Fox News reports Minnesota State Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka told “Fox & Friends Weekend” on Sunday that he thinks Minneapolis City Council members’ plan to dismantle police departments “makes absolutely no sense.”
“In Minneapolis-St. Paul, we had over a thousand buildings damaged or destroyed in the riots because there were not enough police here, and then what do they want to do? They want to defund or dismantle the police,” Gazelka, a Republican, said. “It makes absolutely no sense, the direction they’re trying to go.”
Gazelka made the comments two days after City Council members voted unanimously to amend the city’s charter to remove the mandate for a police department – the first step toward disbanding it in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
The amendment proposed the city replace the police department with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, “which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach,” a draft of the amendment read.
The proposal added that the director of the new agency would have “non-law-enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches.” It also suggested setting up a division of licensed peace officers who would answer to the department’s director.
“Democrats have controlled the Minneapolis area for more than a generation and you have to ask why? Why are they pointing the fingers at everybody else?” Gazelka asked Sunday. “I went down into a number of these communities and a lot of the folks there want police, they want the police there.”
He added, “You have to ask: Why do they want to get rid of the police when it’s not best for the citizens to do that?”
Gazelka continued, “You cannot stop lawlessness without defending the law, and to do that, you have to have police officers.”
He said reform was needed rather than dismantling the police.
Although the amendment received a 12-0 vote from council members, it’s facing an uphill battle as it makes its way past a policy committee and to the city’s Charter Commission for a formal review, at which point citizens and city officials also could weigh in.
If successful, the amendment will appear on the November ballot for a vote in the general election.
The pressure to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department mounted after the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody on May 25 after an officer was seen kneeling on his neck for several minutes.
“I think you have a police department that does need to reform, they have a reputation of being a little bit rough, and that’s part of the reason that we talked about banning chokeholds and making sure that police officers, that if they witness another police officer doing something, to stop them. And, we are OK with adding community members onto the police board,” Gazelka said.