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Expert: Don't Recycle Government Power in Overhauling Police Agenices

In addition to calls for dismantling its current structure, the Minneapolis Police Department is the subject of a civil rights investigation following the death of George Floyd. (Adobe Stock)
In addition to calls for dismantling its current structure, the Minneapolis Police Department is the subject of a civil rights investigation following the death of George Floyd. (Adobe Stock)
June 9, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- A majority of the Minneapolis City Council recently vowed to dismantle the city's police department amid the civil unrest over the killing of George Floyd. While that process is still under consideration, an expert warns that such efforts require diligent oversight.

Calls are growing across the country to drastically overhaul police departments over violent treatment of black citizens. The idea has gained a lot of momentum in Minneapolis.

Nancy La Vigne, vice president for Justice Policy with the Urban Institute, said if cities aren't careful in redirecting police funding to communities in need, residents of those communities may still end up with the short end of the stick.

"You really need to track those resources and ensure that they're going in the right place," La Vigne said. "Otherwise, you could just end up being shifting money from from one government pot to another."

In Minneapolis, there are no firm plans on how the city might shake up the department's structure, and there's been no formal vote yet to move the process forward. But the national conversation has focused on redirecting funds from police departments to establish more and better mental-health care and other services in struggling communities that have traditionally seen a strong police presence.

La Vigne cited examples where past reforms have resulted in unintended consequences or a failure to achieve goals.

"The Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which is an effort that originally was conceptualized to reduce prison populations and take the savings and bring those savings back to the communities that are most hardest hit by mass incarceration, and that didn't happen," she said.

She said that's why it's important to have an independent body monitor how resources are reallocated in cities that opt to reimagine their approach to policing.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN