MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Minneapolis voters on Tuesday rejected a proposal to replace the city’s police department with a new Department of Public Safety, an idea that supporters hoped would bring a sea change in policing in the city where George Floyd’s death below the knee of an officer prompted calls. for racial justice.
The initiative would have changed city statutes to remove the requirement that the city has a police department with a minimum number of officers. Supporters said a full surveillance overhaul was necessary to stop police violence.
Opponents said the proposal did not have a concrete plan on how to move forward and warned that it would leave some communities already affected by violence more vulnerable as crime rises.
The ballot proposal has its roots in the police abolition movement that erupted after Floyd was assassinated by a Minneapolis police officer last year.
The debate over racial justice in the police force brought national attention to Tuesday’s vote, as well as a river of money from other states seeking to influence the outcome that could have shaped change elsewhere as well.
The ballot question called for a new Department of Public Safety to adopt “a comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions” to be determined by the Mayor and City Council. Supporters argued it was an opportunity to reinvent what public safety can be and how money is spent. Among other things, supporters said, the funds would go to programs that do not send armed officers to call people in crisis.
The future of the police in the city where Floyd died in May 2020 threw nationwide accountability on racial justice overshadowed everything on the municipal ballot. The debate brought national attention to the elections, as well as a river of money from other states seeking to influence a contest that could also shape changes in the police force elsewhere.
Rishi Khanna, 31, a technology worker, voted to replace the police department and said he does not believe that police officer are qualified to deal with many situations, such as mental health crises.
He said he believes that having professionals equipped to deal with a variety of public safety issues in the same department as law enforcement will benefit both residents and police officers.
“I understand that law enforcement will have to have a seat at the table, but I believe that both in our community and in communities across the country, too often law enforcement is the only seat at the table.” said. “I don’t think that’s the correct solution.”
Askari Lyons, 61, voted against the ballot initiative. A resident of the mostly black north side of the city, where violent crime is higher than the rest of the city, said he believes Minneapolis police officers “may have learned a lesson after the death of George Floyd and what happened to the cop who killed him. ”
Lyons called it “reckless” to replace the department and said he believes change within the department is imminent.
“People are so frustrated, so angry, so disappointed” with the violence that occurs throughout the city as much as they are with the city police, he said.
Opponents said the ballot proposal did not contain a concrete plan for how the new department would operate and expressed fear that it could make communities already affected by gun violence even more vulnerable to increased crime.
Two prominent national progressive Democratic leaders, US Representative Ilhan Omar, who represents the Minneapolis area, and State Attorney General Keith Ellison, supported the policy amendment.
But some of the leading liberals, including Governor Tim Walz and US Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, opposed and feared the backlash could lead to Democratic losses across the country in 2022.