(The Center Square) – A ballot question on the November election has divided the Minnesota DFL party.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar support the replacement of the Minneapolis Police Department with a department of public safety.
“Fundamentally, communities across Mpls need & want the possibility for reform & accountability, which the current Charter blocks by locking us into an outdated model for law enforcement and safety,” Ellison tweeted in August. “They want to end the cycle of inaction.”
Omar agreed, writing in an August op-ed in the Star Tribune that "The truth is the current system hasn't been serving our city for a long time. I have long said we need a public safety system that is actually rooted in people's basic human needs."
On the other end of the issue are Gov. Tim Walz, Mayor Jacob Frey, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Angie Craig.
Craig said the idea to replace the police department was “shortsighted, misguided, and likely to harm the very communities that it seeks to protect.” She noted Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo might lose his job if voters approve the question.
Frey and Walz haven’t responded to requests for comment.
At issue is public safety just a year after the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, who allegedly tried to spend a counterfeit $20 bill. Concurrently, there are demands to reform the police during a year that violent crime spiked, with Minneapolis setting a record of 185 homicides. The goal is to balance public safety while minimizing police shootings and the hefty taxpayer-funded settlements that follow. Floyd’s family settled for a record $27 million. In Minneapolis from 2018-2020, payouts from police damages totaled $24.3 million. The most costly settlements were for police misconduct, 30 of which cost taxpayers $23.4 million.
The proposal will ask voters if they want to approve a plan to replace the police department with a new public safety department focused on a “comprehensive public safety approach” that would include police officers "if necessary to fulfill the department’s responsibilities."
If voters approve the amendment, state law says that “the amendment shall take effect in 30 days from the date of the election or at such other time as is fixed in the amendment.”
The Star Tribune reported that Arradondo told several dozen people gathered at Shiloh Temple in North Broadway that any "talk about decreasing the personnel we have is ridiculous — it is absolutely ridiculous.”
Minneapolis has seen 75 homicides so far in 2021.