Duties and functions

The future of the Minneapolis Police Department is on the ballot. Here’s what you need to know.

Almost a year and a half after Minnesota’s most populous city became the focal point of a nationwide rallying cry against police brutality, Minneapolis residents will vote on the future of policing for their community.

The referendum, better known as “Question 2” in Tuesday’s poll, calls on Minneapolis voters to change the city’s charter by replacing existing police with a public safety department that would prioritize an “approach global public health “.

Question 2: “Should the City of Minneapolis Charter be amended to remove the police department and replace it with a Department of Public Safety that uses a comprehensive public health approach to the performance of functions by the department?” public security, these specific functions to be determined by the mayor and the city council by ordinance; which will not be subject to the exclusive power of the mayor over its creation, maintenance and command; and which could include licensed peace officers (police officers), if necessary, to fulfill their public safety responsibilities, the general nature of the amendments being briefly indicated in the explanatory note below, which makes part of this poll? “

If passed, the ministry would shift from its current model to prioritizing the expertise of public safety professionals, including social workers, mental health specialists and de-escalation experts to respond to incidents. In situations of violence, armed police would always be called upon to intervene.

Instead of a police chief, there would be a commissioner who would report to the city council office in addition to the mayor, who currently has exclusive oversight of the department. Police officers could remain employed by the new public security service since they are licensed peace officers and are required to perform duties under state law, but there would be no more d ‘minimum staffing requirement for the number of officers.

A recent local news poll found that 53% of voters had an unfavorable opinion of the city’s police department, but voters remained torn about replacing the police. The poll said 49% were in favor of replacing the department, while 41% were against the measure. Another 10% were undecided. Among black voters, 75% were not in favor of reducing the size of the force.

“Everyone in Minneapolis is very unified behind the fact that our police and public safety system is not working, and especially not working for people of color in our city,” Leili Fatehi, director of campaign of All of Mpls. New.

In 2020, protesters across the country were enraged by the video of George Floyd’s death and powered by decades of injustice. In the days that followed, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told community members who took to the streets that he was not in favor of abolishing the police service but that he wanted rather work on reform.

A day later, hundreds of demonstrators came to Frey’s home and shouted “Shame! Shame ! Shame ! for his refusal to dismantle the department, nine of the 13 members of the Minneapolis city council announced a pledge to fund and dismantle the police department, with the goal of replacing it with a new community protection system.

The race for mayor is also on the ballot on Tuesday. Frey spoke out against the referendum. His challengers are campaigning on both sides of the referendum.

Fatehi and All of Mpls urge voters to oppose the measure replacing the current police service, saying the proposed charter amendment is “neither necessary nor sufficient” to address the problem, especially since the charter does not provide for a plan beyond 30 days after the election.

“Expanding our public safety to include interventions that go beyond policing does not require a charter change. And what I mean by that is not enough is that there is nothing in this amendment that would change the way police officers are recruited, the way they are trained, the way they are watched, disciplined, held accountable, ”Fatehi said. “It does not create any of those changes that we know are essential to police reform.”

Supporters of the plan say the 30 days will be a transitional period where the mayor would appoint an interim commissioner from the Department of Public Safety, who would work with city council and the community, will work together to combine police force with public health. professionals and other experts.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told a press conference on Wednesday that although he tries to keep politics out of the crease, he is against the measure, according to CBS Minnesota.

“It will not eliminate the tragic incidents between police and community that are happening in our city, it will not reduce disproportionate violent crime, disparities involving African American victims which has been a public health crisis in our city since decades, that will not suddenly change the culture of a police service that has been in existence for 150 years, ”he said.

Arradondo added that he found it troubling that no elected official contacted him or spoke to him about the ballot issue with any plan on what the new department would look like, if passed, including the number officers needed or whether they will be included in a potential new department.

“I wasn’t expecting some sort of robust and detailed word-for-word plan, but at this point, quite frankly, I’d take a drawing on a napkin and didn’t see it either,” Arradondo said.

Chief Arradondo said the unknown variables and the change brought about by the referendum would not be good at a critical point in public safety. However, he said he expects Minneapolis police to continue to protect the community even if the city votes in favor of the measure.

“Chief Arradondo is right, our city is down and we’re asking too much of our police,” Corenia Smith, Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign manager, said in a video statement. “All because our current approach to public safety isn’t working. It works for a police officer, not for the residents of Minneapolis.”

The department’s current staffing levels are said to be at an all-time low. The police chief told city council his department has lost nearly 300 officers since 2020 as violent crime escalates, according to CBS Minnesota. The ministry is asking for an additional $ 27 million in funding in 2022. The money would be used to rebuild basic services.

Chief Arradondo said there were 598 sworn officers active this year, up from 853 in 2019. The patrol office that answers 911 calls has lost 131 officers – which the chief compares to the equivalent of manpower. of an entire neighborhood.

This comes at a time when crime has increased in Minneapolis. From January 1 to mid-October, there were 75 homicides, an increase of 114% over the same period in 2019, according to data shared by the department. During the same period, the death toll from gunshot wounds soared to 530, an increase of 138%. Robberies, arson and aggravated assault crimes have also increased.

With those numbers in mind, Mark Osler, professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis said, “This is the system we have now. So voting for the status quo is voting for what got us to this point.

Osler compared the dynamic between police and Minneapolis residents to a “dysfunctional marriage” that could potentially end in divorce on Tuesday. “We have a police force that despises the people they serve – this has been expressed time and time again and this dysfunctional marriage needs to be changed somehow,” he said.

In April, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Justice Department had opened a civilian investigation into the policing practices of the Minneapolis Police Department in the wake of the conviction of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin in Floyd’s death.