On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council is expected to vote on a proposal that would allow joint mayoral/council oversight of the police force. Council members are expected to decide whether the plan will move forward to committees and possibly be placed before voters on the November ballot.
They should stop this ill-considered idea before it goes any further. Putting 14 elected officials in charge of the daily operations of the police force and public safety would be disastrous for a city as large and complex as Minneapolis.
Changing oversight for the Police Department requires changing the city charter, which involves a series of steps culminating with a ballot question that would require voter approval. Council Member Cam Gordon floated the charter amendment idea last year. Following the officer-involved shooting death this summer of Thurman Blevins, an African-American man in north Minneapolis, Gordon introduced the amendment.
Gordon and several of his council colleagues believe that joint Police Department supervision would create more police accountability. He argues that the change has been discussed for a decade and that it’s time to let the voters decide.
During a news conference this week, Mayor Jacob Frey wisely spoke out against the plan — supported by the six City Council members and a range of community members who also oppose the measure. But with a 13-member council, a minimum of seven votes is needed to prevent the amendment from moving forward.
Council Member Steve Fletcher, who has said he’s undecided, appears to be the best hope for reason to win out. But we hope more council members will join colleagues Alondra Cano, Linea Palmisano, Kevin Reich, Abdi Warsame, Lisa Goodman and Andrea Jenkins in backing Frey and doing what’s best for the city’s future. Public-safety-minded constituents represented by Gordon, Fletcher, Andrew Johnson, Jeremiah Ellison, Phillipe Cunningham and Lisa Bender should make their voices heard.
There are good reasons why most city police chiefs are appointed by and report to their mayors. Accountability is one of them. Citizens now know exactly where the buck stops when they are unhappy with police actions in Minneapolis. The mayor is responsible and can exercise that responsibility more quickly to make decisions. Besides, in Minneapolis, the council already has the appropriate level of input. Council members can confirm or deny the mayor’s choice of police chief. The council also sets the budget for city departments.
In support of retaining mayoral supervision, Cano praised Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo’s relationship as “responsive and collaborative” and said the proposed amendment would undermine their work. Cano is spot on. To best serve citizens who want and deserve police accountability and transparency, the current reporting structure should remain in place.