Minneapolis City Councilor Alondra Cano speaks to a crowd that gathered in Powderhorn Park last June. During the event, Cano and eight other members of the Minneapolis City Council declared their commitment to defuse and dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department. But their support has changed since then. Hide caption Liam James Doyle / MPR News
Liam James Doyle / MPR News
Liam James Doyle / MPR News
The murder of George Floyd a year ago brought an idea long considered radical into mainstream political debate. Last June, a veto-proof majority of Minneapolis City Council members promised to devalue and dismantle the police force.
But now the same elected officials have softened their tone. And even supporters of a police reform proposal en route to the city’s November election said their move would not eliminate armed officers.
Thirteen days after former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, nine city council members stood on a stage in the Powderhorn Park. At her feet were huge block letters with the words “Police released”.
The draft Council Charter modification Last year calls were made to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a community security and violence prevention department. The language says that this department may include a “law enforcement division” but it is not required. The proposal was stopped by the city’s charter commission and did not go to voters last November.
The council took another crack on it in January, early enough in the year that the commission couldn’t block it through its review process. This latest version has one key difference. The city should have a police station. Councilor Steve Fletcher, who was on the Powderhorn Park stage last June, is one of the sponsors.
“What we really want is to ask the voters a clear question to really confirm that we are going in the right direction and to be told that we are not,” said Fletcher. “So let’s say, ‘Are you going to change the charter to have a public security department instead of a police department? Yes or no.'”
These to plan would give the city council more control over the police. And it would eliminate a minimum staffing requirement of 17 civil servants per 10,000 residents.
The Council’s proposal is not the only one on the table.
Yolanda Roth with Take Action MN is one of the supporters of a citizen-led charter proposal. Last month Roth took him to the town hall Yes 4 Minneapolis Coalition and discontinued more than two dozen bank boxes full of petition signatures. She said the group’s move would free up resources for a more holistic approach to public safety.
“Food safety, home safety, safety in our schools, in our homes, in our lives. We give everyone in Minneapolis an opportunity to choose what safety means to them,” said Roth.
The Yes 4 Minneapolis plan is similar to that of the council, but does not contain any police requirements. Fletcher said council members are likely to withdraw their amendment so voters don’t get confused.
Munira Mohamed of the Minnesota ACLU is part of the Yes 4 Minneapolis effort and wants to make it clear that their intention is not to get rid of cops. She said handing over tasks like mental health interventions and low-level traffic enforcement to other professionals would help police get their job done.
“If you don’t have a police force stopping people for minor traffic control violations like tinted windows or registration, you save them time and they actually focus on violent crimes and you actually let them solve murders.” Said Mohamed.
Members of groups that make up the Yes 4 Minneapolis coalition hold boxes of petition signatures in the air for a photo before delivering the signatures to the Minneapolis City Clerk on April 30th. Evan Frost / MPR News hide the caption
Evan Frost / MPR News
Evan Frost / MPR News
Ending violent crime is a pressing concern in Minneapolis. Thirty-one people have died by murder so far this year, more than twice as many as this time in 2020. The 6-year-old is one of the victims Aniya Allenwho was caught in a shootout.
Mayor Jacob Frey says the exhausted police are struggling to keep up. In the past year, more than 200 civil servants have quit, retired, or taken extended medical leave.
On the north side, Frey pushed back the charter proposals last week. He sketched a to plan in itself this means reforming the department from within. Among other things, he would like to reduce smaller traffic stops, intensify internal investigations and promote peer intervention training. Frey also hopes to bring the department back to its full authorized strength of 888 officers by the end of 2023.
“Victims and families who have suffered gun violence for far too long are important. And it is up to each and every one of us to stand up to make sure they feel safe in their neighborhood,” Frey said.
After the city clerk has determined that Yes 4 Minneapolis has collected enough valid signatures for its charter proposal, the city’s lawyers will draft the official language of choice. Procedural issues aside, this means the future of Minneapolis policing will be in the hands of the electorate this fall.