Minneapolis ballot question No. 2 will ask residents on Nov. 2 whether they prefer to amend the city’s charter and replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety, which would be responsible for “a comprehensive public health approach to safety.” It would remove language from the charter that expresses minimum police funding requirements and the mayor’s control of the department.
As of Tuesday, more than 15,000 Minneapolis voters have cast ballots, according to the city’s early voting dashboard.
If 51% of voters approve the proposal, the mayor and City Council would decide who would serve as the new agency’s commissioner. The new charter language would go into effect 30 days after the election. The measure is the biproduct of a national police reform movement that gained steam after the Minneapolis police-involved death of George Floyd last year.
Nov. 18, 2015: A Black Lives Matter supporter, left, talks to Minneapolis police guarding the Fourth Precinct entrance in Minneapolis. (AP)
His death sparked a nationwide defund the police movement that has seen some cities slash police budgets amid a surge in violent crime. Some municipalities have since become more vocal in support of police officers.
Opponents of the measure, including Black leaders, said it fails to address real problems facing the most at-risk communities.
“The issue of the police is not the number one thing that African-Americans are facing,” Rev. Jerry McAfee, a pastor at New Salem Missionary Baptist Church, told Fox News. “I cut my teeth on police brutality. I know the Minneapolis Police Department.”
Supporters argue the proposal will allow mental health and other counselors to respond to some emergency calls that are not law enforcement-related.
A George Floyd mural in Minneapolis, Minn. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is recommending Floyd receive a pardon for a 2004 drug arrest in Houston. (AP)
The debate comes as Minneapolis, as well as other American cities, continue to see an uptick in crime. As of Oct. 25, the city experienced 78 homicides, according to police data.
The city had 82 murders in 2020, compared to 48 in 2019.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., recently blamed cops for the rise in crime in Minneapolis, saying they have “chosen to not fulfill their oath of office and to provide the public safety they are owed to the citizens they serve.”
The measure got on the ballot after Yes 4 Minneapolis, a group made up of businesses and civil rights groups, proposed the initiative. It was initially challenged but the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in September that voters could decide on the matter.
A recent poll of 800 likely voters conducted by local news outlets found that 49% of respondents support replacing the Minneapolis Police Department while 41% were opposed. The rest were undecided.
The question has divided Democrats, with Omar and state Attorney General Keith Ellison supporting it while Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who is running for a second term, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar are in opposition.
In a statement against the measure, Frey said it would reduce accountability by having the police chief report to several superiors. Walz argued that the police are part of the solution as cities try to curb the uptick in crime amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who has been with the agency for three decades, said over the summer that the amendment could compromise public safety.
A Minneapolis Police officer. (Minneapolis Police Department/Facebook)
“If the current city charter amendment to the reporting structure passes and results in bringing 14 different people into Minneapolis’ daily reporting structure, it would not just be confusing–it would be a wholly unbearable position for any law enforcement leader or police chief,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., said last week she would be voting against the measure.
“While there is much I agree with in the Amendment, one component poses an insurmountable problem – the requirement that the new Department of Public Safety report to both the Mayor and the City Council,” she said in a statement last week. “My own experience working in City Hall tells me that this change will exacerbate what is a deeply flawed city governance structure, where accountability, authority and lines of responsibility between the Mayor and City Council are diffused and dysfunctional.”
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP, Pool, File)
Fox News has reached out to Ellison’s office, several City Council members in support of the amendment, the police department, as well as Yes 4 Minneapolis.
McAfee, the pastor, said people in communities that are experiencing violence want a bigger law enforcement presence, not a smaller one.
“I also talk to my people,” he said. “If you go get some of the videos of a bunch of these young men that’s been killed and shot, some of the last words they’re saying is ‘call the police.’”