The council members stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a city park adorned with massive letters reading “Defund Police.”
Days earlier, George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer a few blocks away, unleashing massive protests nationwide. Now, hundreds of protestors gathered in the park. They demanded justice. They demanded accountability. They demanded reform.
” We should and can abolish the current Minneapolis police system,” Alondra Cano, Councilwoman, stated at that time.
On Tuesday night, more than one year after Floyd’s passing, Minneapolis voters will decide whether to create a new Department of Public Safety to replace the city’s troubled Police Department. This effort could, if it passes, lead to similar measures across the country. If voters approve, the Police Department and its chief would be removed form the city charter. A minimum funding requirement would also be eliminated.
The new department would still have police officers and be headed by a commissioner appointed by the City Council.
The ballot language does not detail the exact functions or operation of the new department. If the measure passes, many of these questions will soon be answered by the mayor or the City Council. The city would continue to fund the department, but the total amount will be determined by elected officials.
For many months, Minneapolis residents have been battling over Question 2.
Most people in Minneapolis, where violent crime has increased recently, have been arguing over whether to support Question 2.
This debate has split Democratic politicians who control most of Minnesota’s political power and the largest city. U.S. Rep. Ilhanomar and the state Atty. The measure is supported by Gen. Keith Ellison who successfully prosecuted Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, in Floyd’s killing.
“Now more than ever, we need to drive a conversation in Minneapolis about how we can have both safety and human rights, both a feeling of security and a feeling of hope,” Ellison wrote in a recent Minneapolis Star Tribune op-ed. “The vote on the charter amendment gives us that opportunity.”
Moderate Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Gov.
Moderate Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Gov., are opposed to the measure.
At a news conference last week, Arradondo said that “to vote on a measure of reimagining public safety without a solid plan and an implementation or direction of work — this is too critical of a time to wish and hope for that help that we need so desperately right now.”
For much of the past year, Frey and Arradondo have touted wide-ranging policy changes, including bans on police chokeholds or neck restraints, and a requirement that officers intervene if a colleague uses improper force.
Even so, the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this year opened an investigation into the training, tactics and discipline of the Minneapolis police force.
“Building trust between community and law enforcement will take time and effort by all of us, but we undertake this task with determination and urgency, knowing that change cannot wait,” U.S. Atty. General Merrick Garland stated at the time.
A September poll by the Star Tribune of 800 likely voters found that 49% supported replacing the Minneapolis Police Department with a new department of public safety while 41% were opposed. Ten percent were undecided.
Early voter registration began in September.
Jamar Nelson, 43, who lives on the predominately Black north side of Minneapolis, understands why some people want to re-create a public safety system in the city: He still bears a scar after being beaten by police raiding his apartment in 2000.
” “For quite some time, I was anti-police,” said he.
Nelson is a member of the local group, A Mothers Love Initiative , which works with families of victims of gun violence.
While he supports reforming police and how mental health crises can be handled, he is concerned about what might happen if this measure passes.
His neighborhood has seen more gunfire and robberies, as well as traffic violations, which he described as “straight lawlessness”. A shooting at a convenience shop killed a friend’s only child.
Nelson attributes the spiraling crime to a diminishing police force: The department has shrunk to 588 officers, down about 300 since Floyd’s killing, and not all of the remaining officers work patrol. Some officers have left the department due to post-traumatic stress disorder and low morale.
” That is frightening,” Nelson stated.
But others in the city see swift change as necessary.
D.A. Bullock, 51, a documentary filmmaker who also lives in north Minneapolis, supports Question 2.
He’s noticed a rise in violence but said the police have “never been readily available.”
In 2019, someone shot at a neighbor’s house — a “big and traumatic” moment for many in the neighborhood, he said. The police arrived within about 15 minutes and taped off the area but didn’t seem interested in getting information from neighbors. About a month ago, Bullock drove home from work when a man shot a gun into the air. Bullock stopped and observed. Bullock stopped and watched as the man became agitated. He then got in his car, drove away. The cop pulled up behind the man and flashed his light before driving off.
” I feel that they have always treated north Minneapolis with a lot of disdain — as if it’s our fault for being there,” Bullock stated.
It feels to him that police want residents to feel stressed and like they are living in chaos so they will vote against the amendment out fear.
“That’s an intentional sort of disdain for people who live in the city,” he said. “Of trying to show us how much we need them and how much we should never dare to question.”
Lee reported from Los Angeles, and Winter, a special correspondent, reported from Minneapolis.