More than a year after the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, the city is putting its issues with police brutality in the spotlight once again
The power lies in the hands voters. In November, they will vote on whether to replace the Minneapolis Police Department.
Voting would be on whether the city charter should be changed and a department for public safety created. Activists say this would adopt a public-health approach in policing, opting instead for violence interrupters and social workers over the current police-only model.
Advocates claim that most cases where police are called can be solved by other officers. The move could be seen as a threat to public safety by its detractors. Police reform in either case has been fraught, particularly after Floyd’s death. Deep divisions formed over whether to “defund”, or alter the operation of departments.
JaNaeBates, communications director at Yes 4 Minneapolis (a major coalition of activists involved in the replacement of the police department), stated that they want to do something new.
The charter change would also put the city council in charge of the department, instead of the mayor, and remove requirements to hire police based on the city’s population size
Activists claim that this effort was inspired by policies and practices across the country and that they have taken into account what has worked and failed.
Local opponents think the charter amendment could lead to the elimination of the entire police force in the city. The language that states police officers will respond “when necessary” makes it seem like the charter change is a way to get rid of the police department entirely.
According to a statement posted on Operation Safety Now’s website, “These trojan horses are being supported by radicals in order to achieve their goal police defunding/abolition.” Operation Safety Now is an advocacy group for local police officers.
According to the organization, “We are against police funding – and the “policeless society” that some council members and radical supporters have envisioned.” We need more police officers, not less.
Mayor Jacob Frey, a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, also rejects the effort. His office stated that he did not sign the proposal, but praised the city staff for their careful analysis and thoughtful work.
Frey believes that if the city council takes over the department, it will lead to major problems in “accountability” and “good governance.”