Minneapolis residents vote against dismantling police department

The Public Safety Department could include police officers, but the minimum funding requirement would be eliminated, and the Police Department would be removed from city charter.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

On Tuesday, Minneapolis residents voted soundly against a ballot question that would remove the police department, and replace it with a Department of Public Safety.

56.17 percent of residents, 80,506 people, voted against the measure, with only 43.83 percent, 62,813, voting for it, according to voting results from the Associated Press.

Question number two asked residents:

"Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to remove the Police Department and replace it with a Department of Public Safety that employs a comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions by the Department of Public Safety, with those specific functions to be determined by the Mayor and City Council by ordinance; which will not be subject to exclusive mayoral power over its establishment, maintenance, and command; and which could include licensed peace officers (police officers), if necessary, to fulfill its responsibilities for public safety, with the general nature of the amendments being briefly indicated in the explanatory note below, which is made a part of this ballot?"

"This amendment would create a Department of Public Safety combining public safety functions through a comprehensive public health approach to be determined by the Mayor and Council," the city's voting page explains.

The new department would have been led by a Commissioner nominated by the Mayor and appointed by the Council.

The Public Safety Department could include police officers, but the minimum funding requirement would be eliminated, and the Police Department would be removed from city charter.

Those who backed the measure argued that in the wake of George Floyd's death in the city in 2020, the current police force could not be reformed and a complete remaking of public safety was necessary, according to MPR News.

Mayor Jacob Frey, who opposed the measure, as well as Minneapolis police Chief Medaria Arradondo and other leaders said the changes wouldn't repair the relationship between residents and police, and could severely damage the understaffed department.

"I think all of us can now stop with the hashtags and the slogans and the simplicity, and say let's all unite around things that we all agree on," Frey said, stressing the importance of finding a consensus on law enforcement reform.

Opponents of the measure also argued that it would create a public safety system with "14 bosses," and that reforms could be made within the police department itself.

The question helped drive people to the polls on Tuesday, with early voting turnout numbers smashing records from previous mayoral election years, according to MPR News.

Early voting statistics released Monday night showed more than 11 percent of registered voters had already voted at that point.

"We have accepted about double the total number of early ballots this year as compared to four years ago in 2017, and we served almost double the number of in-person early voters this year on our final day of the early voting period as we did four years ago," said Casey Carl, the Minneapolis city clerk.

The vote also showed a strong correlation between support for Frey's reelection and a "No" answer to question two. The more  a precinct voted for Frey, the better “No” tended to do on the public safety department.

Two City Council members who supported overhauling the police, Phillipe Cunningham and Jeremy Schroeder, lost their bids for reelection.


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