Minneapolis, MN – The Minneapolis City Council took the next step toward abolishing the Minneapolis Police Department on Wednesday despite skyrocketing violent crime in the city.
The advocacy group “Yes 4 Minneapolis Committee” had proposed an amendment to the city charter that would do away with the city’s police department and replace it with a public safety office with a “comprehensive public health approach,” KMSP reported.
However, the amendment does not define what that means or how it is supposed to be implemented.
But passing the amendment out of committee and agreeing to put it on the ballot moved the needle on the movement to abolish the police department which had been largely stagnant since the city charter commission voted almost a year ago to take another 90-days to review the proposed changes to the city’s charter.
Minneapolis City Council members initially announced plans to disband the police department in the wake of riots throughout the city following the death of 46-year-old George Floyd while he was being arrested by the Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020.
On June 7, 2020, nine members of the Minneapolis City Council announced that they would vote to disband the city’s police department, KSMP reported.
They proudly told supporters at a rally that they had the votes to override Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s veto of the move, after the mayor came out against abolishing the city’s law enforcement agency.
But it turned out that the city council doesn’t have the power to disband the police department, nor can they tell it what to do, KSMP reported.
The city charter requires the city council to fund the police department and details a formula as to how many police officers should be funded based on the city’s population. And then the city charter tasks the mayor’s office with full authority over the police department.
Right now, the city charter requires the council to fund 723 police officers, based on the most recent population estimates, KSMP reported.
So the movement to abolish the police department focused on getting changes to the city charter on the November 2020 ballot instead.
But in August of 2020, charter commissioners said the amendment put before them needed more work, WCCO reported.
Commissioners said that, as drafted, the amendment gave too much power to the Minneapolis City Council.
They expressed concern the process had been rushed and complained it had been drafted without input from community opposition.
“It’s appropriate to explore transformational changes in the department, but it needs to be done thoughtfully,” Charter Commissioner Peter Ginder told WCCO. “That hasn’t been done here.”
The commissioners called the amendment flawed and said they wanted more time to consider it, pushing the date they would next vote beyond the deadline for the November of 2020 ballot.
Activists were furious about the charter commission’s decision, but beleaguered city residents suffering from the shortage of officers in the city hoped it indicated a change away from the plan to abolish the police department, WCCO reported.
In the meantime, crime skyrocketed in the city and things got so bad that residents filed a lawsuit to get Minneapolis to do something about it.
On July 1, a Hennepin County judge ordered the Minneapolis City Council and the mayor to start hiring more police officers immediately.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Jamie L. Anderson ordered the city council and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey to “immediately take any and all necessary action to ensure that they fund a police force,” KMSP reported.
Anderson’s ruling said that councilmembers and the mayor had “failed to perform an official duty clearly imposed by law” by allowing the number of officers on the Minneapolis Police Department to drop below the number required by the city charter.
At the same time, the city council has been making moves to make that ruling moot by getting the city charter changed.
The proposed amendment to the city charter was passed by the policy and government oversight committee on July 21 and next goes to the full council for a vote, KMSP reported.
If approved by the full council, the measure to change the city charter to do away with the Minneapolis Police Department would appear on the November ballot.
“I am persuaded that this is not going to get better with another two weeks,” Minneapolis City Councilmember Steve Fletcher told KMSP. “I’m persuaded that this language is a version of describing the intention of the petitioner and 20,000 people who signed the petition saying they want to create a significant change and that we should put it on the ballot. So I’m going to go ahead and move for approval of language as is.”