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Minneapolis voters reject replacing police dept. with ‘Dept. of Public Safety’

The Minneapolis Police. (Tony Webster, Wikimedia Commons/Released)
November 03, 2021

On Tuesday, voters in Minneapolis rejected an initiative to replace the police department with a Department of Public Safety, an idea that stemmed from the anti-police movement that was created in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin.

The amendment sought to remove from the city charter a requirement that Minneapolis maintain a minimum number of law enforcement officers. City election results showed 80,506 voters (56%) voted against the measure, while 62,813 voters (43%) voted against it.

The proposed Department of Public Safety was designed to take “a comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions” that would be decided by the mayor and City Council. Funding for the new department would be used for programs that prevent armed officers from being needed during calls involving people in crisis, among other things, supporters said.

Supporters of the move said policing needed to be completely changed, whereas opponents expressed concern that the proposal would leave already-violent communities more vulnerable.  

While pleased with the amendment’s defeat, opponents of the initiative highlighted the ongoing need for police reform.

“Tonight Minneapolis voters have made clear that we want a planful approach to transforming policing and public safety in our city that needs to include meaningful consultation with the communities that are most impacted by both violent crime and by over-policing,” said Leili Fatehi, manager of the All of Mpls campaign, as The Associated Press reported.

Democrat Mayor Jacob Frey, who opposed the policing proposal, said voters’ decision to block the Department of Public Safety is not “a blow to reform.”

“Reform has begun, but it must continue,” he added.

Yes 4 Minneapolis, an activist group that organized the amendment drive, promised to continue fighting for “safer streets” despite the loss.

“We changed the conversation about what public safety should look like,” the group tweeted. “We showed the country and the world the power of democracy and of the people. Now, we will work to hold the system accountable. We will work to heal our city and create safer streets for all our communities.”

Rishi Khanna, 31, said he voted ‘yes’ for the initiative, arguing that police officers are not qualified to handle many situations, like mental health crises.

“I understand that law enforcement will have to have a seat at the table, but I think both in our community and in communities around the country, too often law enforcement is the only seat at the table,” Khanna said. “I don’t think that’s the right solution.”

Askari Lyons, 61, opposed the amendment, saying that Minneapolis officers “may have learned a lesson after George Floyd’s death and what happened to the cop that killed him.”

Lyons said completely replacing the police department was “unwise,” adding that “people are so frustrated, so angry, so disappointed” when it comes to violence in the city and from local police.