MINNEAPOLIS, -- Minneapolis residents are deciding whether the city's troubled police department will be replaced with a new Department of Public Safety. This proposal evolved from calls for "defunding the police" following the May 2020 passing of George Floyd at the knee of a Minneapolis cop.
There has been an emotional discussion about what the proposed changes in the city charter will do or not. What number of police will the city have? It's not clear what the details will be. Within a month of the election, the Mayor and City Council would need to reach an agreement on the basic outlines of the new system.
Let's take a look at Tuesday's election and see the arguments from both sides.
WHAT'S ON THE BALLOT
Ballot proposal No. Ballot proposal No. 2. The ballot asks voters if the city charter should change to eliminate its requirement that the city maintain a minimum-staffed police department. It would be replaced by a new Department of Public Safety, which would adopt a "comprehensive approach to public safety" and include police officers "if necessary" in order to fulfill its responsibilities for public security. The commissioner would be appointed by the council and would be headed by the mayor.
WHAT WOULD THE NEW AGENCY DO?
This is not mentioned in the charter amendment or the ballot language. This is the core of the debate.
The change is supported by those who believe in a "holistic" approach for public safety. This would not require the deployment of armed police officers to every call. They need other experts in the areas of mental health, housing and violence reduction, as well as intervention.
All that depends on the agreement reached by the mayor and City Council. The new department's leader is still to be decided. Medaria Arradondo (the city's Black chief) said that passage would place any law enforcement leader into a "wholly unmanageable position."
It's almost certain, but it's uncertain how many. The supporters of a new department point to the fact that many references to police are found in city ordinances and state statutes, which effectively means that the new department would still need them if the amendment is passed. The charter requirement that the city must fund at least 0.0017 police officers per resident would not be met. Instead, funding and staffing levels will be left up to the mayor and council.
Minneapolis Police Department has a third of its maximum authorized number of 888 officers left. This means that the department is down 300 officers. As of mid-October, only 588 officers were available to work, compared to the charter-mandated minimum 730. One reason is the fact that officers are retiring, quitting or taking disability leave for post-traumatic stress disorder. This was due to the violence, looting, and arson that followed Floyd’s death. Critics of this proposal claim that the drop in officers is responsible for the spike in gun violence and other crimes Minneapolis has seen since Floyd's death.
WHY SAY SUPPORTERS THAT IT IS NEEDED?
The Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign and support the "public health approach". They claim that the new options offered by this would decrease excessive police force and put more emphasis on prevention. The changes are necessary to end a police culture that is resistant to change and protects the bad apples. The new approach will make the community safer, especially for people of color. They also claim that the new department will be accountable to the whole city, as it will have to answer to the 13-member City Council and not just to the mayor.
WHAT DO THE OPPONENTS SAY?
Opponents of the All of Mpls campaign say that the greatest problem is the lack of a plan. This makes it a risky gamble. Many support many of the proposed changes, including the increased reliance on unarmed professionals. They say that it is not necessary to amend city charter in order to achieve those goals. Many critics also distrust the City Council. This is because , a majority of the current members, stood on a stage with a prominent "Defund Polic" sign shortly after Floyd's passing and promised to dismantle this department.