The second attempt to dissolve the Minneapolis Police Department failed Tuesday, sparking nationwide protests for reform.
Minneapolis residents voted not to replace the city’s police department – which is facing a federal investigation – with a new Department of Public Safety that would have likely included law enforcement, 911 responders and mental health professionals.
Over 56% of voters turned down the measure, with 96% reporting by precincts as of 10.30 p.m. ET.
The proposal would have amended the city’s charter to remove the requirement that the city have a police department with a minimum level of funding and staffing.
The ballot question sharply divided the community, and activists worry the vote could further drain momentum from the national police reform movement sparked by Floyd’s death as talks stall in Congress.
The organizers claimed it would have allowed the public and city council to exercise more control over law enforcement. It also prevented police officers from responding in areas where they weren’t required. But opponents feared the amendment would take police off the streets and criticized the plan’s lack of specificity.
Those opponents celebrated the defeat and stressed the need to reform the city’s policing without it.
Bill Rodriguez (co-founder of Opposition group Operation Safety Now) said, “Tonight is victory for sanity & common sense in Minneapolis.” While there are still many things to improve on public safety, it is unrealistic to think that the city can be safe without police officers or a team of officers.
Leili Fatehi is the manager of All of Mpls. She said that the voters “want to see a thoughtful approach to transform policing in the city, which will include meaningful consultations with those communities most affected by violent crime as well as over-policing.”
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Charter issue supporters argue that it is time to revisit the matter
A majority of City Council members first promised to dismantle the police department in June 2020, but their amendment never made it onto the ballot. The council proposed another plan in January but later withdrew it to avoid confusion among voters when Yes 4 Minneapolis proposed this new measure, said Steve Fletcher, a member of the council.
Yes 4 Minneapolis, a coalition of dozens of local groups, acquired more than 20,000 signatures to get the charter amendment on the ballot and raised more than $1 million.
Minnesota’s best known progressives – U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and Attorney General Keith Ellison – supported the Yes 4 Minneapolis plan.
JaNaé Bates, a campaign spokesperson, said supporters will continue working to reform the police department, which has “well documented history of abuse, mistrust and sometimes murder.”
The Justice Department and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights are investigating the policies and practices of the department, a review that could result in changes.
Bates recognized that many of those who opposed the proposal had great ideas for reforms but claimed the measures will not be successful unless and until the charter is amended.
“Maintaining the status quo by voting no means that we’ll continue to have a city that will devolve,” Bates said.
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Plan’s insufficient detail is criticized by opponents
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Gov. Tim Walz, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and at least two community groups opposed the plan and criticized its lack of detail, which organizers said was intentional.
Frey, who is up for reelection, said the proposal would have caused the city to lose officers it needs and that sharing power with the City Council over the department would have diluted accountability.
“This charter amendment doesn’t contain police reforms.” Frey stated this to USA TODAY Network. This document does not contain any elements of reform, accountability, or police reform.
Medaria Arradondo, who became the city’s first Black police chief in 2017, urged voters to reject the ballot question last week, saying it would do nothing to address the issues highlighted by Floyd’s death.
“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,” he told reporters.
Although Yes 4 Minneapolis leaders said the new public safety department would have included police officers, opponents including Rodriguez, believed the ultimate goal was to scrap the city’s police department altogether.
Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl said while the ballot question would have erased the department on paper, it would not have eliminated police officers’ jobs or the police union “because they exist under state and federal law.”
Is there a future for the police force?
The city council will vote Dec. 8 on a budget proposed by Frey that would restore the department’s funding to nearly $192 million, almost the same amount it was before Floyd’s death. Last December, City Council unanimously approved a budget that shifted $8 million from the police department toward violence prevention and other services.
Frey’s plans would increase the number of staff by 150 officers. The department, like others nationwide, lost hundreds of officers who quit, retired or took disability leave after last year’s protests.
On another ballot question, more than 52% of residents voted to give the mayor clearer authority over day-to-day government operations. More than 52% also approved a third measure to enact rent control.
Contributing: The Associated Press Eric Ferkenhoff USA TODAY Network