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Majority of Minneapolis city council vows to disband police department

Nine of the council’s 12 members appeared at a rally in a city park Sunday afternoon and vowed to end policing as the city currently knows it. Council member Jeremiah Ellison promised that the council would "dismantle" the department.

'Our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,' says council president

Minneapolis City Council member Alondra Cano speaks during a meeting at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis on Sunday. The focus of the meeting was the defunding of the Minneapolis Police Department. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)

A majority of the members of the Minneapolis City Council said Sunday they support disbanding the city's police department, an aggressive stance that comes just as the state has launched a civil rights investigation after George Floyd's death.

Nine of the council's 12 members appeared with activists at a rally in a city park Sunday afternoon and vowed to end policing as the city currently knows it.

Council member Jeremiah Ellison promised that the council would "dismantle" the department.

"It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe," Lisa Bender, the council president, said. "Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period."

Bender went on to say she and the eight other council members that joined the rally are committed to ending the city's relationship with the police force and "to end policing as we know it and recreate systems that actually keep us safe."

Demonstrators calling to defund the Minneapolis police department march on University Avenue in Minneapolis on Saturday. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Floyd, a black man in handcuffs, died after a white officer pressed his knee on Floyd's neck, ignoring Floyd's "I can't breathe" cries and holding it there even after Floyd stopped moving.

Community activists have criticized the department for years for what they say is a racist and brutal culture that resists change.

The state of Minnesota launched a civil rights investigation of the department last week, and the first concrete changes came Friday when the city agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints.

A more complete remaking of the department is likely to unfold in coming months.

Disbanding has precedent

Disbanding an entire department has happened before. In 2012, with crime rampant in Camden, N.J., the city disbanded its police department and replaced it with a new force that covered Camden County. Compton, Calif., took the same step in 2000, shifting its policing to Los Angeles County.

It was a step that then-attorney general Eric Holder said the Justice Department was considering for Ferguson, Mo., after the death of Michael Brown. The city eventually reached an agreement short of that but one that required massive reforms overseen by a court-appointed mediator.

WATCH | What defunding the police might look like:

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Calls to defund the police have been growing as people protest police brutality in the U.S., Canada and around the world. Alex Vitale, author of The End of Policing, explains what defunding the police might look like. 7:40

The move to defund or abolish the Minneapolis department is far from assured, with the civil rights investigation likely to unfold over the next several months.

On Saturday, activists for defunding the department staged a protest outside Mayor Jacob Frey's home. Frey came out to talk with them.

"I have been coming to grips with my own responsibility, my own failure in this," Frey said. When pressed on whether he supported their demands, Frey said: "I do not support the full abolition of the police department."

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey leaves a demonstration calling for the police department to be defunded on Saturday in Minneapolis. Frey declined when he was asked if he would fully defund the police and was then asked to leave the protest. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

He left to booing.

At another march Saturday during which leaders called for defunding the department, Verbena Dempster said she supported the idea.

"I think, honestly, we're too far past" the chance for reform, Dempster told Minnesota Public Radio. "We just have to take down the whole system."

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