Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Minneapolis Commission Blocks City Council’s Attempt to Downsize Police Department

'If one of these measures were to pass the voters of Minneapolis, the result would be a giant self-inflicted wound...'

Facing the political reality, Minneapolis officials appear to have changed their minds about their commitment to defund the city’s police department.

The Minneapolis Charter Commission voted earlier this week to keep a police reform proposal off of November’s ballot, according to the Minnesota Star Tribune.

The ballot proposal would have allowed voters to decide whether the city should keep or get rid of a law that requires the city to keep its police force at a certain size due to its population.

Scrapping this requirement would have allowed Minnesota officials to create a “community safety department” to replace the downsized police department—which is exactly what city council members vowed to do in June.

But a number of commissioners raised concerns about the city council’s plan to remake policing.

Commissioner Dan Cohen, a former city council member, said that if the police department was successfully dismantled, “crime would soar, property values on our homes would fall,” and residents “would flee the city.”

“I believe that if one of these measures were to pass the voters of Minneapolis, the result would be a giant self-inflicted wound,” he said.

Others pointed out that the city council’s original goal to reallocate resources to other parts of the community would have been understandable, but it’s turned into a movement to completely abolish the police department.

“We wouldn’t put it in a charter if we were drafting the charter anew,” Commission Chairman Barry Clegg said of the minimum staffing requirement.

“But it’s there now, and the fact is that it’s become code for ‘defund the police,’” he continued. “So I think it takes on bigger meaning than just some quirky add-on that was done 60 years ago.”

The commission is set to take another vote next week on whether the city should introduce a proposal on the ballot to eliminate the police department altogether.

At least five city council members wrote the amendment abolishing the police department, but the commission already seems hesitant to take it up.

“At some point, we need to have a discussion about what our job is,” said Commissioner Jan Sandberg, who argued that it isn’t the commission’s job to determine which proposals do and do not get placed on the ballot.

The community members should decide for themselves, Sandberg said.

“Some of the things I’ve heard in the last hour or so about what our job is with respect to this or any ballot initiative, I do not agree with,” Sandberg added. “And I think we need … to come up with some kind of consensus on that.”

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