(The Center Square) – A month and a day after the death of George Floyd, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously advanced a proposed amendment that would allow it to replace the police department.
The ballot question would ask voters if they want to amend the city charter to replace the police department with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention charged with “public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach.”
Speaking before the vote, City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison said: “This is the path that provides our residents with the most agency to affirm what they want a new system of public safety to look like.”
The proposal moves to the Minneapolis Charter Commission.
Chairman Barry Clegg told The Center Square the commission will take up the amendment at its next meeting to discuss their process and timeline.
Their next regular meeting is July 8, but Clegg said he might call a special meeting next week to give the council additional time.
“The Charter Commission can either accept, amend or reject any amendments proposed by the Council,” Clegg wrote in an email. “The Council is free to accept any changes we propose or not and put a proposed amendment on the ballot, notwithstanding our proposed changes or rejection.”
The director of the new department would be required to have non-law enforcement experience in community safety services and be nominated by the mayor and approved by the City Council.
Under the ordinance, the city can have a law enforcement division of licensed peace officers supervised by the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.
The question would have to be submitted by Aug. 21 to be placed on the Nov. 3 general election ballot, where if successful, the changes would be enacted May 1, 2021.
Mayor Jacob Frey said in a press conference Friday that the amendment “doesn’t provide clarity.”
Frey noted several questions he couldn’t answer, including if this was just “lip service” or a “wholesale elimination of police response to violent crime,” for example.
“If this amendment passes, will we still have police?” Frey asked. “If you vote for this, are you voting for abolishing the police department, or is this merely a cosmetic change where you add a bureaucratic layer, you change the name to peace officers, and you give them different uniforms.”
Frey has advocated for deep police reform instead of removing the police department.
The proposal’s advancement followed a month of gun violence, leaving some to question if the city should replace the police department.
The Star Tribune reported 113 people were shot or killed since May 25, one of which was Cody Pollard, the father of two small children.
Don Blyly, whose book stores were destroyed in the riots after Floyd’s death, told the Associated Press that he may not reopen his stores in Minneapolis if local leaders do something “sufficiently stupid” in regards to policing.
“There are legitimate problems with the Minneapolis police, but the way the politicians are going about it is just ridiculous,” Blyly said. “They are pandering to a certain segment of the electorate.”
Another politician agrees.
“This action will jeopardize public safety and hurt the economy of Minneapolis and surrounding communities,” state Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said in a Facebook post.
Others say the amendment doesn’t go far enough, Black Visions, a community activist group, tweeted.
“We need a clear commitment that the future of public safety in Mpls will not be led by current or former cops,” the group said. “We’ve seen this play out before: lawmakers giving in to pressure from a few loud voices instead of listening to demands from the people. We can’t let it happen this time.”