicate the best of its practices, not just in policing, but in the structure of city government more broadly.

More thorough recommendations in that direction coming soon — stay tuned.

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