After George Floyd, a Big Choice for Minneapolis Voters

Residents to decide whether to replace police department with new public-safety agency
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 2, 2021 12:35 PM CDT
After George Floyd, a Big Choice for Minneapolis Voters
Voters emerge from Sabathani Community Center after casting their ballots during municipal elections Tuesday in Minneapolis.   (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP)

Voters in Minneapolis were deciding Tuesday whether to replace the city's police department with a new Department of Public Safety, more than a year after George Floyd's death under the knee of a white police officer launched a movement to defund or abolish police across the country. The proposed amendment to the city charter would remove language that mandates that Minneapolis have a police department with a minimum number of officers based on population, per the AP. It would be replaced by a new Department of Public Safety that would take a "comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions" that "could include" police officers "if necessary, to fulfill its responsibilities for public safety."

Supporters of the change argue that a complete overhaul of policing is necessary to stop police violence. They frame it as a chance to re-imagine what public safety can be and to devote more funding toward new approaches that don't rely on sending armed officers to deal with people in crisis. But opponents say the ballot proposal contains no concrete plan for how the new department would operate and express fear that it might make communities already affected by gun violence even more vulnerable to rising crime. The details, and who would lead the new agency, would be determined by the mayor and the City Council.

Two nationally prominent progressive Democratic leaders—US Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents the Minneapolis area, and state Attorney General Keith Ellison—both support the policing amendment. But some leading mainstream liberals, including Gov. Tim Walz and US Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, oppose it, fearing the backlash could lead to Democratic losses across the country in 2022. Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey is also in a tough fight for a second term, facing a bevy of opponents who've attacked him for his leadership in the wake of Floyd's death. Frey opposes the policing amendment.

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(More Minneapolis stories.)

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