Protests over the death of George Floyd have pushed officials in Minneapolis, Minn., to vow to dismantle the local police force — but experts say it’s unclear what exactly that means.
Dexter Voisin, dean of the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, said there are currently “no clear models” of what it would look like to dismantle a police force.
But he said community organizers and community-based agencies would need to sit down with civic authorities to “design models that are more inclusive than repressive.”
“It’s going to take deliberate, focused attention and time in order to really make systematic change,” Voisin said.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
In fact, Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, said some smaller Indigenous communities in Canada are already leaning on community groups to do some of the work police traditionally do.
He said in some areas, community groups — not police — deal with minor civil disturbances or civil disobedience. But he noted if a similar model is to be implemented in larger towns or cities, a number of questions would need to be answered.
“To what extent is it going to be citizen-driven?” he said. “And then when it is citizen-driven, who are those citizens going to be? Are they going to be appointed? Are they gonna be elected? If they’re appointed, who are they appointed by?”
Owusu-Bempah said as societies have become larger, citizens and community groups have not had the same role in watching over society.
“And I think in some ways, a move back towards that, where we have more informal social control rather the formal social control, is part of what this is all about.”
Floyd, a 46-year old Black man, died in Minneapolis earlier this month after a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest.
The officer, Derek Chauvin, has since been charged with second-degree murder.