‘Disbanding’ of the Minneapolis PD and the Limitations of Police Reform

By Felipe Vera

This Sunday, nine out of thirteen members of the Minneapolis City Council, forming a veto-proof majority, declared that they would dismantlethe embattled and disgraced Minneapolis Police Department, following the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent nationwide mass rebellion.

Since the murder of Floyd, uprisings have rocked the country, especially in Minneapolis where police precincts were destroyed and burned to the ground. Protesters have made calls to charge the officers who murdered Floyd and to defund the police, resulting in Derek Chauvin and the three other officers being charged. It was through this rebellion that the ruling class was forced to concede to the demands of charging the officers. Without this surge of rebellion, Chauvin and the rest would likely have been left totally unscathed.

The protests have demonstrated the universal truth that only through struggle are gains and demands conquered. This however does not mean that the struggle ends here or that these gains are enough. While defunding of the police is a progressive demand made by the people, it requires further examination to understand its limitations and how it has been manipulated by the ruling class to quell the people’s rebellion, especially in light of Minneapolis’ plans to “dismantle” their police department, and the ruling class media’s promotion of policing in Camden, New Jersey.

Lisa Bender, president of Minneapolis City Council, announced the initiative of replacing the MPD with a so-called “transformative new model of public safety.” She stated in an interview, “Instead of investing in more policing, that we invest in those alternatives, those community based strategies…” What this would mean is that money would be allocated to needs such as healthcare, education, and other social programs rather than being concentrated in policing.

Although less policing and more funding for community services could slightly alleviate some of the harshest forms of police oppression temporarily, it does not do away with the root of poverty nor can it adequately address the myriad of issues related to police. At best, it serves as a band-aid with professionals who stand above the community replacing police. Meanwhile, the rest of the state and country would remain with police forces, along with federal armed apparatuses such as the FBI. Capitalism will continue to exploit the people and these same politicians will continue to serve its interests.

Bender is no exception to the rule, having been the chair of the Zoning and Planning Committee in Minneapolis. She, along with the mayor Jacob Frey, who opposes dismantling, approved the Minneapolis 2040 plan at the end of 2018. This 20 year project entails the abolishing of single-family home zoning in favor of condos, under the pretext of “affordable housing.” In reality what this means is the gentrification of Minneapolis, the displacement of working class which many community members have already opposed.

While there may be attempts at defunding the MPD or a replacing it with “public safety” agents, it is the working class that will get the short end of the stick in the ruling class’ vision for the city. Benders “police free future” is also a future that displaces working people and replaces one set of officers with another.

Even with the ruling classes promotion of policing in Camden, New Jersey, defunding still does not offer a real solution. In 2013, Camden did away with its police department, only to be restructured and replaced on a county level. Although they push a public relations campaign of having cook outs with the community, the “community oriented” Camden County Police have a more sinister, fascistic character.

This is exemplified by Camden County’s increased foot patrols and implementation of military grade surveillance technology from the company FLIR Systems to further tighten their grip on the city. On top of this, the statistics of reduced crime is not solely a result of a “reformed” police department, but must be seen in conjunction with gentrification that has been hitting the area, a point the Camden police willfully ignore in the promotion of their statistics.

Far from being a defunding of the police, Camden is a testament to the fact that the state, and its police force, will remain unaltered in essence, and only slightly in form. Even with an actual defunding or dismantling of a police station, police across the rest of the country will continue to operate, as will the military. The state relies on these repressive apparatuses and will never dismantle that which protects it.

There can be no genuine abolition of the police under capitalism since its function so to protect the interests of the capitalist state and defend private property. The claims of dismantling by the ruling class must be challenged by the rage and organization of the working class. It will only be through workers being armed and organized into an army under the revolutionary leadership of a Communist Party, with the aim of socialist revolution, that the police will be out organized and communities under the control of the workers themselves, forming the seeds of the New State administered by the people.