Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo on Tuesday broke his public silence on a charter amendment that would replace his department with a new public safety agency partly under the City Council's control, saying the move would be "wholly unbearable" for any law enforcement leader.
His comments came amid a flurry of reactions from leading Democrats, with both progressives like Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar throwing their support behind the ballot measure, days after Gov. Tim Walz and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke out in opposition to the proposed amendment.
In November, city residents will get a chance to decide whether to adopt a charter amendment that would replace the MPD with a new agency that proponents say would have a public health-centered approach, seeking to identify and address the root causes of crime. Under the proposal, written by a political committee called Yes 4 Minneapolis, the new public safety department could likely still include police officers — though the city would no longer be required to keep a minimum number based on the city's population — and would be under the combined control of the Council and the mayor. Under the current model, Arradondo answers only to the mayor.
But details of how the transition would work if the amendment passes remain murky.
On Tuesday, Arradondo for the first time waded into the politically-charged issue, saying that in his 30 years with the department he had seen firsthand "the operational efficiency is essential to both building trust and public safety."
Putting the department under the control of the 13-person Council and mayor, he said, would threaten that safety with "additional layers of bureaucracy."
"The leadership reporting structure for a major city chief is critically important. The department's operational readiness, effectiveness along with decisionmaking ability and approval process requires clarity and timeliness," said Arradondo, who is in his second three-year term as chief of police, in a statement. "If the current city charter amendment to the reporting structure passes and results in bringing 14 different people into Minneapolis' daily reporting structure, it would not just be confusing — it would be a wholly unbearable position for any law enforcement leader or police chief."
Arradondo has not said what he will do if the measure passes.
His comments echoed concerns that the city's department heads previously shared with the Charter Commission in private interviews. Last year, the commission voted to temporarily block a Council proposal that would have replaced the MPD and given it more control over officers.
George Floyd's killing in police custody last year thrust the MPD into the international spotlight and turned Minneapolis into the epicenter of a nationwide movement to defund, or even disband, police departments, in favor of new strategies for keeping communities safe. The department, which is down hundreds of police officers due to resignations, retirements and personnel leaves, is also the subject of separate state and federal investigations that could lead to sweeping reforms down the road.
The Council last December voted to redirect nearly $8 million from the MPD's budget to fund its vision of crime prevention, which prioritizes mental health care and drug treatment to address the cycles of trauma that can lead to violence in poor communities. In unveiling his proposed 2022 budget, Mayor Jacob Frey signaled that he wants to restore most of the department's budget to levels before Floyd's death, while providing nearly $8 million in ongoing funding to the violence prevention office.
Libor Jany • 612-673-4064 Twitter: @StribJany