With a unanimous 12-0 vote, today the city council moved forward with efforts to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department in the wake of the fatal police arrest of George Floyd.
The council is aiming to have a proposed amendment to the City Charter placed on the November ballot. Minneapolis voters would decide whether or not to amend the charter to create a new Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention to replace the Minneapolis Police Department as a charter department.
The Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention would have responsibility for “public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach,” according to the proposed charter amendment. As a charter department, the director would be nominated by the mayor and approved by the city council.
The director would have non-law enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches.
The ordinance allows for the City to maintain “a division of law enforcement services composed of licensed peace officers” that would be subject to the supervision of the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.
Mayor Jacob Frey has already expressed his objection to completely defund the police and is instead in favor of “deep structural reform” in the department, which he reiterated at a press conference following the council’s vote.
“This amendment to our City Charter does not provide clarity,” said Mayor Frey. “Is this a cosmetic change where you add a bureaucratic layer, change the name to peace officers, and give them a different uniform?” he asked.
Frey challenged the council to provide more details. “I believe the voters should have a say, but I believe they should know what they’re voting on when they decide to. Why don’t we do it differently? Why don’t we be very honest and frank about this and [ask voters]: ‘Should we abolish the police or not?’ That would be a clear question that could be put on the ballot.”
He also asked whether this charter amendment would mean a demotion of Medaria Arradondo, the city’s first Black police chief.
Frey wouldn’t say whether he’d veto the effort to place the amendment on the November ballot. “I can tell you right now,” said Frey, “that the charter amendment as written I do not think is a good idea. I do not think that it is good governance. I think it’s a blow to accountability and I think it lacks clarity.” He also said he would seek counsel from community members and experts across the country.
Community activists Twin Cities Coalition 4 Justice 4 Jamar were also critical of what they called a lack of details about the amendment. “The city council’s proposal does not spell out any new disciplinary measures or oversight of the police, nor does it spell out what community involvement will look like.
“Without discipline and true community engagement (and not token community involvement, either), change will not occur,” read the group’s press release. ” Instead, the group has proposed a “CPAC – an all-elected, all-civilian council with power over the police department to hire, fire and prosecute cops.”
After seeking community input and going through the legislative process, the council’s amendment would go to a city-wide vote in November.
The statutory deadline for submitting questions on the Nov. 3 general election ballot is Friday, Aug. 21. If approved by voters, the changes would become effective May 1, 2021.