Debunking misinformation about Ballot Question 2 on police reform

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There has been some nasty disinformation floating around about Ballot Question 2 and transforming public safety in Minneapolis. It’s our hope that this provides you with some clarity and helps folks to stop drinking this poisoned blue Kool-Aid, so the residents can have a substantial and substantive conversation about this step forward to keep people safe and have a city where families can thrive and not just survive.

The people of Minneapolis are less than a month away from one of the most consequential city elections of their lifetime. Because of a 22,000-person, citizen-led petition, the residents of Minneapolis will be able to vote to have a Department of Public Safety that includes a range of qualified professionals from mental health responders, substance abuse specialists, homeless outreach, and police officers, working together to keep people safe, regardless of race, age, or neighborhood.

This comprehensive Department of Public Safety, with its qualified professionals and trained police officers, will replace what is currently known as the Minneapolis Police Department—the very department that is once again making national headlines because of the misuse of power, abuse of people, distrust by community and murder of Black folks.      

The Minneapolis Police Department as it exists now is failing at its one job—keeping the city safe. Violent crime keeps rising, homicide cases are not solved, rape kits go untested, and we still have police killing and brutalizing people in communities across the city. All while under the sole leadership of the mayor and police chief.

No one mayor or police chief can solve the problem—nor should they. It’s going to take all of us choosing a new way to invest in our community’s safety, with trained professionals working in a comprehensive department with police to keep everyone safe. This change also added much-needed and over-do leverage to have accountability and transparency with those who protect and serve.

This is the first time in over 60 years that the people of Minneapolis get to have a direct say about what keeps you and your neighbors safe. And there is a group of people who have held onto that decision-making power for far too long: the Minneapolis Police Federation.

They are using every dollar, political and judicial leverage, as well as a handful of community members to spread disinformation, lies, and fear to keep you away from having a voice and choice this November.

In 1961 the Minneapolis Police Federation lobbied to place the requirement of an armed police-only response into the city’s charter, which serves as the city’s constitution. Minneapolis is the only city in Minnesota with this requirement etched into the charter.

The Minneapolis Police Department is the only department in the city with unilateral mayoral control, siloing out the direct voice of the community. This is also unlike every other department in Minneapolis, which has democratic oversight shared by the mayor and city council.

The only department with exclusive mayoral control is also the only department that consistently makes local and national headlines. The current armed-police-only model of public safety, under the authority of the mayor, is undemocratic and fails time and time again to keep people safe.

Facts of what the charter change on Question 2 actually does:

It replaces the Minneapolis Police Department with the Department of Public Safety. This Department will have the qualified professionals necessary to keep the people of Minneapolis safe, including response from police officers to be used when necessary. 

The charter amendment says “which could include licensed peace officers (police officers) if necessary,” but police officers are required for certain functions by state law, so there will absolutely still be police officers.

Data shows that police spend the vast majority of their time responding to non-violent disputes or minor complaints. Having specialized teams of professionals to address unique situations would allow more efficient delegation of roles within the department and allow the City to be good stewards of the well-trained and disciplined police we have and will recruit.

You may have heard this boiled into a fear-based lie about abolishing the police or police department.

It eliminates the minimum required number of officers in the city charter. To be clear, no other city has an arbitrary number of police officers in their charter… just Minneapolis. This is a huge opportunity because it will finally give the City more leverage in its negotiations with the police federation.

This also allows the City flexibility and nimbleness in staffing the department to meet the safety needs of Minneapolis today and not the 1961 version of Minneapolis. This isn’t defunding the police, but defanging the power and position of a federation that has held the city hostage.

It gives oversight to the city council as well as the mayor through a Department Commissioner. As is the case for every other city department, including public works and the fire department. It makes it possible for policy-making regarding policing to happen in the view of the public, not behind closed doors as it currently does.

The legislative and executive body of democracy (not 14 bosses), would oversee policy that affects safety, not day-to-day administrative duties. It’s also important to note that Police Chief Arradondo is able to keep power and position within the police segment of the department. The role just wouldn’t be in the charter… like most other cities that also still have police chiefs.

We know what keeps us safe: stable housing, fair wages, and having the people who’ve pledged to protect and serve to do their duty to us all, no matter our color, background, or zip code. Instead, the current mayor and the police federation have militarized the police while spreading lies about our aims and stoking fears to keep us divided.

Together, the people of Minneapolis can implement proven solutions to make this a city where every one of us is safe, with no exceptions.

It’s 2021, not 1961—vote YES on Question 2 to bring public safety into the 21st century.

Corenia Smith is the campaign manager and Minister JaNaé Bates is the communications director of Yes 4 Minneapolis.

About Corenia Smith and Minister JaNaé Bates

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