MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Voters in Minneapolis on Tuesday rejected a proposal to replace the city’s police department with a new Department of Public Safety, an idea that supporters hoped would bring about a radical change in policing in the city where the death of George Floyd below the knee of an officer called for racial justice.
The initiative would have amended the city charter to remove the obligation for the city to have a police department with a minimum number of officers. Supporters said a complete police overhaul was needed to stop police violence. Opponents said the proposal did not have a concrete plan on how to move forward and warned that this would make some communities already affected by violence more vulnerable as crime is on the rise.
These opponents welcomed the defeat of the amendment but stressed the urgency of transforming the police in the city, even without it.
“Tonight, voters in Minneapolis have made it clear that we want a planned approach to transforming policing and public safety in our city that must include meaningful consultation with communities most affected by both violent crime and crime. over-police, ”said Leili Fatehi, campaign manager for All of Mpls.
The ballot proposal had its roots in the abolish police movement that erupted after Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer last year. The racial justice in policing debate drew national attention to Tuesday’s vote, along with a river of money out of state seeking to influence the outcome that could also have shaped change elsewhere.
The ballot question called for a new Ministry of Public Security to adopt “a comprehensive public health approach to the performance of duties” which would be determined by the mayor and city council. Supporters argued it was a chance to reimagine what public safety can be and how money is spent. Among other things, supporters said, funding will go to programs that don’t send armed officers to call in people in crisis.
Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey was also in a fierce fight for a second term, facing a host of opponents who attacked him for his leadership in the wake of Floyd’s death. Frey opposed the policy amendment. Two of its main challengers in the field of the 17 candidates, Sheila Nezhad and Kate Knuth, strongly supported the proposal.
With almost complete returns, Frey had around 43% of the first-choice vote. He needed more than 50% to achieve outright victory under the city’s ranked voting system, with the city set to start sorting second and potentially third-choice votes on Wednesday morning. Nezhad and Knuth were both close to 20%.
Minneapolis voters also decided to replace the city’s “weak mayor, strong council” system with a more conventional distribution of executive and legislative powers that would give the mayor clearer authority over day-to-day government operations.
The future of policing in the town where Floyd died in May 2020 launched a national report on racial justice eclipsed everything on the municipal ballot.
Rishi Khanna, 31, a technician, voted yes for the replacement of the police department, saying he did not believe the police were qualified to deal with many situations, such as mental health crises. He said he believed having professionals equipped to deal with a range of public safety concerns in the same department as law enforcement would benefit both residents and police.
“I understand that law enforcement will have to have a seat at the table, but I think in our community and in communities across the country, too often law enforcement is the only seat at the table.” , did he declare. “I don’t think this is the right solution.
Askari Lyons, 61, voted against the initiative of the poll. Residing on the largely black city’s north side, where violent crime is more common than the rest of the city, he said he believed Minneapolis police “may have learned a lesson after death. of George Floyd and what happened to the cop who killed him. “
Lyons called it “unwise” to replace the department and said he believed the change within the department was imminent.
“People are so frustrated, so angry, so disappointed” with the violence happening all over the city as much as they are with the city’s law enforcement, he said.
The proposed city charter amendment would have removed language that requires Minneapolis to have a police department with a minimum number of officers based on population. It would have been replaced by a new Ministry of Public Security which would adopt a “comprehensive public health approach to the performance of duties” which “could include” police officers “if necessary, to fulfill its responsibilities in this area. of public security ”.
Supporters of change have argued that a complete overhaul of the police is needed to stop police violence. They presented it as a chance to re-imagine what public safety can be like and to devote more funds to new approaches that do not rely on sending armed officers to deal with people in crisis.
But opponents said the ballot proposal contained no concrete plan for how the new department would operate and expressed concern that this would make communities already affected by gun violence even more vulnerable to growing crime. The details, and who would run the new agency, would be determined by the mayor and city council.
Two prominent progressive Democratic leaders nationwide – U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar, who represents the Minneapolis area, and State Attorney General Keith Ellison – both supported the Policing Amendment . But some great mainstream liberals, including Governor Tim Walz and the Senses. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, opposed it and feared the backlash could result in Democratic losses across the country. in 2022.
The support did not properly follow racial lines. Opponents included several prominent black leaders, some of whom have been prominent voices in the police accountability movement.
Minister JaNaé Bates, spokesperson for the campaign for the amendment, told reporters on Monday that even if the proposal failed, the activists behind it had changed the conversation about public safety.
“No matter what happens, the city of Minneapolis is going to have to move forward and really fight what we cannot ignore: that the Minneapolis Police Department was able to operate with impunity and did a lot of harm. wrong and the city has to take serious action to rectify that, ”Bates said.
Mohamed Ibrahim is a staff member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a national, non-profit service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.