Minneapolis voters will soon decide whether to shut down the police department that employed the officer who killed George Floyd last year and replace it with a Department of Public Safety that would combine the city’s public safety functions in a “comprehensive public health approach to security”.
The ballot initiative aims to amend the City Charter. The duties of the Minneapolis Police Department would be determined by the mayor and the 13 members of city council, and licensed police officers could be hired to perform those duties.
“So the fact that the Minneapolis Police Department can no longer exist as it is understood by the majority of us,” said Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, in an August interview with the non-profit organization Democracy Now!
Ms. Omar supports the initiative, which was proposed by the Yes 4 Minneapolis PAC led by Kandace Montgomery, director of the Black Visions Collective.
The coalition’s campaign received $ 1.48 million in funding in July, according to Ballotpedia.com. The Open Society Policy Center, founded by left-wing billionaire George Soros, became its largest donor after contributing $ 500,000 over the summer.
Minneapolis has a population of over 429,000 and the proposal seeks to eliminate the minimum staffing requirement of at least one police officer per 1,000 population, which is included in the charter.
As of Sept. 25, the Minneapolis Police Department had 250 unfilled officer positions, according to a spokesperson who said only 638 of its 888 assigned positions had been filled.
On Monday, city data shows violent crime is up, albeit slightly, from the same period last year, from 4,165 incidents to 4,250.
According to the Yes 4 Minneapolis website, the coalition wants a Department of Public Safety to employ mental health experts, social workers, violence interrupters and police officers.
The police-only model of community safety, he said, should be replaced so that officers “can perform the tasks for which they are trained and disciplined to accomplish specific situations that the community, local leaders, experts and others. professionals decide together, while many other roles can be filled by those best suited to certain interventions and harm prevention.
“Minneapolis is probably seen as a progressive experiment by the Open Society Policy Center, ignoring the consequences for people who live and work in the city,” said Betsy Brantner Smith, spokesperson for the National Police Association.
Ms Brantner Smith, a retired police sergeant, said it would be “naive” to think the initiative would improve conditions in the city and that the pressure to replace the MPD stems from the “false account that police officers are responsible for the violence that happens to the public.
State Attorney General Keith Ellison, a Democrat, tweeted in August that “as a resident of [Minneapolis] where the murder of George Floyd sparked a national call for real reform, I will vote yes for greater public safety and more human rights for all. “
“Basically, communities across [Minneapolis] need and want the opportunity for reform and accountability, which the current charter blocks by locking us into an outdated model for law enforcement and security, ”Mr. Ellison tweeted. “They want to end the cycle of inaction.”
If voters approve the ballot measure, the Department of Public Safety would be funded from the police department’s budget, which is currently $ 164 million, or about 15% less than the $ 193 million budget approved in 2020.
In addition, police chief Medaria Arradondo would be ousted and the new agency would be headed by a commissioner appointed by Democratic mayor Jacob Frey.
Mr. Frey, who exercises ultimate control and oversight of the police force, does not like being forced to share control of a Department of Public Safety.
“The city council would control the police department,” the mayor said in a July interview with CBS4-TV. “The chief of police or the chief of public security would report to 14 different people – 13 council members and the mayor – and that would reduce the liability considerably. “
Chief Arradondo echoed these sentiments at a press conference in August, saying the change would add more “layers of bureaucracy” and be “totally unbearable” to any law enforcement official.
The Yes 4 Minneapolis PAC, however, argues that “city-wide democratic” control of the new department by various officials would make public safety “fairer and more equitable for all.”
A similar proposal surfaced last summer, under which the police department would be replaced with a “community safety and violence prevention department.” It initially had the majority support of city council, but fizzled out after a city commission voted against it.
Floyd, a black man, was killed when a white policeman knelt on his neck for almost 9 minutes in May 2020, sparking protests against racial injustice and police brutality across the country.